Nerd's Eye View: The Kern's Pikes Peak Evo 

By Khiem Dinh

Khiem Dinh is an engineer for Honeywell Turbo Technologies at the time of this writing.  All statements and opinions expressed by Khiem Dinh are solely those of Khiem Dinh and not reflective of Honeywell Turbo Technologies.

The Kerns are no ordinary team and this is no ordinary Evo.  It all started innocently enough with David dodging cones in a parking lot.  He then started getting sideways in dirt at rally-x events.  The joys of playing in the dirt were too strong to resist and he started to get serious about racing.  Perhaps the biggest coup was convincing his wife to go play in the dirt too.  Follow along to see what it takes to be successful at Pikes Peak.

Here is the story as David Kern tells it: 

"I got my start racing back in 2001 sliding around on a frozen lake near Woodland Park, Colorado.  After a couple years of doing auto-x and rally-x events I got the itch to go faster and had decided I liked sliding sideways.  In late 2004 I got a roll cage installed in a 1988 Mazda 323GTX and convinced my wife to ride shotgun as my navvie.  We raced with the Colorado Hill Climb Association (CHCA), a group that puts on 4-6 all dirt hillclimb events in Colorado every summer.  Despite running an underpowered 17 year old car, we had a blast and posted up some decent times.  Somewhere about the 3rd or 4th race Allison asked me what it would take to start running with the fast guys and my reply was "Evo."  It would take a few years to find the right candidate, a theft recovery salvage title car.


The Evo was selected because we knew that horsepower is more important when hillclimbing than it is at other types of races...and horsepower on a reasonable budget.  For a rally car, the STi would've been the no-brainer choice, but since we figured we'd be racing mostly in Colorado for the first couple years, we decided to focus on hillclimbs since there's a great local series which welcomes rally cars.  We've been fortunate to have some support from a few great companies over the years, but as most privateer teams know all too well, sometimes you've got to make tough choices with your limited resources.


During the initial build phase we'd planned to have an engine built, but held off until the chassis prep and most of the 'race' bits were ordered.  We ended up over budget and my prized track day toy, a supercharged Miata went up for sale.  We ran the Evo the first season with basically a stock motor and standard bolt-ons (intake, exhaust, IC, E85 conversion) and even then, it was quite a potent package, and we managed to grab a few records. 

The biggest challenge of hillclimbs is the change in elevation. Boost controllers can do a great job of keeping boost levels safe, but on a long climb (PP is over 4,000 feet) what's safe at the bottom may not be safe at the top. 

We were extremely lucky to run into a talented tuner named Mitch McKee at 4am and 12,000 feet back in 2008. Ever since, he's been involved with the ECU mapping for our car. For the first few years we ran an AEM, but in 2010 we made the switch to Motec which allowed for more advanced boost control strategies.



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Wednesday, February 06, 2013 4:54 AM
"Everyone in the DSM and Evo world knows ShepTrans as they make the only parts that can handle the abuse dished out by high torque DSMs and Evos."

Its been a while since I had my DSM, but what about Team Rip Engineering? I had my tranny re-built by TRE and when I got it back my mechanic said that he didn't know how they did it but it shifts better than any Honda he's ever driven.
Wednesday, February 06, 2013 5:07 AM
I've met Jon with Team Rip and have been extremely impressed with his work on our car over the years. No experience with Shep, but both have excellent reputations. Jon can be difficult to get a hold of though. If you ever get a chance to talk transmissions with him your mind will be boggled with how much knowledge he has on metallurgy.
Wednesday, February 06, 2013 6:14 AM
I'd love to see a nerd's eye view of the Palatov car.
Wednesday, February 06, 2013 7:15 AM
Excellent article. Loads of ideas and cost effective strategies.
Wednesday, February 06, 2013 7:54 AM

Go to their page:


I'd start under "Past" on the left hand toolbar, the dp1 build log with the white looking car. One of the best build up I've ever seen.

Then branch out into their other builds and see what they are currently up to
Wednesday, February 06, 2013 3:12 PM
Mitch used to tune my evo when he was at AMS.. great guy, very good tuner
Wednesday, February 06, 2013 4:43 PM
Awww man, not even a mention of the shaved rear door handles? I spent so much time on that mod. ;)

Wednesday, February 06, 2013 7:47 PM
Dave, who makes your carbon doors? What does the whole car weigh?
Wednesday, February 06, 2013 11:16 PM
Nicely done ACD-Pump relocation, but what are you guys running in it`s old place since the housing is still there and a pump has been attached to it, diff-cooler maybe?

Thursday, February 07, 2013 10:25 AM
Front carbon doors were bought from AMS Performance. I made the rears at my shop with the help of a few buddies.

Not 100% sure I understand the question Vmax. Nothhing is up in the front fenders by the wheels - that's a danger zone for rally cars since you never know what you'll find when ditch-hooking (rock, stump, etc.). Oil cooler was moved outta the other side and now resides on top of the radiator. Added benefit is that routing of the brake ducting is much easier.
Friday, February 08, 2013 4:23 AM

Dave what I meant was what are you running to or from the old ACD-pump location behind the driverside rear-wheel under the diffuser close to where you`ve attached your resevoir for the rear shock?


P.S.: Now I get the problem on car with AYC the pump sits at
location I meant! Not the front where the US-Model has it.
Friday, February 08, 2013 8:16 AM
Yep - US models have no AYC and the ACD pump sits in front of the front left side wheel (viewed when sitting in the car). When the ACD pump was moved inside, the line is actually about the same length as the OEM line, but just runs down the trans tunnel and then into the tunnel about a foot from the port on the back of the transfer case.

The box that's back in the location near the spare tire well is the surge tank so that if the car runs low on fuel it won't fuel starve in the corners. I did an entire lap full tilt at Buttonwillow CW13 with the fuel light on and no starvation! (says alot when you run E85 and get ~3mpg)
Friday, February 08, 2013 1:24 PM
That's a well put together car and a great example of how a pikes peak cage should look. Anything with a passenger needs to have both diagonals in the main hoop.
Friday, February 08, 2013 1:30 PM
Agreed! I tried to warn the other guys on the Evo forums when I could see they were getting all geared up and politely suggested they consider adding some extra bracing in case things went to hell on their run, but I was told they were engineers and extra tubes wouldn't help. What stunned me was that they ran a navvie at the event in a cage so clearly designed to protect one side of the car. In the end, I'm just glad Jeremy and Yuri survived!

At the end of the day, the cage in the silver Evo was still load better looking than some of the other cars allowed to race. Scariest one was a bolt in cage in a camaro where the a-pillar bars didn't terminate at the floor, they terminated 6" above the floor where they crossed the door bars!
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