Wednesday, February 12, 2014

the 341 Challenge is on for 2014! "America's most challenging hill climb" returns to Highway 341 on the weekend of June 14

Just thirty minutes south of Reno Nevada and 40 minutes east of Lake Tahoe lies the most dangerous stretch of highway in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and quite possibly, the entire west coast - Nevada State Route 341.

Amir Rosenbaum. Amir is the founder of Spectre Performance, a manufacturer of innovative air intake systems and other performance parts for muscle cars. Aside from owning a fleet of cars that includes several 1970s Chevrolet Camaros, a mid-engined 1970 Chevy El Camino SS (pictured above), a 1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1, a 2JZGTE-powered 1970 Ford Maverick, a twin turbo Cadillac powered streamliner land speed racer, and a highly modified 1992 Ferrari F40, Amir set a world record at the famed Virginia City Hillclimb in 2002, driving his infamous F40 up the hill in only 3.10 minutes


The event was started by Rosenbaum through his air-intake company Spectre Performance, and it remains cheerfully brash: Minimal safety requirements (no roll cage is necessary, for instance) and a run-what-you-brung ethos pave the way for all sorts of exotics and insane tuner cars to take a crack at breaking the 3-minute, 41-second barrier. The 3:41 Club awaits.

For two days, there is no traffic on Highway 341. The cops play along in this part of the country, while residents welcome the aural deafening and tourist dollars. The road exhibits typical DOT-grade maintenance: loose gravel, road signs, crowned sections, gleefully ignored double yellows, a potential for roadkill. There is no prize. The risks are real: Around every one of those 22 frequently blind corners is the threat of falling through a flimsy guardrail -- or no guardrail at all -- and disappearing into the scrubby brush. "If you go off on turn seven, for example," the 341 Challenge site explains, "you'll probably have enough time in the air to make out your last will and testament before you hit something for the first time." Accidents happen. One competitor died in 2010, while driving no less than a 1,000-hp Porsche.

How challenging is it? In 2010, the year Rosenbaum launched the 341 Challenge, 18 drivers signed up. Only six of them made it into the 3:41 Club.

info from

With an entry fee of just $341, two full days of racing up the course built into the program, and relatively relaxed rules (basically, cages aren’t required, and only helmets, fire extinguishers, and long sleeves are), the 341 Challenge represents one of the best deals in amateur motorsports. Our recommendation: go next year, before the event is discovered and the queue at the starting line gets onerously long.

Unlike most hill-climb courses, including the most famous one, Pikes Peak, the 341 has a separate return road, the parallel highway 342, so competitors don’t have to wait until the course clears to jump back into line.

In the mandatory driver’s meetings, where attendance is taken, Rosenbaum likes to emphasize that, here in Nevada, personal responsibility is still considered up to the individual. If you crash, the state is only concerned about damage to the roadway. The organizers are billed for bent guardrails, sliced-off signposts, and gouged pavement, but if a driver dies, the police report lists the cause simply as “unfortunate incident” before it’s filed in a drawer. Life goes on.