Evasive Motorsports Returns to Pikes Peak 2021 with Tesla Model 3

Witnessing Evasive Motorsports’ preparations for the 2021 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) was nothing short of inspiring. When you see how hard each team member works, you can’t just stand around and watch — you’re compelled to jump in and lend a helping hand, and become part of an infectious desire to push harder. Don’t let the attempt mislead you: Evasive has a winning recipe to succeed, even if winning wasn’t the result on this occasion.

For ENEOS ambassador Dai Yoshihara, his own desire to perform at his best is built into his DNA. The former Formula DRIFT PRO Champion has honed his grip racing skills over the years to make him a more formidable driver, and he uses these talents to conquer the world famous “Race to the Clouds.”

Dai actually accomplished this mission last year with the 2JZ-powered Evasive Motorsports / Turn 14 Distribution / ENEOS Toyota 86, a machine that certainly had its own set of challenges to overcome. And if that car has taught Dai and Evasive anything, it’s that you must be prepared for everything — and everything was their new Tesla Model 3 race car.

For this year’s competition, both Turn 14 Distribution and ENEOS wanted Evasive to literally “switch gears” from the tried ’n true 86 — winner of the 2020 Unlimited class — to an EV platform. The new Turn 14 Distribution / Toyo Tires / ENEOS / Evasive Motorsports Tesla Model 3 was the chosen vehicle. It’s a reflection of the ever-increasing interest in the EV sector, and all project partners sensed the need to develop performance products in anticipation of our inevitable performance future, one that undoubtedly includes electrification.

The shift in development is also a primary area of focus for ENEOS. The Japanese company’s engineers and chemists have been looking at improving the efficiency of current and future EVs. The result is the ENEOS EV Fluid Series, which aims to provide superior lubrication and cooling properties than currently available in the EV market. The new Fluid Series will be offered by ENEOS not only to its existing OEM partners but also new manufacturers around the world.

Tesla Setup

News of the Evasive Tesla race car caused a stir from the get-go, even though the project was largely under wraps until it debuted a few weeks before the big race at the Evasive open house at their new Cerritos, CA location. With little aftermarket support for the Model 3, the team looked to familiar resources to help improve various aspects of the vehicle, like Artisan Spirits and Voltex for aerodynamics, CSF Radiators to cool the Tesla batteries, lightweight Titan 7 wheels, and in-house EVS carbon fabrication.

The Tesla then had to be track tested with little time before the car had to be shipped to Colorado Springs, CO. Evasive chose Willow Springs Raceway for shakedown testing primarily because a Tesla supercharging station was located nearby the track. Once fully charged, Dai got the feel for his silent-yet-deadly competition car, and the team made essential changes to the suspension while monitoring battery performance. They felt confident the car would be ready for battle.

Pikes Peak: All Systems Go

As usual, the week leading up to the PPIHC big race saw Evasive set the stage, getting the Tesla through its tech inspection before a series of practice days at various stages on the Pikes Peak course. Dai arrived next, conditioning his mind and body for the task at hand, gaining valuable seat time to understand how the car reacts in the constantly changing weather conditions.

Practice went as well as could be expected, he explained: “At times we couldn’t get the power needed at the time we needed it, and it was tough to manage the batteries. But the good thing is we were the fastest when the rain came down in the sketchy conditions.”

The team then had a couple days to relax and mentally prepare themselves and physically prep the car before Sunday.

Come race morning, you could feel the energy around Pikes Peak. Dai, Evasive and attending partners, including ourselves from ENEOS, Titan 7 Wheels and Toyo Tires, were all pumped. This was the moment we’d all been waiting for with eager anticipation, and the practice sessions indicated a potential victory. And there was also a strategy in place that meant Evasive would try to defeat its main opponent, the Unplugged Performance Tesla Model S Plaid.

When Dai pulled the Evasive Tesla to the starting line he was greeted by applause from the gathered attendees. We held our breath waiting for the green flag to drop but then, much to our surprise, he launched slowly. It caught the team off guard. All week it had launched like a scalded cat: “What just happened?” we asked, looking to each other for answers.

Perhaps he was playing it safe, working up to full speed, and only when he reached the first sector would we know for sure if this strategy was being brought into play…

“I knew immediately that something was wrong,” Dai told us after the race. “There was no power, and for a second I thought about stopping to have someone look at it, but didn’t want to risk being disqualified. So, I hit the pedal again and kept going, hoping to find the power as I climbed. But nothing changed; it didn’t get better or worse.”

Watching the big screen, the race announcers called the news we were dreading: The Tesla was making its way up the course at much slower speeds than practice, and with each sector there was no improvement in speed. Dai had no choice but to run the car in semi-limp mode to the end, crossing the finish line with a time of 11:41.162. Sadly, it was a far cry from the eventual winner, Randy Pobst, driver of the Unplugged Tesla, who completed the race with a 6:57.220 lap time. Dai, being a good sport, offered his congratulations to all competitors, sharing a celebratory drink at the top of Pikes Peak.

The Only Way is Up

After the car returned to the Evasive pit area, the team determined the Tesla had experienced an electrical gremlin that put the car into limp mode — no fault of Dai or Evasive, as there were no errors or indicators to alert them. It’s a painful reminder that Pikes Peak can be cruel. No matter how much you practice, or get the race car running smoothly, the Hill always has a surprise in store for you (the Evasive 86 is proof).

“We did so well during practice and everything was running smoothly,” Dai explained. “I’m happy I made it to the top safely and could enjoy myself with the other drivers. And although we didn’t win, we now have important work to finish!”

If there’s one thing that can be counted on, it’s that Dai and Evasive know how to make a sensational comeback. Stay tuned for PPIHC 2022…