Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb brought to you by Gran Turismo
Location: Colorado Springs, CO | Dates: Qualifying: 6/22–6/26 | Race Day: 6/27
RACE TO THE CLOUDS
When was the first car race? Nobody knows, but it was likely the first time two random guys happened to find each other on a clear, open road. Racing is simply in our blood. It’s what men and women do for sport, fun, and profit. It’s our industry, and the 2021 PRI Road Tour is going to take you across the country and behind the scenes to see events large and small like never before.
Our team’s first of 19 stops was at the famous Race to the Clouds. Officially known as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the 2021 event was the 99th running, trailing only the Indy 500 as America’s second-oldest professional racing event.
The word “unique” is overused and has largely lost its meaning, but it is definitionally for Pikes Peak. There is no other race in the world that attracts race teams willing to invest large sums and months of preparation to compete for the “King of the Mountain” title. For professional teams and grassroots racers, Pikes is a leveling event that welcomes all to an even playing field, even though the course is all up hill.
To put the event into perspective, the inaugural 1916 event was won by Rea Lentz in his Romano Special with a time of 20 minutes 55.6 seconds. Romain Dumas, meanwhile, completed the 2018 event in his factory-backed Volkswagen I.D. R all-electric prototype in the Unlimited Division in just seven minutes 57.148 seconds. Electric vehicles do well at the mountain but are facing tough competition against all manner of internal combustion-powered race cars.
Unlike famous events like Goodwood, Pikes Peak isn’t a gentile hill climb of vintage machinery up the safe haybale-lined driveway of an English estate. Pike’s Peak is the exact opposite. Timed runs start at an altitude of 9,390 feet, in the thin air nearly 1.5 miles above sea level. The course is strewn across 156 turns covering 12.42 miles up America’s Mountain. Most sections are guardrail free, ensuring that a major off-course mistake results in competitors falling stories down the rocky mountainside. (Watch the video above to see the scenery shift from lush forest to a barren landscape as Tom Boileau saws at the wheel and keeps the boost up on his LS-X powered 1967 Camaro which crossed the line in 12th overall.)
The finish line is regularly at the 14,115-foot summit, another vertical mile higher than the where the green flag dropped, but clouds, snow and ice-covered asphalt near the summit caused race officials to forego the highest three miles of roadway from the 2021 event’s official course.
With this intro, it’s easy to understand why Pikes Peak is the 2021 PRI Road Tour’s first stop. The tour is all about racing, and bringing you closer to the action while making it clear that PRI is a community of racers supporting racers.
One of the greatest elements of racing at Pikes Peak is that in the Unlimited Division where there are no rules beyond required safety equipment. At the mountain, innovation is preferred, and anything goes, an opportunity that defines the purest essence of competition. The event readily accepts any technology that holds the promise of speed, and this includes propane fuel (1973), electric power (1981), every conceivable type of forced induction (to help compensate for the low-oxygen density), and even race cars with two engines (1990).
Highlights from 99th running of Pikes Peak include Englishman Robin Shute (the 2019 Hill Climb winner) being crowned the fastest overall up the mountain driving a homebuilt Honda-powered car dubbed the Wolf G808 in the Unlimited Division. Shute finished the shortened course in just 5 minutes 55 seconds, 36 seconds ahead of his closest competitor.
The Flying Frenchman Romain Dumas also came into Sunday’s event as a former King of the Mountain. He finished second overall and first in the Time Attack 1 Division (a production-based class) driving a 2019 Porsche 911 GT2RS Clubsport.
The Mountain openly welcomed back six-time champion Paul Dallenbach. A stunt driver and professional road racer and rally driver, Dallenbach piloted his PVA-003 Dallenbach Special to third overall and first in the Open Wheel Division.
Rhys Millen – son of the legendary Rod Millen – expected a better finish from his outrageous twin-turbo, 12-cylinder 2021 Bentley Continental GT3. In the midst of a mighty blast up the mountain running on bio-fuel gasoline, a wastegate failure relegated the younger Millen to fourth overall and second in the Time Attack 1 Division.
Locals did well in 2021 as they often do at Pikes. While his father Clint was King in 2020, son and Colorado native Cody Vahseholtz finished sixth overall driving a Ford-powered open wheel entry.
Pikes’ Exhibition Division hosted a number of interesting vehicles, including a Tesla Model S Plaid prepped by Unplugged Performance. Electric performance is most certainly “a thing” as proven by the capable racer Randy Pobst. The tri-motor all-wheel-drive Tesla finished 10th overall and first in the Exhibition Division. In stock form the Model S Plaid boasts over 1,000 horsepower.
The competition for 2021 proved to be the exact thing racers and fans want; unpredictable competition that pits man vs. man, man vs. machine, and man vs. the elements. It’s way more than just people driving up a hill. This kind of excitement makes Pikes Peak a true bucket-list event. But there are storm clouds heading toward the mountain coming from lawmakers. Be sure to support the RPM Act, the bipartisan bill designed to save our race cars and preserve the competition at Pikes Peak and other venues.