About 100 kilometers from Porte Alegre, Brazilians fourth largest metropolitan area lies the small shoe making community of Teutonia. About 10 kilometers from Teutonia, up in the mountains, is a popular picnic destination Lagoa da Haromia. About half way between the two is a steep, paved cliff. The course for the fastest race on earth.
The course starts at a church/bar. It meanders down on some rough pavement to one short, steep incline. Speeds build up to the high 50 MPHs leading into a left turn. The left turn doesn’t seem very sharp, but at the speed, with the drop behind it… Immediately after the left turn, the course simply drops. From the left turn, it is .7 kilometers to the finish. The road isn’t smooth, and not quite perfectly straight, with a couple of large bumps, but it goes almost straight down. Speeds are in excess of 80 MPH!
Friday, November 4
There are a dozen cabins at the lake above the course. Each cabin houses six people. The people who don’t get into a cabin need to find a room in a hotel in Teutonia. We stayed in one of the cabins, and headed to the restaurant for breakfast.
Technical inspection was held at the start line. With almost 100 riders, tech inspection took a while. I assumed we would get started about 10:00, but I don’t know if it was because tech inspection was taking too long, or if there was something else going on but we didn’t start until after lunch.
After lunch there was a riders meeting to discuss how things would run. Because of the late start, we would start at the “3/4” mark instead of the turn. We rode down to the “3/4” line and restarted from there. As the first run of the day, we start individually with a gap between each rider. It took some time to get through everyone.
The second run was from the top of the hill. This run went a little faster, as the gap between riders was smaller. These two runs barely gave us enough time to dial in our equipment. But it was now time for the first qualification run! Street luge went first. One of the guys lost their wheel coming down the straight! I missed most of the standup qualification as we took the back way up so we can get ready for classic. Classic finished the day off, but there was a problem with the timing during our run. We ended up without times for classic.
Saturday, November 5
We got up early, hoping to get more practice runs in. The weather looked great. After breakfast we headed down to the start line. Things were getting started much earlier than yesterday. We managed to get several runs in before lunch. According to my GPS most of my runs were in the high 120s but I had one run that clocked in at 131!
Lunch was served in the bar at the start. Today lunch was roasted chicken. During the lunch break, a few of the guys decided to try their hand at bocci. After lunch we got in one more warmup run before starting qualifying.
Because classic luge didn’t get timed yesterday, we went first today. In case something went wrong, we would have a chance to run later. I had a decent run on my classic, much better than yesterday. Since we got down first, I had a chance to watch some of the standup riders. I tried to do some pan shots, but they were going so fast, it was very difficult to follow them! Some of the riders were fairly intense.
My luge run yesterday wasn’t the best. Since we went down in reverse order I got down early enough to watch some of the faster riders. Fortunately my second run was a little better. It was impressive watching the lugers come down. You could actually feel them go by.
The lugers were hitting 80 MPH coming down the hill. There is a flat run off at the bottom. But I think I ruined more of my shoes stopping than anywhere else. The standup guys seemed to be able to slow enough just by air braking. But the shoes are probably still the best way to stop. After qualifying was over, we headed back to the top for the speed runs.
It took a while to get things set up, and we weren’t sure if we were going to actually do the speed runs. We went in order of qualification with classic going first. One of my goals was to try and increase my record, of 123 KPH. I had a great run, and when I got to the bottom my GPS read 124 KPH! I was stoked. The theory is the GPS possibly under estimates the speed. Assuming the timing gate was set at the right place on the hill I probably extended my record.
While I was waiting, and watching the standup riders come down, Paulo came over and told me my speed. But he told me in Portuguese. While I don’t speak Portuguese, it didn’t sound like 127, it didn’t even sound like 117. Turns out it was 107 KPH! Apparently they had set up the timing gate fairly high up on the hill, and the speeds were fairly low. There was also an issue with the sensor, so they moved the reflector a little closer to the sensor, placing a hay bale near the reflector to protect it. One of the standup riders had his head down and didn’t see the hay bale and collided with it. The reflector shot off into the jungle and was lost! The speed runs were over.
Sunday, November 6
Standup racing would be a 64 man dual. This means the first round is 32 heats! The race would run five rounds. Classic luge would run with the first two rounds, and street luge the last three rounds. The morning started with a warmup run before standup started. It took a while to get through the first round.
My first classic race was with Pete Eliot. Eliot beat me off the start, but almost immediately after laying down I rolled passed him. I was a little surprised, but I went with it. After beating him, at the bottom Eliot was looking at his board and notice that one of his wheels was a little funny. It turns out the wheel wasn’t quite on the hub, explains why I rolled past him at the start.
My next heat was with Machado. He beat me handily off the start. I started to get close to him as we approached the first turn. I thought I had a chance, but both of the steep portions of the hill drop away so quickly, that if you aren’t fairly close behind you won’t be in the draft. As I was getting close to him, he dropped down the first steep section, pulling just far enough away from me to hit the next steep section before I could catch him. Alexandre went on to take the World Championship.
We had a 16 man luge field. In my heat I face Leo Borton. Just like in classic I got beat off the line. And the race went pretty much exactly the same. He was just too far out in front for me to catch a draft, and all I could do was follow him down the course.
With my day over, I jumped on the bus to dump my equipment at the top. I leapt off, threw everything in the car, and jumped back on the bus to ride it back to the bottom. To watch the last few rounds. There were a few close races but it was the standup semis and consolations that were exciting.
First Dalua, one of the favorites lost by about a foot to his protégé. The next heat saw Mischo handily beating Reimer, the #1 qualifier. This setup a rematch of last year’s final with Reimer and Dalua.
In the semis in luge, Borton was racing Ribeiro. They came over the final hump fairly close to each other Borton lost control coming over the rise, but apparently regained control, but lost the race. Apparently Borton didn’t quite regain control. As he shot down the shutdown area, he spun out of control and slammed into the hay. He limped away, probably with a sprained ankle. He managed to come through and win the consolation!
The awards ceremony was held at the bar set up near the finish. The course workers and organizers were brought out and recognized. Some awards were given to the guys that first rode the hill leading to the first race back in 2004. And then Norm and Liz were recognized as IGSA officials.
Despite a late start on the first day, the event went fairly well. The weather was absolutely amazing, even though the forecast was 60% chance of rain on race day! It was hot, but at least it was sunny and dry. The course only has one turn, but it is still a technical course and takes some time to get used to. But it is a course that must be experienced at least once.