NX GTi-R: Hill Climb Edition

by Frank Ewald


Two years of wait time is over. With the car now running and putting down reasonable horsepower, it was time to dust off my driving gear and check out how rusty my skills had become. The NX GTi-R was pulled out of AES Auto, loaded up on my tow dolly, and started the trek east down the Trans-Canada Highway and Coquihalla Highway to Kelowna, B.C. and the home of Knox Mountain Park. This was the location of my next bucket list adventure, the Leavitt Machinery Knox Mountain Hill Climb.

After watching every video that was available on YouTube, my comfort level in the track was pretty good. I thought that a good time was easily within reach and, while not being overconfident, I was pretty sure that I would have a good weekend. And I did - although some would consider ending the weekend with a 44th overall finish far from spectacular. In fact, prior to the event I had predicted a much better overall result. But when you narrow the field down to comparing only street prepared class then the NX GTi-R was 16th overall - sound any better?  How about that in the speed trap set up on the course that I got the 29th fastest speed overall - that has got to prove that the car has more capability than the driver (Hmmm, somehow that is not helping me!) How about that the car that beat me in my class was a superb '71 Camaro with a twin turbo setup that put down enough combined horsepower and torque to move the mountain, let alone climb up it! Does that sound better?


Friday was a flurry of activity for the course organizers. The start line had to be set up, tire walls put out, and additional concrete barriers set up throughout the course. In other words, it was a perfect time for me to walk the course. Huge thanks to Brent from Martin's Action Photography for the title photo and many of the shots used in this article.

You are not buying it, are you! The bottom line, even though the NX GTi-R was having some minor issues, with AES Auto on site supporting me there were no mechanical challenges that were really holding me back. My time was solid yet it was not what I was looking for. There was only one good run that was 3 seconds faster than my next best run. Inconsistent. I simply could not make it happen. Was it all in the driver's head! Was I too rusty? Away from running on the edge for too long? Have I gotten so old that my current edge simply does not cut it anymore? I mean, seriously, who flies by cliff edges, rock faces, and trees within two metres of a narrow, public park road that is far from track prepped? Okay, apart from other hill climbers ... and rally drivers, of course, who are certifiably crazy. Mentally, this course is intimidating. And, incredibly fun! Perhaps this driver just does not have what it takes to challenge the hill! Honestly, I think it is the plain truth to say that both myself the driver and the car were a bit rusty and not fully ready for the challenge. But, we will be next year.


My tow vehicle of choice has been a Triple E 24' RV built on a Ford E450 chasis. There is nothing like home away from home when you're off at a race track.

Now back to the basics. My tow vehicle of choice is a 24' Triple E C-class RV based upon a Ford E450 chasis. I pull a tow dolly, so obviously the car's rear wheels are always on the ground. While there are both negative and positive side effects of this combination, I like to focus upon the positive (and forget about the V10's thirsty engine). First of all, the tow dolly is compact for storage. Second, with the RV I have a compact home away from home. I can have a snooze anytime I need one in relative comfort. There is a fridge, freezer, stove, and I picked up a compact BBQ for steaks and burgers. Plus, towing with the RV you barely feel what's behind you - that was the case when I have pulled both open and enclosed single car trailers in the past.


This past winter I was so tired of snow. I'm sure that I was promised moving to the Fraser Valley in BC that there'd be no snow, yet the winter of 2017 broke decades old records for snowfall. Fast forward to my May trip through the mountains and snow was so exciting. In fact, I pulled over and ran out to jump in the snow!


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Tuesday, June 06, 2017 6:47 PM
Competitive driving is really about personal progress. As long as you are improving on your times, and as long as the car is feeling better, progress is being made.

I think it's important to pace yourself. For one, I really like detailing what each individual improvement does and how it 'adds' to the character of the vehicle. I only like to do one mod at a time, so I can easily gauge if such mod actually improved the vehicle or detracted from it.

Honestly, you can play with tire alignment for a long time before moving onto other things. There are some many details you can influence on a car, that make a tremendous difference in driver confidence and car handling.

For one, I don't know how traction limited you are, but it certainly looks like you dial in some negative camber on that vehicle.

I currently have a Macpherson Strut equipped modern econobox, that I've 'adapted' into a racier vehicle. One thing, that stands apart with Mac Struts is there inherent lack of dynamic negative camber gain during cornering. This make the car feel very unstable at high speeds.

After dialing in the right amount of camber on my vehicle, it now sticks like glue. Static negative camber is a MUST on any vehicle with Mac Struts.
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 9:35 PM
Glad to see you back out there!
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 9:50 PM
Thanks, spdracerut. It was absolutely time!

ginsu, you've made some great comments. The course really was the cause of the dartiness of the car. I left the hill climb Sunday night and drove the new Area 27 course (I wrote about it last fall) on Monday. On the straight it was quite comfortable at 200 kph and all of the corners. Quite a difference being on a track versus driving a park road at high speed.

You are right, however, in that I do make too many changes at a time. But, I've only owned this car for 25 years. I've got to make lots of changes to accomplish what I want to in the time that I have. And don't forget, this is the third version of this car. Each version has it's own challenges to overcome.
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