Spectre 341 Challenge

Back at the parking lot of the Silverland Inn, Jim Stewart tells me why he stopped doing the Virginia City Hill Climb. "It got too scary," he says. I'm hanging around waiting for my car to pass tech inspection, and Stewart is sizing up my ride, a 2010 Porsche 911 Turbo. Stewart's a Porsche guy, and when he tells me about his car -- a profoundly modified 930-series Turbo with a carbon-fiber front clip and "less than 500 horsepower," I can see how things might've gotten scary. The range manager for Storey County, Stewart keeps tabs on the 2000 wild horses that live in these hills. The horses are yet another daunting consideration for racers on Route 341. Because, you see, nobody tells the horses that there's a race going on.

I ask Stewart if he thinks I picked the right car for the job. "You picked the perfect car," he says. "All-wheel drive and turbos." Right on. I figured the turbos will preserve the flat six's power at altitude -- about 6200 feet at the finish line -- and the 911's trick all-wheel-drive system will help me claw my way up the hill. But, looking around the parking lot, there's only one other competitor who's using this particular vehicular formula. He's a hopeful young Kiwi named Steve Millen, and he's brought one of those newfangled Nissan Skyladies. There are rumors that his car might not be entirely stock.

A tour of the parking lot disabuses me of any notions that I might score a podium finish. Griggs Racing brought a supercharged Ford Mustang with $25,000 worth of suspension modifications and 305-width tires on all four corners. There's a local guy with an alcohol-burning Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. Lou Gigliotti, from LG Motorsports, is driving a 700-hp Chevy Corvette ZR1 that features a button on the shifter to send the exhaust into straight-pipe mode. "We call it 'the man knob,'

(Top: Ezra hugs the inside line. Averaging 85 mph requires major horsepower when many turns are marked 25 mph or less.)

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