It was June 5, 2011, a few minutes past noon, when the Zenkai Motorsports Race Team heard the heart-stopping call over the officials' radios at the 89th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The team’s 2009 Subaru WRX STI was reported to have slammed into a guardrail.
For several agonizing minutes, that was the only information the crew knew. They didn’t know how bad it was and whether guest driver Stephan Verdier escaped injury.
Team Director Gary Harding remembers: “Word came over the radio, ‘CRASH #300.’ My heart sank. It took about 20 minutes to find out that Steph was OK. After the event, we were amazed that he drove the car down off the mountain.”
The Zenkai Subaru WRX STI #300 ended its assault of Pikes Peak earlier than expected
when driver Stephan Verdier took a corner too fast for conditions and hit one of the
road’s guardrails. Mangled sheet metal and damaged chassis systems notwithstanding,
Verdier was able to drive back down the mountain.
#300 on course for the 2011 Pikes Peak
International Hill Climb … before hitting
It turned out that Verdier was, for the most part, unscathed during his blistering charge up America’s Mountain. After the race team regrouped, Verdier commented, “It is up to the mountain whether or not you make it to the top. Today, it said, ‘No.’”
Gary Harding made sure what remained of the WRX STI was secured on the trailer for the long drive back to Las Vegas. “Overall, this was a great event. Of course, we were disappointed that we didn’t finish, but we all returned home safely. The public exposure that Zenkai Motorsports achieved from this event has been great. More doors have opened up for us, and we can’t thank our sponsors enough.”
For six long months, management at Subaru of Las Vegas debated the fate of the Zenkai Motorsports’ WRX STI and whether the race program would continue – with each race team member rallying for its survival and recommissioning. They held earnest discussions to hammer out what direction the resurrection should go – whether to fix the damaged rear end or find a new rolling chassis and transplant the heart of the original car.
When asked if there was ever a doubt whether the Zenkai Motorsports Subaru would be rebuilt, Gary Harding said, “After Pikes Peak, it was a possibility that it would not return. I believe the exposure of what we do at Zenkai Motorsports and Subaru of Las Vegas has really helped our business, though. We have a lot of followers and clients marketing the Subaru brand and the Zenkai Motorsports operations, which has been worth it all!”