There is something compelling about snatching back success from a situation that is all-but-certain to be a defeat. Colorado resident and racer Trevor Aweida accomplished just that in his campaign to compete in the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, brought to you by Gran Turismo (PPIHC) after starting the year with his car existing only in the past tense.

During the 2021 running of the PPIHC, Trevor competed in his family’s 2008 Ford Racing FR500S Mustang, a car that had been in his family since it was campaigned in the factory sponsored Mustang Challenge racing series nearly two decades before.The Marshall fire changed everything; in late December, Trevor’s family home was gone, one of over 1,100 buildings destroyed in the fire, leaving the Mustang that Trevor has campaigned, among many other of his family’s race and street cars (including his father’s Pikes Peak car), their garage, and their family home destroyed.

It is easy to appreciate how a competitor in a race with a very selective entry process, worldwide visibility, and a very real level of danger may take an off-year to collect themself and begin to rebuild, but Trevor and his father were still dedicated to racing PPIHC in 2022.

When you want to go racing, it helps to start with a car. Trevor faced finding a suitable vehicle for his run on the hill, and needed to do so in one of the most historically difficult markets for wheeled transportation in decades. Given the circumstances, it was not going to be an easy task to pull a PPIHC-worthy car out of thin air. Sitting derelict in front of Apikol Performance Automotive, a Denver area VW & Audi tuning shop, a 1984 Audi 4000 quattro with a litany of problems, a puzzling registration with three co-owners, and no certain future sat patiently.

The Audi 4000 is a car with a devoted following, the sedan cousin to Audi’s infamous quattro coupe. While its all-wheel drive drivetrain offers a great platform to build a race car, the stock inline five cylinder motor delivers a tepid 115 horsepower (at the crank). This car, however, had a sordid past. Prior to the pandemic, the car had undergone a relatively slapdash motor swap, trading its sonorous if lackluster inline five for another well known motor in the Volkswagen Automotive Group’s Arsenal; the VR-6. The car ran, but that’s about the nicest thing that can be said about it. Butchered fenders housed ill fitting fender flares. The car’s front axles had been left on the cutting room floor due to the difficulty of getting them past the VR6’s downpipe, and creature comforts like a cluster and dash instruments deferred to an indefinite time in the car’s uncertain future.

After it was built, the car passed through three enthusiasts in the Denver area over the time frame of the pandemic, who each met the car with enthusiasm, but had never progressed the car toward an end state. Each of whom had incrementally managed to get themselves added to the existing title, instead of registering the car to themselves when they took ownership. The car sat in this state before finding its way to Troy Casteel, one of the owners of Apikol Performance Automotive in Arvada, who happened to be a long time friend and racing co-conspirator to the Aweida family. The car faced an uncertain future, analogous to Trevor’s odds of making the race after the fire. While a rear-wheel drive Audi 4000 with a VR-6 sounds delightful on paper, the car had become something on the edge of salvageability, not counting the other “old car” perils that faced it, like rust and corrosion, no-longer-available parts, and other pitfalls that anyone afflicted with the 5-cylinder gene can enumerate by rote.

Troy saw serendipity in the two situations. After an irresponsibly short amount of discussion and the execution of a 3-party title by a confused motor vehicle clerk, Trevor had his race car canvas in hand in February 2022, realistically 3 months before the car needed to be ready to engage in shakedown testing. Trevor and Troy did not waste time beginning to turn it into something that could foreseeably compete at the PPIHC. They pulled the drivetrain for freshening, and any remaining creature comforts, like the headliner, remaining bits of the interior, the original interior harness and fuse box, HVAC provisions, and factory sunroof equipment were pulled and donated to several local Audi hoarders in the greater Denver area whose basements and crawlspaces were not crowded enough.

Getting the car down to a rolling shell was the easy part. Safety is animportant first step. For many, if one thing comes to mind from the PPIHC, it’s watching Jeremy Foley and Yuri Kouznetsov’s nightmare crash in their Mitsubishi Evo in 2012 at Devil’s Playground, a portion of the course above timberline with notoriously steep drops, leaving effectively no margin of error. The driver and Co-Driver walked away from a crash that saw their car literally disintegrate due to a well built cage. Cages can be a difficult thing to get done on a tight time frame. Good builders are in high demand, and can take months of lead time on top of a significant amount of fabrication time when work begins. The Denver Doughnut Shop, a Denver area fabrication shop well known within the front range’s motorsport community for building cages to specification, was able to accommodate the accelerated timeline, and they dropped the car off in mid-February. The cage took roughly six weeks, and Trevor received the caged rolling-shell back in early April with a beautiful (and more importantly, safe) cage installed in the car. The next hurdle was painting the cage and interior. The car was quickly painted by a local shop who agreed to rush a hurriedly prepped car through their paint booth. With the car back from interior paint, Trevor, Troy, and a group of volunteers set to work getting the car mechanically ready to tackle the race. A set of BC racing coilovers were installed, as well as two-piece suspension uprights giving the team adjustable suspension and alignment settings. Added back to the car, the refreshed VR-6 now contained a Garrett GTX 3582 turbo, and the slapdash swap was cleaned up and simplified. With the car getting a custom engine harness and running on a standalone ECU. The car also regained its front half shafts, restoring the car to all wheel drive. The front support of the car was re-fabricated to secure a larger intercooler, oil cooler and electric fan.

