Racing legend discusses Teslas, EVs, and making history on America’s deadliest track

Last August, legendary racecar driver Randy “The Rocket” Pobst, undoubtedly one of the industry’s most admired racers, took his battered Unplugged Tesla Model 3 Performance up Pikes Peak, only a few days after crashing spectacularly at the Bottomless Pit. Pobst finished second in the Exhibition Class of the meet, just behind another Model 3 Performance powered by fellow racer Blake Fuller. Given that the Unplugged Model 3 completed the Pikes Peak climb with a bent frame and throttled power due to battery problems, it was a sort of victory. Finishing the race was an accomplishment in itself, but it wasn’t enough for The Rocket.

This year, Pobst and the Unplugged Performance team are looking to return to Pikes Peak, and this time, the seasoned racer and the tuners from Tesla are eager to achieve the objective they were unable to achieve last year. Pobst is aiming at achieving a sub-10-minute sprint up the treacherous hill this time around. Pobst and Unplugged Performance CEO Ben Schaffer shared some of their plans and expectations for this year’s Pikes Peak attempt in a conversation with Teslarati, and why a Tesla is suitable for such competitive events.

(Credit: Ben Schaffer/Facebook)

When asked why he’s coming back in another Tesla to Pikes Peak this year, Pobst explained that electric cars are actually a better match for the dangerous race. Considering some of the best EVs on the market today, Tesla is amazingly suited to Pikes Peak, especially considering that the electric motors of the vehicles instantly provide tons of torque. The legendary racer explained in a statement why a 10 minute sprint would be just right for the features of electric cars.

“This event is such an incredible thrill and challenge, and it just happens to be very well-suited to a Tesla and electric power in general. There are three reasons why: one, the flow of electrons is unaffected by the 14K high-altitude lack of oxygen; two, the short 10-minute hill climb is well-suited to current battery technology at full power; and three, the strong low-speed torque, instant response, and no need to shift are all ideal for the 160 turns up that mountain road, especially the many switchbacks,” Pobst said.

Pobst remarked during his attempt last year that his race-tuned Unplugged Model 3 Performance was one of the best cars he’s ever driven. Thanks to its all-electric nature and the refinements of the Tesla tuner, the experienced racer noted that at high speeds, the vehicle just hugged the road. This was illustrated by the fact that before his accident, Pobst was actually among the fastest in the whole field, with the humble Model 3 finishing ahead of formidable vehicles such as race-spec Porsches.

For now, in another Unplugged Tesla Model 3 Performance, neither Pobst nor Schaffer have disclosed whether they will attempt the 2021 Pikes Peak hill climb. When asked about this, the Unplugged CEO stated that the details for Randy Pobst’s racecar this year are still being determined. Schaffer stated that Unplugged is working on some exciting projects for the Model S Plaid and Model S Plaid+, both for street and motorsports use.

Randy Pobst takes on Pikes Peak in the Tesla Model 3 Performance. (Credit: Unplugged Performance)

However, if Pobst and the Unplugged Performance team return with another Model 3 Performance to Pikes Peak this year, the racecar driver might very well complete what he set out to do last year and maybe win the Exhibition Class directly in the process. The Model 3 Performance is a very fast car, as Pobst himself said, and when it’s optimized for racing, it’s a scary beast of a machine that has the ability to perform close to or at the levels of tailor-made racers specifically created for Pikes Peak. This time around, with the experience of last year in tow, Pobst and the Tesla tuner might very well make history.

But for Tesla and its future in motorsports, this is only just the start. Sharing his thoughts further, Schaffer said that when the vehicle is released, he hopes to eventually carry the next-gen Tesla Roadster to the treacherous hill climb. And the possibilities that exist for committed EV tuners and racers are only increasing with the Model S Plaid and Model S Plaid+ coming this year.

“Our goal since 2013 has remained consistent. Unplugged Performance exists to show car enthusiasts around the world how exciting it can be to drive a Tesla. This furthers the Tesla mission and has been our contribution since 2013 as Tesla’s neighbors and friends. Events like this—TeslaCorsa, our Nürburgring activities—and also our street tuning upgrades all are designed to tell that story and to turn petrolheads into EVHeads,” Schaffer said.

For his part, Randy Pobst is all for this venture. Yeah, I’m in! He replied excitedly to Schaffer’s plans, suggesting that his Tesla Pikes Peak attempts were probably just beginning. Pobst also suggested in jest that EV supporters and enthusiasts should possibly soon begin to brand themselves “AMPheads.” After all, the electric car revolution is proliferating, and it is only a matter of time before EVs are accepted in both everyday use and racing as the chosen cars. And when that happens, as Randy Pobst has said, the AMPhead community is likely to be extremely vast.

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