If you are true petrolheads, you have heard about Pikes Peak Hill Climb. It is axiomatic. We are talking about the second oldest motorsports race in the USA here! Only the 500 miles of Indianapolis have been around for more time.
The “Pikes Peak International Hill Climb”, held the first week of July in Colorado (USA), was created by Spencer Penrose to promote tourism in the area and to promote the use of the narrow carriage road he had just enlarged into a much wider “Pikes Peak Highway.” This is how this race was born. Soon enough it was nicknamed “The Race to the Clouds” and deservedly so: Competitors start the 12.42 mile course at 4,721 ft of altitude and after 156 corners and an average slope of 7%, they reach the summit of Pikes Peak and the finishing line at 9,390 ft of altitude, 4,669 ft higher than they had set off! It is a huge challenge for both the pilots and the machines competing.
The first edition of this race was held in 1916 and was won by Rea Lentz with his Romano Demon Special and a time of 20 minutes and 55 seconds. In those days, the course of the race was entirely on gravel. Later on, stretches of the road were paved. Thus, pilots had to adapt their driving to the surface of the road (either tarmac or gravel) if they were to reach the summit of Pikes Peak. After many years, this year will be the first to feature the whole course of the race paved, with no gravel stretches. Memories aside, this will ensure that most of the standing records of the race will be beaten.
The “Pikes Peak International Hill Climb” is divided into several divisions, each one having its own regulations, classification and records:
- Open Wheel – Open Wheel Record: Robby Unser (1994), 10:05.85.
- Pikes Peak Open – Pikes Peak Open Record: Per Eklund (2000), 11:21.58.
- Super Stock Car – Super Stock Car Record: Clint Vahsholtz (2011), 10:55.603.
- Unlimited – Unlimited Record: Nobuhiro Tajima (2011) 09:51.278. ABSOLUTE RECORD
- Exhibition – Exhibition Record: Ikuo Hanawa (2010), 13:18.00.
- Time Attack – Time Attack Record: Rod Millen (2011), 11:04.912.
- Electric Division – Electric Record: Ikuo Hanawa (2011), 12:20.084.
- Vintage Automobile Division (RMVR) – RMVR Record: Keith Davisdon (2011), 12:44.126.
- Vintage – Vintage Record: Eddie Mulder (2007), 13:23.250.
- Sidecar – Sidecar Record: John-Thomas Wood (2011), 13:09.040.
- 250cc Pro – 250cc Record: Davey Durelle (2010), 12:27.200.
- 450cc – 450cc Record: Gary Trachy (2006), 11:46.840.
- 750cc Pro – 750cc Record: Stuart Sinclair (2011), 11:27.396.
- 1205cc Pro – 1205cc Record: Carlin Dunne (2011), 11:11.329.
- Quad Modified – Quad Modified Record: Michael Coburn (2011), 11:59.021.
- Exhibition Powersport – Exhibition Powersport Record: Joe Kopp (2011), 11:26.530.
The “Pikes Peak International Hill Climb” is, undoubtedly, one of the great events in the world of motorsport competition and has left memorable images to all the fans. Maybe never more so than in the 1980s, when after the demise of Group-B rallying, manufacturers like Audi and Peugeot strived to adapt their vehicles to win this race. They both succeeded. Audi won in 1985 with Michèle Mouton (who set a new record and was the first woman to win at Pikes Peak) and in 1987 with Walter Röhrl driving the brutal Audi Sport Quattro S1 Pikes Peak. Peugeot, on the other side, won in 1988 and 1989 with Ari Vatanen driving a Peugeot 405 T16. The 1988 victory is specially remembered not only thanks to the skilled driving of the Finnish driver but also thanks to the award-winning short film by Jean-Louis Mourey “Climb Dance”, which shows Vatanen’s driving, one of the best tributes to this race and to motor racing in general.
Walter Röhrl’s Audi Sport Quattro S1 Pikes Peak at the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
We leave you with a video of the standing record for the race (unlimited division), held by Nobuhiro “Montser” Tajima and his Suzuki SX4 Hill Climb Special (developed by Monster Sport):
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Photographs by Jasen Miller and mclean 1319 at Flickr. Audi Sport Quattro S1 Pikes Peak Photographs by EventGo.
Video uploaded by GreenSuba.