Article by Brian Hannon. Photography by Corey Davis, Kenta Young, Nathan Leach-Proffer, Steven Sullivan and Tim Kim.
The alarms were set for the wee hours of the morning. Not that it mattered, though. Sleep was hard to come by with so much anticipation coursing through our veins of what we were about to witness after daybreak. After a long week of early mornings, late nights, a fan fest downtown and two days of high horsepower beasts tearing up the airport, it was finally time for one of the most storied races in North America: the 92nd running of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
We reached our spots on "America’s Mountain” just as the sun began to peek over the plains to the east, with thoughts of the day’s race running through our heads. Can anyone trump Sébastien Loeb’s 2013 record? Could this be the year an electric vehicle takes the crown? And for the guys above the tree line: will the weather hold out?
Fortunately, Mother Nature must have felt bad for soaking the competitors and fans for the past few years and kept the track nice and dry with an abundance of sunshine and warm temperatures. This led to its own challenges, as the course became a bit slick with the sun beating down and a slight breeze blowing dust across the track all day. Still, it was better than the usual rain, sleet, hail and snow combo that rolls in around two p.m. or so.
Opening up the day’s activities was the official Pace Truck driven by Richard Rawlings from Gas Monkey Garage. You may recognize the name from Discovery Channel’s hit show Fast N’ Loud where Richard and shop partner Aaron Kaufman are followed through various builds from a Ferrari F40 to a 1963 Ford Falcon that Kaufman competed with in the race.
First up the mountain were the motorcycle classes, which featured everything from vintage Triumph Bonnevilles to fully prepared superbikes in the Pikes Peak Open Motorcycle class. Unfortunately, tragedy struck early as Middleweight class racer Bobby Goodin crashed just past the finish line after completing his run. Paramedics were immediately on the scene and Goodin was airlifted to the hospital, but he would succumb to his injuries. It was a sobering reminder of just how dangerous the race is and the risks the drivers and riders take when running to the peak. Our hearts go out to Goodin and his family and friends.
Once racing resumed, no doubt what Goodin would have wanted, the motorcycle classes finished up with Jeremy Toye taking the title as fastest man on two wheels in 2014. He clocked in just under ten minutes on his 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, besting Lambert Fabrice and his 2009 Ducati 1098R by six seconds.
Thanks to the preponderance of afternoon thunderstorms in the Pikes Peak region, 2014 saw a tweak to the running order of the car classes to try to ensure that the assault on the clock wouldn’t be impacted by Mother Nature. Instead of running by class (usually with the fastest going toward the end), this year competitors tackled the mountain based on qualifying time with the fastest going first.
This meant the first person to break the timing beam was Romain Dumas as he returned in his purpose-built Norma M20 RD Limited racer with Honda power. Looking to avenge the technical gremlins that kept him from completing the course last year, he posted an impressive 9:05.801 time while averaging 79.150 mph all the way to the top. This would stand as the fastest time of the day, though not without a serious challenge from an almost unlikely source: the electric vehicles.
Leading the charge − pardon the terrible pun − was Mitsubishi and their MiEV Evolution III vehicles with two-wheel legend Greg Tracy and Hiroshi Masuoka at their respective helms. Also in the class was Hill Climb legend Monster Tajima, and his Monster Sport E-RUNNER Pikes Peak Special, who was gunning for another hill climb title.
In the end, Tracy fell less than three seconds short of the overall win, but officially put the gas-powered vehicles on notice that the EVs can
no longer be overlooked as legitimate contenders for the king of the mountain title. Could 2015 finally be the year of the EV at Pikes Peak? Only time will tell.
The Time Attack 1 division saw one of the closest in-class finishes of the 2014 edition of the race. Pikes Peak veteran Jeff Zwart and his Porsche GT3 Cup had been finishing consistently ahead of the GT3 RS piloted by Vincent Beltoise all week. However, on race day Zwart’s car developed a miss that was clearly heard as it popped and sputtered through Devil’s Playground.
This opened the door for Beltoise to take the class title if he could keep the hammer down and post a clean run. In the end, Beltoise pushed through and beat Zwart by 1.2 seconds joining teammate Dumas as a class winner!
Top rookie time and Rookie of the Year for 2014 went to Michael Skeen who piloted a Nissan GT-R, with some serious aerodynamic modifications, to a time of 9:55.471, good enough for sixth overall! Though it was his first time on Pikes Peak, Skeen has an impressive resume with class wins in SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge GT Series, Trans-Am, SCORE Baja 1000 and NASA. He currently races the Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra in the Pirelli World Challenge, and just claimed a pair of victories at Road America. Mike posted a great recap of his weekend, which you can read here.