Troy fabricated several components for the interior, including an electrical panel and a set of minimal instruments for the hill. Additionally, certain race safety requirements like provisions for a window net, battery cutoff and safety harnesses were added. Trevor replaced the previously staggered wheel fitment on the car with a meaty 10″ wide square setup. A reproduction E30 M3 rear wing was added, confusingly blending German sedan looks across makes. Over the course of a month and a half, the car took shape at a breakneck pace. Anyone who has built a racecar before knows that getting things done quickly and well at the same time is difficult to accomplish, but Trevor and Troy didn’t have any other choice. At the beginning of June, The car had reached a state of running and driving, and was taken out to shake down days at High Plains Raceway in Deer Trail, Colorado. At this point in the year, temperatures had started to climb. Trevor tested the car in temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The car performed admirably, generating in excess of 400 all-wheel horsepower, but had issues with the engine bay heat soaking when Trevor would drive more than a few tenths for more than one lap.

Quick fixes were implemented, like cutting holes in the hood, running sans-hood, and other ways to try and get more air through the engine bay, but the car was producing too much heat on a warm day, and coolant temps continued to trend uncomfortably high. The team brought the car back home, and in one weekend (before official practices for the race began) engineered cooling solutions for the car, among other improvements gleaned from the testing sessions at High Plains. Added Water-Methanol injection cooled intake air temps and increased charge air density. A massive hood vent channeled air and heat out of the engine bay. Along with suspension settings changes, fender flares were re-added, and a solution for the missing front and rear bumpers was developed that completed the final look of the race car.

Necessary stickers indicating the car’s fuel composition, electrical cutoff location and other information required by race rules were applied to the car, and the car was finally ready, early in the morning on the Monday of race week. Trevor and team loaded the car onto his trailer, and attended race week, which includes a full week of practice and events on and off of the course, including attending fanfest and other events in Colorado Springs. Race day came on June 26th, with the Hill covered in thick fog and cloud cover. While the race is mostly rain or shine, weather that threatens the safety of competitors, crew or spectators such as lightning can get the race ended, or the course shortened. Additionally, while the car had gone through torture testing to be able to handle heat well, the climate on Pikes Peak on race day had become chilly.

The team rose early and began preparations to the car, including checking torques, running the car up to operating temperature, topping fluids, bleeding brakes and ensuring the car was as sorted as it possibly could be for its run up the hill. Trevor got the call to run around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, and approached the start box from the pits. On his first green flag, the car took off viciously, with a massive all-wheel drive burnout. Promising initial run, but unfortunately Trevor had to perform a re-run due to a failed vehicle on-track in front of him.

Despite the false start, Trevor returned to the start line and set off again, this time delivering a very solid run up the mountain for his second year. Trevor completed the full course in 11 minutes and 51.2 seconds, good for a finish of 30th overall, and 11th of 19 in the Time Attack 1 class, which featured some very intense competition from the likes of Porsche and Audi factory race cars, as well as his own father, Dan Aweida. Remarkably, Trevor’s fourth section time was very impressive at 3 minutes and 28.8 seconds, the 9th fastest overall fourth section, and beating out the likes of overall race winner Robin Schute’s Wolf open-wheel car, and race fixture Jeff Zwart’s Porsche 935. Trevor, Troy and a group of supportive friends had taken a car with little to no intrinsic value, and no useful future, and with very little more than an extraordinary amount of determination and hard work, had turned it into a car that was mixing it up with and providing real competition to professional race teams with seven figure cars on race day.

Another telling result was that Trevor beat his father, Dan Aweida, on race day. A 6-year veteran of the hill and lifetime racing driver, Dan managed to complete the course in 12 minutes and 14.7 seconds in his Boss 302S Mustang. Despite the healthy familial competition, after the drive back down the hill, it was all smiles, Hi-Fives and happiness in the paddock as Trevor and Dan packed up their cars to head home. Despite tragic initial headwinds, Trevor, Troy, and a series of other amateur team members worked together to overcome them in a tremendous way. Over a very short time, they conceived, built, tested, broken and developed a full blown race car that went toe to toe with professional teams, and demonstrated that it held its own by accomplishing an excellent result at the hill in 2022.