At 91 years old, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is showing no signs of slowing down.
Instead, the course and the cars keep getting faster and quicker. As America’s second-oldest racing event (Indy 500 is oldest), this year’s Race to the Clouds witnessed its largest group of competitors ever. A total of 130 individuals attacked the 12.42 miles of pavement that climbs over 4,700 feet of elevation change during the 156-turn course. Considering that the race starts at 9,390 feet, terminates at 14,110 feet and in some sections offers no guard rail protection, both cars and drivers must leave fear at home.
Text by Richard Fong // Photos by Larry Chen
Surpassing The Standard
Since the last of the dirt and gravel sections have been paved over, the competitor roster has grown noticeably. More tarmac-dedicated vehicles have come to take a swing at the mountain and the record book. Last year, Rhys Millen drove his Hyundai Genesis Coupe to the top of the mountain in 9:46.164, a world record. This record would prove vulnerable, as not one, but four competitors shattered the record. Paul Dallenbach, behind the wheel of Millen’s Hyundai Genesis Coupe, took the top honors in the Time Attack class. He slipped past Millen’s 2012 record with a time of 9:46.001 and finished Fourth overall.
Raising The Bar
The other three competitors that overtook the old record were members of the Unlimited Class. As the name implies, these machines were built with a purpose and without restriction. Jean-Philippe Dayraut returned to the mountain piloting a 900-horsepower Mini Cooper into third place overall with a 9:42.740. Rhys Millen hoped to break the record in a purpose-built Hyundai PM580T. Millen leapt past his previous record by almost 44 seconds, recording the summit with an 9.02.192 elapsed time. This exceptional performance would be overshadowed by the most successful WRC driver in history, Sébastien Loeb.
Torching The Tarmac
Backed by Peugeot and the support of a full race team, Loeb’s European contingent pulled out all the stops in its quest to dominate the mountain. Before coming to Pikes Peak, Loeb tested the 875-horsepower, all-wheel drive Peugeot 208 T16 racecar on France’s Mont Ventoux. During practice at Pikes Peak, it was clear that Loeb and the Peugeot would be the ones to watch. When his turn at the starting line arrived, he ran (in his own estimation) as ideal a run up the mountain as was possible. Loeb crossed the finish line with the first-ever 8-minute effort with a 8:13.878. This performance bettered the 2012 World Record by over a minute and a half. It was also nearly 50 seconds quicker than Millen’s best up the mountain.
JDM Sport Compacts In The Mix
The fully paved roads also attracted the attention of professional drivers from the sport compact segment. Evasive Motorsports’ time attack hot shoe, Robert Walker, piloted Evasive’s Supercharged Scion FR-S (DSPORT Issue 123) in the Unlimited class, finishing Ninth in class and 27th overall. Another DSPORT cover car, the Subaru BRZ driven by Toshiki Yoshioka (DSPORT Issue 130), battled with rain and hail during his run, finishing Fifth in the Time Attack Class and 71st overall with a time of 12:13.753. Ken Gushi returned for his second attempt on the mountain behind the wheel of the Lexus ISF CCS-R in the Exhibition class. His time of 12:03.085 placed him 65th overall.
Veteran hill climbers Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima and Rod Millen turned to green energy in their hill climb campaigns. Setting the last tarmac/gravel record of 9:51.278 in his Suzuki SX4, Tajima aimed for the record in 2012 behind the wheel of an electric racecar, dubbed the E-RUNNER. This promising racecar was at the top of its class but suffered a failure during the final run. Undaunted, Tajima returned in a revised E-RUNNER Hill Climb Special. He not only set the record for the electric vehicle class, he exceeded his own previous best time with a 9:46.530 run. Rod Millen, who has also held Pikes Peak records in the past, renewed his relationship with Toyota to campaign a TMG EV P002 electric racecar up Pikes Peak. His best effort of 10:24.301 landed him Fourth in his class and 16th overall for the weekend.
The Climb on High
As the weekend drew to a close, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb’s global appeal seems solidified as international attention and the broad contingent of racers continues to grow. As the sun set on the horizon, many wondered how the 91st running of the Race To The Clouds could be beat, or how anyone could expect to best Loeb’s stellar run to the top of the mountain. Then again, the standing record has been broken for the past three years.