Article by Ryan Randels. Photography by Ryan Randels and Corey Davis.
Only a handful of things provide proper motivation for us to roll out and cover an event at 3 a.m. on a Friday morning. But an exclusive opportunity to join a select few and shoot a private testing day for some of the top Pikes Peak International Hill Climb competitors is most definitely one of them.
Greg Tracy's Mitsubishi MiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle) rolled out of the trailer like it was being beamed down from a spaceship, ironic as it's not aesthetically far from one itself!
Greg Tracy holds the second fastest motorcycle time at Pikes Peak and was picked up by Mitsubishi this year to pilot one of their MiEV vehicles.
Jeff Zwart is a serious contender in his 2007 Porsche GT3 Cup as he already holds seven class wins at Pikes Peak.
If you've been following the buzz around the Hill Climb this year, then you've definitely heard of Peugeot's entry into the Unlimited Class with their 208 T16, driven by Sébastien Loeb.
This vehicle's specs times its 0-60 at 1.8 seconds and 0-150 in just 7 seconds. And we can certainly testify to these insane numbers. To put this into perspective, the fastest Formula One car ever recorded did 0-60 in just 1.6 seconds. The average for modern day F1 cars is 2.1 to 2.7 seconds.
Rhys Millen's Hyundai prototype PM580T has a massive Garrett turbocharger forcing the air into a 4.1L V6 Hyundai engine that's rated at 800HP.
As the driver ascends up Pikes Peak, power is substantially reduced in naturally aspirated vehicles. Forced induction and electric power are two of the most popular trends allowing competitors to compete at the highest level.
Since this was a private event organized by several of the competitors directly, it was a closed-door opportunity for us to take a sneak peek at some of the highest-profile drivers set to tackle America's Mountain. On the ticket were Sébastien Loeb, Rhys Millen, Fred Veitch, Robert Prilika, Jeff Zwart, David Donner, Chris Lennon, Carlin Dunne, and Greg Tracy.
This year, Carlin Dunne swapped Ducati for a Lightning Electric SuperBike because he sees the potential in electric power. Dunne currently holds the PPIHC record for fastest motorcycle from last year's event.
Fred Veitch's 2001 Porsche 996 Turbo went off the side of the mountain first run, first car of the day. We watched as Fred flew past us at speeds comparable to those of Sébastien & Rhys'. We really hope Fred can get it back together for June 30th.
David Donner's currently holds his class' record and brought back his 2008 Porsche 911 cup car . Looking forward to seeing what times he can post.
This was the first opportunity this year for any of these drivers to complete a full ascent to the top of the mountain in a single session. Previous testing sessions comprised runs that split the course in half. To most of the drivers, this was a practice session on familiar territory—12.42 miles, 156 turns, and nearly a mile of elevation difference between start and finish. Not much has changed from last year—the course is still 100% paved, but certain sections have been smoothed out due to frost heave. Until 2012, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was part asphalt and part dirt, which is why international rally legends, such as Rhys and Rod Millen, Monster Tajima, Ari Vatanen, and Walter Röhrl, had often participated in this event.
Without us even knowing it, Romain Dumas was present at the event and testing in a borrowed spec Porsche Boxster. Dumas is the factory driver for Audi / Porsche and will be driving for Audi again this year at Le Mans. We're excited to hear that Dumas did in-fact make the return to the mountain after Rhys Millen beat his 2012 time by hundredths of a second.
Chris Lennon, winner of the Vintage class in 2012, tore up the mountain in this Porsche RSR.
Rod Millen will be debuting in the Electric Class with the upgraded Toyota EV P002 from last year. Driven in 2012 by Fumio Nutahara, it set a Pikes Peak electric division record with a time of 10:15.380. This year, Toyota increased torque and motor speed in an effort to steal the record from Rod's son, Rhys Millen.
In 2011, Monster Tajima beat the ten-minute mark with a time of 9:51.278, securing the title "King of the Mountain,” and officially set the last record ever on the old course. Last year, Rhys Millen, on the first fully paved course, best Tajima's record and solidified a new record of 9:46.164, just inching out Romain Dumas' time of 9:46.181. With such heated competition, it's no wonder that Peugeot has formally re-entered the hill climb after a 14-year hiatus with its latest creation—the Redbull-sponsored Peugeot 208 T16 racecar, driven by none other than world-famous Sébastien Loeb, 9-time World Rally Champion.
With Rhys Millen's record to maintain, we're eyeing the top contenders: Sébastien Loeb, Greg Tracy, Monster Tajima, Rod Millen, Romain Dumas, and Jean-Philippe Dayraut, as they all set their sights on obliterating Rhys' record. As the drama continues to unfold, we're reminded why this year's PPIHC has attracted more international attention than in any previous year—and we will be right here as it all goes down.