While this year’s race didn’t see anyone touch Sébastian Loeb’s almost mythical time of 8:13.878, it still featured some amazing competition, and the allure of the mountain is still just as strong. Next year could finally see an EV car take the crown as technology continues to mature and the weights of the cars come down. Could another manufacturer step in and build a one-off special to make an assault on Loeb’s time? We sure hope so!
Now it’s time for the Revvolution team to catch up on about a week’s worth of sleep. While some of us have been at the race before, we know the first timers have been bitten hard by the bug, and this race will now be an annual pilgrimage. If you haven’t experienced the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and Speed Week, put it on your list. We look forward to seeing you here in 2015!
Romain Dumas – 9:05.801
Rick Knoop – 10:16.737
Steve Goeglein – 10:30.704
Greg Tracy – 9:08.188
Hiroshi Masuoka – 9:12.204
Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima – 9:43.900
Time Attack 1
Vincent Beltoise – 10:00.744
Jeff Zwart – 10:01.917
Ken Gushi – 10:30.188
Clint Vahsholtz – 9:54.700
Andy Figueroa – 10:15.992
Donner Billingsley – 10:46.422
Michael Skeen – 9:55.471
Layne Schranz – 10:22.612
Jeff MacPherson – 10:26.548
Time Attack 2
Fred Veitch – 11:14.834
Raymund Guerrero – 11:19.279
Dan Aweida – 11:28.679
Ralf Christensson – 10:46.000
Christopher Lennon – 11:01.880
Magnus Widen – 11:56.954
Donald Hoffman – 12:29.612
Aaron Kaufman – 12:53.892
TJ Fry – 14:08.322
Roy Richards – 12:55.591
Mark Shim – 12:58.519
Lloyd Hale – 13:27.685
Michael Valdes – 14:04.146
Pikes Peak 250
Matt Meinert – 12:09.513
Jimi Heyder – 13:01.223
Steve Mageors – 15:04.726
Guy Martin – 11:32.558
Yasuo Arai – 11:33.613
Masahiro Takano – 11:48.644
Jeremiah Johnson – 12:20.448
Yoshihiro Kishimoto – 13:36.654
Jeff Clark – 11:59.814
Cal Collins – 10:58.203
Codie Vahsholtz – 11:02.054
Travis Newbold – 11:04.296
Eric Piscione – 10:46.159
Jeff Grace – 10:55.668
Joseph Bernard Toner – 10:58.466
Jeremy Toye – 9:58.687
Lambert Fabrice – 10:04.401
Don Canet – 10:10.101
Masahito Watanabe – 23:50.080
Theo Bernhard – 11:20.020
Brandon Tubbs II – 11:36.380
Mike Ell – 11:47.716
Pikes Peak by the Numbers
As a supplement to this year’s coverage, we wanted to provide some cool figures about the race itself.
4,720: Elevation gain as the competitors race up to the 14,110-foot finish line at the peak. As the competitors progress up the mountain, the air gets thinner resulting in a power loss up to 30 percent! To make up for this, many turn to turbocharging and supercharging in an attempt to cram as much air as possible into the starving engines.
2: Number of turns the Pikes Peak Hill Climb has in excess of the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife. Both courses share similarities in the number of turns (156 for the Peak, 154 for the ‘Ring), course length (12.42 mi on the Peak vs 12.93 mi on the ‘Ring), varying weather conditions and the absolute courage required to go all out. However, unlike the relatively safe Nürburgring, the Hill Climb features few guardrails to keep the cars from going over the edge and down sheer rock faces, as demonstrated in 2012.
16: Different countries represented at the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. For some, the allure of conquering the mountain has become an annual pilgrimage. Take Nobuhiro "Monster” Tajima, for example, who has made the trek since 1992 to compete in the Unlimited and Electric divisions, and taken quite a few wins along the way! This is truly an international event and is increasing its draw every year.
2.5: Number of laps Sébastien Loeb − 2013 race winner and record destroyer − could have completed in the time it took the inaugural winner Rea Lentz (20:55) to complete one run up the mountain. Loeb’s 8:13.878 obliterated the previous record by almost two minutes, but the comparison to Lentz makes the first winner’s number that much more impressive. Rea set it in 1916 when the road was completely unpaved; his Romano Demon Special only produced 125 horsepower and the automobile was still in its relative infancy! Compare that with Loeb’s 825 horsepower 208 T16 Pikes Peak, advanced aerodynamics knowledge and a fully paved road. That certainly deserves a tip of the cap to Mr. Lentz!
19: Classes of vehicles competing at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The nine car classes feature a wide range of vehicles like purpose-built all-electric, production-based time attack cars like the Mitsubishi Evolution and Dodge Viper, purpose-built gas-powered hill climb cars and even a Freightliner. On the motorcycle side, the ten classes also feature a wide variety where you can see sidecars, superbikes, quads, supermotos and all-electric motorcycles trying to tackle the mountain. In other words, no matter what type of motorsport you are into, there is something here for you!