Pikes Peak Hill Climb – Electrified Climb to the Clouds
Story and photos by Lindsey Fisher
June marks a particularly special time in the automotive world – the annual running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Hill Climb, brought to you by Gran Turismo. It is etched in American motorsport lore with names like Unser, Foyt (who was once attacked by bees here) and so many others have tried their hand at the unforgiving mountain. Thousands of fans crowded the fence line, pit areas and of course, the famed starting line send-offs.
This year the week-long event kicked off on Monday, June 19th with tech inspections for all classes, and concluded on Sunday, June 25th with race day. Lucky for us, we got in on all of the action of race day, from watching a fantastic field of automotive heavyweights take on the mountain, to learning the ins and outs of getting your desired parking spot in limited areas, starting with the 2am parade of credentialed individuals being led up the historic mountain. If you’ve never made it to the hill climb, it is certainly an experience like no other.
They call the Pikes Peak Hill Climb the Race to the Clouds, and for good reason. The second oldest motorsports event in the country pins man and machine against not only a ticking clock but also 156 curves, over 4,700 feet of elevation gain and 12.42 miles of unforgiving asphalt, finishing at the top of one of Colorado’s tallest mountains with a summit of 14,115 feet above sea level.
This year marked the 95th running of the annual hill climb. A lot has changed since its inaugural year, including the addition of several race classes, a different format for dropping the green flag (can you believe that they used to send upwards of 10 motorcycles up the race course at a time?) and a transition to a different racing surface (Pikes Peak Highway was fully paved by the fall of 2011). But the event remains as competitive as ever, with riders and drivers coming from all around the world to take on the famous race.
This year, 80 competitors spread out between the various car and motorcycle divisions made the trek up the mountain, including six “rookie” motorcyclists and 13 “rookie” drivers new to the event. Thirteen countries were represented and competitors ranged in age from 24 to 69. Notable among muscle car aficionados was the famed Big Red Camaro driven by RJ Gottlieb, who finished fourth in the PPC – Pikes Peak Open class.
While the air was tense with anticipation and focus in the pits, those individuals taking in the race from the sidelines were anything but anxious and on edge. From trees full of hammocks to make-shift camp areas filled with grills and beer coolers, there was no lack of fun being had by spectators along the route to the summit. Not even a couple of weather delays and a handful of “redos” for competitors who got stuck behind another vehicle having trouble on its ascent up the mountain could put a damper on the crowd’s outlook.
For the second year in a row, an electrically powered vehicle won the mighty Unlimited class. And for Frenchman Romain Dumas, his big win driving his Norma MXX RD Limited, it marked his third overall win in the last three years (he also claimed the crown in 2014 and 2016).
For us, the Pikes Peak hill climb was a blast. Even the exit lines coming down the mountain couldn’t dampen our fulfilled spirits after taking in one of the most exciting and unique events in racing.
For those who like to keep score, here are the Pikes Peak Hill Climb results, brought to you by Gran Turismo class winners:
Romain Dumas: Unlimited – 9:05.672
Peter Cunningham (rookie): Pikes Peak Challenge – Pikes Peak Open – 9:33.797
Clint Vahsholtz: Pikes Peak Challenge – Open Wheel – 9:35.747
Rhys Millen: Time Attack – Time Attack 1 – 9:47.427
Chris Filmore (rookie): Pikes Peak Heavyweight Motorcycle – 9:49.625
Travis Newbold: Pikes Peak Challenge – Exhibition Powersport – 10:28.552
Codie Vahsholtz: Pikes Peak Middleweight Motorcycle – 10:34.967
Davey Durelle: Pikes Peak Lightweight Motorcycle – 10:35.354
Robert Barber: Pikes Peak Challenge – Electric Motorcycle – 10:55.500
Nick Robinson: Pikes Peak Challenge – Exhibition – 11:03.655
Chris Wagner: Pikes Peak Challenge – Quad – 11:21.766
Robert Prilika: Time Attach – Time Attack 2 Production – 12:17.282