Vonnen Big Sir California

Shift Sector Airstrip Attack – Road Trip!

Day 1

Silicon Valley Cowboys

When presented with the opportunity to run a ½ mile top speed challenge on an airstrip located in an inland cattle ranching community located midway between Northern and Southern California, Team Vonnen did what any self-respecting group of car enthusiasts would – we went in the complete opposite direction and headed for the coast. No car transporters. No trailers full of spares. Just a Shadow Drive equipped Porsche 991 and miles of scenic coastal Hwy 1 to devour to take the long way to Shift Sector in Coalinga, California. One of the perks of being located in the Bay Area is access to some of the best driving roads in the country. Yes, we turned what could have been at three-hour trip into an all-day driving adventure, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Going West to Go East

Our journey began with the moon and stars still out early on Saturday morning as we departed Vonnen headquarters in Santa Clara. With “Stealth Mode” selected on the phone app, and a tank full of premium, we made quick work of the twists and turns of Hwy 17 with Shadow Drive providing a healthy shove when called upon as we worked our way around slow moving trucks and oblivious Teslas on autopilot – (Bill, our VP of Engineering, driving one such example as a chase vehicle with additional team and family members aboard ). As for the Porsche, thanks to my propensity for car sickness as a passenger, I had the pleasure of piloting it on the way down with my two sons in the back seat and Andrew, the man behind our social media presence, riding shotgun and squeezed on all sides by camera gear. A mix of German hip hop and early 90’s trance provided the accompanying soundtrack.

The fall colors took on a warm glow as the sun rose as we made our way to the famous surfing town of Santa Cruz (shout out to the Banana Slugs!). After a quick breakfast, our route took us south through Monterey and Carmel before winding our way into Big Sur. Anyone that has driven this section of the Pacific Coast Highway can appreciate the breathtaking views and vistas this afforded. While the 911 made an obligatory stop at the Post Ranch Inn to take in the view, on the other side of the highway, the Tesla supercharged itself back to full capacity.

Climbing to the Heavens

Once past the famous Bixby Bridge, we took the Nascimento-Fergusson Road turn off by Lucia and made our way east and skywards towards the Fort Hunter Liggett military base. Given the cloudless sky and empty road, this took on a particularly dream-like feeling as the high-performance Tesla and 911 played cat and mouse up the mountain, stopping periodically to capture video, enjoy the views, and let the kids’ stomachs settle.

Once up top, and with the views of the Pacific now behind us, the road was no less spectacular as the majestic redwoods of Big Sur gave way to California Oaks and their twisted branches.

With the setting of the sun, the sky turned red, then purple, and almost otherworldly as we cleared the summit and made rapid work of the Fort Hunter Liggett – humoring the “troops” with a quick stop at a tank on display, and then eventually ending our journey at the Harris Ranch for dinner – where the manure smell outside gave a sense of the best entrees to order inside (hint: it’s not the salmon).


Day 2

Arriving at a Vehicular Smorgasbord

Race day began with a quick coffee and pastries before heading to the track for the mandatory driver’s briefing. On display, as expected, were an impressive array of modified supercars and muscle cars – from McLaren’s and Lamborghinis to Challenger Hellcats and Corvettes – no matter where one’s allegiance or preference stood, there was a little something for everyone.

Our mission was simply to try out various modes in fine tuning our power delivery. We had a sense of how soon power should come on and how it should taper off when pushed up to its limits, but validating this in a controlled environment with a Vbox on hand to capture data proved to be invaluable in fine tuning our different drive modes.

Turning our Heads From Left to Right

The format of the event, which was now on its second day, followed what one might expect. Cars, and a handful of motorcycles, would line up side-by-side on either side of an airstrip and race from one end to the other with the times displayed for fans watching in the bleachers. An exuberant announcer, shouting over a soundtrack of top 40 hits, would use phrases like pulling a “sneaky sneaky” or taking a competitor out to Gapplebees for a Gappetizer to describe the action unfolding. Cheesy turns-of-phrase notwithstanding, this was actually helpful as the first car to trip the timing lines on the other end wasn’t always the fastest as measured by trap speed – the criteria for winning a race.

During our day out, the fastest car of a day, a BBi customer’s GT2, provided both the highest recorded run on Sunday with a trap speed exceeding 203 mph, and the most drama, with a dramatic high-speed spin into the dirt midway down the course and well past 100mph. Apparently, the highest speed recorded had been the day before by a Lamborghini Huracan Performante at a startling 218 mph at the ½ mile mark.

Beyond Thunderdome

As for the Vonnen car, with nearly a dozen runs under our belts before the desert wind became unbearable late into the afternoon, we called the day a success and made our trip back in what could only be described as a setting that looked like a cross between a Mad Max movie and the tornado from the Wizard of Oz. The kids were duly impressed with their first of many sightings of enormous tumbleweeds rolling in front of the car providing an added element of excitement to the homebound journey.

With an obligatory stop at Pea Soup Andersons – an odd choice for a dinner venue that may have that had something to do with Supercharging we topped of our respective tanks for a triumphant return to Vonnen HQ. All told, the car and system performed flawlessly both on and off the track and the crew arrived back in time for the children’s bedtime with no tickets, mechanical issues, or accidents in or out of the cars to speak of.

Next in queue is a track day at Thunderhill and an open house here at Vonnen, so stay tuned for details on those.

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