The drive from Pratt & Miller's suburban Detroit headquarters to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course (between Columbus and Akron) takes a few hours, and the team wants to arrive first thing Thursday morning to get the pit equipment set up and ready for Friday qualifying. That means we'll roll out at 4 a.m.
The team refers to this rig as the "fifth wheel," but in truth it's a 45-foot, triple-axle gooseneck trailer by Classic Manufacturing (www.classicmfg.com) the team regularly pulls with a Silverado dualie packing a Duramax diesel engine. Like many of us with big fifth-wheel and gooseneck campers, car haulers, and horse trailers, the team found that even the burliest dualie is overmatched by having so much mass behind it.
Some might think the Kodiak's $85,000 price tag sounds steep compared with that of a regular pickup truck, even one with the same engine. But a decked-out dualie can push $60,000, and the Kodiak provides a lot more truck for not much more money. Further, when the cost of the trailer and its contents is considered, the truck is a minor expense in comparison. Contemplate the health and welfare of those people likely to be inside the truck, and that should settle the question for anyone pulling a really big trailer.
During our Wednesday shakedown drives of the Kodiak with the trailer, we practice emergency stops to see how it feels. The truck not only stops in an easily manageable straight line with no wiggles or threats of jackknifing, it does so in what Don Male (head of Pratt & Miller's transportation department) estimates is about half the distance the dualie would need. That's some margin of safety.
Those brakes have massive 15-inch rotors, thanks to the use of commercial-grade 19.5-inch wheels and tires rather than the 16-inch rubber on Chevy's Silverado dualie (and 12.8-inch brakes). For use on long downhill grades, the Kodiak features an optional exhaust brake. Diesels provide little engine braking on deceleration, because they have no throttle plate in the intake tract that prevents the engine from spinning freely. The Kodiak's exhaust brake is a throttle plate that creates backpressure in the exhaust, letting the engine slow the truck when you lift off the gas pedal. And it does it without the earsplitting BLLAAAAAAAAA! of a jake brake.