November 24, 2013 (Las Vegas, NV):
The mission of the Summit of Everest Group is to Do More. Doing more means many things, but in particular for us, it means pursuing our dreams, taking on new challenges, and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. In our efforts to Do More, we attach ourselves to meaningful “rope teams” and set our goals on higher and more challenging summits. A good rope team will allow you to climb higher than you ever thought possible and persevere through challenges that would cause a bad rope team to fail.
The latest challenge for the Summit of Everest Group was to support team driver, Max Fedler, in his pursuit of taking on the world’s best 13-16 year old racers in the SKUSA Supernationals XVII in Las Vegas, Nevada this past November. Despite being one of the youngest drivers in this class, Max set his sights on the Rotax Junior title after winning the Rocky Mountain ProKart Challenge in his rookie season. This wasn’t going to be an ordinary challenge. As it turned out, the Rotax Grand Finals were being held in the United States this year. This race invites the top 3-5 racers from different countries around the world. Many of these same racers entered the 41 kart field for the Supernationals. In addition to Max and thirteen other USA racers, there were racers from Canada, Israel, Columbia, Austria, Australia, Germany, France, Mexico, Brazil, the Netherlands, Venezuela, and Belgium. In addition professional drivers such as Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, AJ Allmendinger, Jamie MacMurray, and Nelson Piquet were racing as well. A great opportunity to meet some great people.
Did we expect to win? No. We set out with the goal of improving every time Max hit the track and completing every lap of every session. Did we expect to have the best team? Yes. With Unser Racing and long time team leader Greg Welch in charge, we knew that we could work harder than everyone else and optimize our performance to gain the best possible result. Most importantly, we were going to have family, friends, and Rocky Mountain ProKart Challenge TAG Senior champ Jason Dempster there as well. No one was going to have more fun than us.
Arriving on Tuesday evening, we were able to get a solid day of testing in on Wednesday. Feeling good about our prospects, we awoke Thursday morning to the realization that the monsoon had taken over the desert. It was raining. Not just a light sprinkle either, we’re talking about full on, non stop, flood the track rain. Max’s total experience driving in the rain has consisted of one afternoon of practice which was cut short by a Colorado lightning storm.
This is the type of adversity that can stop people in their tracks. No rain racing experience, the toughest field of competitors, more than 4 times as many karts as Max typically races against. It would have been easy to throw in the towel. Did we? Not a chance. This is where the rope team took over. We were prepared (proper gear, rain tires, proper kart preparation), we were motivated (Max completed every lap of practice when some classes wound up with about a 40% participation rate), and we were gaining experience (more rain driving in one afternoon/evening than in his whole career). In terms of positive pessimisms, it might have been raining, but at least it was cold and windy.
Friday brought more rain. This wasn’t going to let up anytime soon. While many teams struggled with preparation (lack of rain tires, etc.), we were focused on improving our times and gaining experience. With nothing to lose, Max went out and qualified 31st. We were pleased with his performance given that he had the 41st level of experience in these conditions. There would now be three races before the Sunday main race. The first race was Friday night in the rain. A huge field, darkness, and rain. Again, this could have been a huge problem and indeed, crashes were abound in the first corner. Starting in the back half of the field, Max needed to raise his game just to keep the kart off the walls and avoid other people’s messes. He did a great job and brought it home cleanly. A job well done!
Saturday brought more rain and races #2 and #3. In the second race, Max again avoided all of the carnage and brought the kart home in 30th place. In the third race, things started to click even better for Max. Involved in a front straight crash at the start in which a kart behind Max drove him into three other karts in front, Max was the only driver to escape. His race was on at that point. Driving intelligently and keeping the tires between the walls, Max worked his way up and by passing another driver through the last corner on the last lap, he brought it home in 26th thus keeping the goal of improving in each session alive.
On Sunday morning, the weather finally broke and our hopes were high. On a dry track with the experience gained over the previous days, Max was hoping to race to a top 20 finish. From a 33rd starting position in the Main, Max had worked himself up to 25th position by lap 4. He was getting into his groove and settling in. After an entire weekend of challenge after challenge, now it was just down to racing. Almost unbelievably, at precisely this point after not putting a wheel wrong all weekend, Max’s race came to an abrupt end. In racing, there are two ways to pass another driver. You can set them up and make a clean pass or you can simply crash into them and knock them out of the way. One of the fastest drivers on the track, who had spun out of the first lap, came up on Max and should have been able to pass him pretty easily. Instead, he hit Max’s bumper at the apex of a corner and knocked him straight into the wall damaging the kart and ending Max’s race. It would be the only time Max would fail to complete every lap and with a 30th place finish, the only time he didn’t improve his finish from one race to the next.
As we always say, life’s lessons are learned on the side of the mountain, not the summit. While the final result was not what we had hoped for, the experience as a whole far exceeded our expectations. Our team performed extremely well, Max simply got better and better as he gained invaluable experience, and everyone had a great time.
Simply put, our rope team took us higher and farther than any of us could have gone on our own. And that is success.