There's never a dull moment at the world's premiere hill climb event. Here are a few of the most interesting ones.
The world's most exciting hill climb race offers plenty of reasons to pay attention. Some moments, however, are worth remembering. Have a look back at some of the highlights that make Pikes Peak worth watching, and get fired up for June 26th.
The state of Colorado has been maintaining the Pikes Peak Highway since the late 1940s, but it's only a recent development that the road is entirely paved. Thanks to a lawsuit from the Sierra Club in 1999, which claimed "gravel pollution" from parts of the road with ballast scattered about, Colorado conceded. Starting in the early 2000s and ending in 2012, the municipal department of Colorado Springs, the city closest to Pikes Peak Highway, took responsibility for paving the remaining segments.
For the better part of nine decades, the fastest anyone could get around the 12.42-mile road course at Pikes Peak was about 11 minutes. In 2013, behind the wheel of the race-prepped, 875-hp Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, Sebastien Loeb surprised nearly everyone, delivering a time of 8 minutes and 14 seconds. Sure, the track was entirely paved by this point, but considering that Pikes Peak is as close to the Nurburgring as America gets, think of it as setting a sub-6 minute lap record there.
The four-ringed brand was barely a dot on the radar in the United States in 1985, the year that Michele Mouton set a course record in the Audi Sport Quattro and won the race. Walter Rohrl followed up in 1987 with a repeat win at the hill climb. Without a presence at major motorsports events like Pikes Peak, who knows if we would be making kind gestures in today?
Who says that driving is a one-trick profession? In 2004, Travis Pastrana (pictured above at the X Games) entered the competition in a rally-prepped Subaru. He placed sixth in his category, for his inaugural attempt. He would then go on to drive for Subaru in Global RallyCross beginning in 2011. The same year, in 2004, motorcyclist Bobby Goodin suffered a pyrrhic victory moments after crossing the finish line, losing control and crashing his bike.
Given the amount of potential for danger on the road course, it's frankly miraculous that there haven't been more serious crashes and deaths at Pikes Peak over the years. In addition to Goodwin, five other racers and officials have lost their lives due to participation in Pikes Peak events: Wallace Coleman (1921), Bill Gross (1982), Ralph Chandler Bruning Jr. (2001), Henry J. Bresciani (2005), Carl Sorensen (2015).
Since 1981, electric vehicles have played a role intermittently in the Pikes Peak spectacle, when a Sears Electric Car with a stunning finish of approximately 33 minutes around. Nowadays, electric is seen as a favored method of propulsion, owing to it not being affected by Pikes Peak's altitude and conditions. Since then, automakers have fielded lightly modified versions of production cars, as well as dedicated EV race cars, to strut their stuff on the Peak. The quickest of them, led by Rhys Millen in the Drive eO PP03, completed the Hill Climb in approximately 9 minutes last year.
In 2012, about three weeks prior to the scheduled Hill Climb, massive wildfires broke out in Waldo Canyon, not far from Pikes Peak. Spurred on by higher than average temperatures, the fire was unable to be contained, and the Hill Climb had to be postponed. The blaze continued through July, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of local residents.
Pikes Peak is a rare opportunity for some automakers to show off wares that aren't necessarily for sale in the U.S.—or anywhere. For years, spectators have gawked at modified race cars like the Suzuki Escudo, Nissan Skyline, Lancia Delta Integrale, and the Ford RS200. Last year, Honda continued the trend by deploying the CR-Z 4-Motor EV: an all-electric pocket rocket. This year, in addition to fielding two separate NSX gas-electric hybrids—one in Time Attack 1, one in Time Attack 2—Acura will debut an all-electric version of its supercar.