An event like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a very special thing to be a part of, and this year’s race proved to be memorable in more ways than one. From the initial delay due to the Waldo Canyon Fire, to the 5-year-old girl who was injured on Day 3 of practice, to the inclement weather on race day, the 90th annual Race to the Clouds was beset with problems.
After surviving heavy traffic and the smell of roasted clutches on the drive up, Team Revvolution finally arrived at the 9,390-ft starting line a little before 6 a.m. There was a tangible feeling of excitement in the crisp morning air as competitors, crew members, race officials, spectators and international media prepared for a long day on the mountain. Due to difficulty with the event’s WiFi connection, we ended up moving our tent from its initial spot under the trees and instead posted up next to the row of rescue vehicles flanking the starting line. This turned out to be a much better vantage point for watching the race. Amidst the cheerful hustle and bustle, there was a certain underlying sense of urgency that reminded us just how important this race is – and how dangerous.
As the social media partner for the event, we worked closely with PPIHC officials and Phil Long Audi, who graciously let us put a Revvolution.com decal on the Audi S5 pace car. Along with a BMW M3 and Acura NSX, we provided them with a GoPro to record their run to the top. This footage will be available shortly.
The motorcycle classes were the first to run, and for much of the race, two 1205-class Ducati bikes occupied first and second place. Now that the course is paved all the way up, motorcycles are much more competitive than in previous years.
Even though there were several harrowing crashes, no one suffered life-threatening injuries in this year’s race, although Evolution Dynamics gave everyone a bad scare when their silver Evo 8 went off the course in the Devil’s Playground section and toppled down a rocky embankment, completely destroying the car. Accidents like this illustrate the importance of passing tech inspection and are a testament to how tough these cars really are. The roll cage is the only reason the drivers are still alive.
Later in the day, when the Time Attack class had just begun, rain postponed the race at several points; officials at the finish line reported snow heavy enough to necessitate the use of a road grader to clear the course. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the decision was made to run the race only to Glen Cove, which is just over the halfway point at 11,440 ft. This announcement killed the rest of the event for many people, especially the remaining drivers.
One of the biggest disappointments was Monster Tajima’s engine fire, which forced him out of the race almost as soon as he had begun. As the previous record holder and “King of the Mountain,” it was unfortunate to see him unable to defend his title this year. French driver Romain Dumas piloted his wicked-sounding Porsche GT3R to a time of 9:46, putting him in first overall, but not for long. Minutes later, crowd-favorite Rhys Millen posted the same time in his 700-hp Hyundai Genesis, but was two-tenths of a second quicker, making him the new King. The proximity of these times demonstrates the high level of competition and skill involved in the PPIHC.
Fifteen hours later, Team Revvolution packed up and began the long descent to Highway 24 and eventually, Colorado Springs. Despite the weather and some minor setbacks, it was a great day overall and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. One of the great things about this race is the strong grassroots culture that exists alongside the professional aspects; it’s really cool to be able to walk right up to some of the biggest names in the racing world and chat with them. The Japanese drivers, in particular, were extremely humble and down-to-earth, which made them easier to approach.
We wish to thank the entire PPIHC event staff, Phil Long Audi, the law enforcement officials and EMS crews who kept everyone safe, and most importantly, all the competitors who make the Race to the Clouds what it is – the absolute peak of competitive motorsports.