Anyone who has frustratingly fiddled with touchscreen controls while speeding down the highway can relate to Blake Fuller’s predicament on Sunday.
Well, sort of.
Fuller, a three-time champion in The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, was the first driver off on Sunday morning, making him the first to experience the thick fog and damp course.
Making his challenge more complicated was the light rain and frosty windshield while in his 2021 Tesla. While going as fast as 125 miler per hour on the winding mountain course, he tried to scroll through his touchscreen controls to operate the windshield wiper and defrost, while wearing gloves.
“I felt like an older person trying to program a VCR in the middle of my run,” said Fuller, whose time of 12 minutes, 9.362 seconds was sixth-best in the exhibition division and, in these conditions, lagged well behind the winning time of 11:02.802 in a Tesla in 2020.
"It’s a combination of pressing the buttons and scrolling wheels. It's like juggling, and I don't juggle well."
As a race veteran, Fuller could rely on his knowledge of the course. But only to an extent.
“I actually know the course well enough, but it’s almost like somebody saying, I’m going to blindfold you, and then I’m going to remove it, then I’m going to blindfold you and remove it again,” Fuller said. “So you go back and forth mentally.”
The screen in his Tesla provided a course map, but even that came with a caveat.
“It’s almost like this false sense of security,” he said. “It shows a straight away, but on Pikes there really is no real straightaway. There’s a straightaway that has a kink, one with huge bumps where you need to be in the right spots.”
Driving the quiet electric car, Fuller was fitted with a siren to prevent a disaster with unaware race spectators. That was another issue that didn’t work to his advantage.
“Annoying as crap and I hate it,” he said. “It is the antithesis of encouraging when you’re driving. When you’re driving and you hear the motor it kind of spurs you on. Even an electric motor spurs you on. But when you’re hearing that siren it feels like you’re in the after-effect of a wreck. Or you’re doing something wrong.”
Still, Fuller took care to note that he wasn’t unhappy with his experience. Even as the first-off guinea pig of the day, he was thrilled to compete.
“I’m here,” he said. “The box is checked.”