Sunday. Race day. It was the 89th running of the second oldest motorsport event in America –second only to the Indianapolis 500. It would also be the last time there would be a a gravel section –the infamous Pikes Peak dirt. After June 26th, 2011, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb course would be completely paved.
For race day, I decided to camp out at the 16 mile marker. It was the section on the mountain which is considered the best place to watch the hill climb as you can see almost all of the course below.
I wasn’t the only one that had this idea as hundreds of others were camped out on the mountain side around the 16 mile marker.
The views at around 12,780 feet are nothing short of spectacular.
While I was up at the 16 mile marker, Larry Chen was down below enjoying the last bit of gravel at Gilly’s Corner, 10,900 feet.
First off the line was this 2011 Nissan Leaf. It was the first production electric car to compete in the historic hill climb and set the initial record by default. It completed the 12.42 mile course in 14 minutes 33 seconds with Chad Hord behind the wheel.
Next up was the custom open-wheel electric car driven by Japanese driver, Ikuo Hanawa. The car broke the Pikes Peak electric vehicle record with a time of 12 minutes and 20 seconds which it set last year with a time of 13 minutes and 17 seconds.
This Honda fit, which was competing in the exhibition class, completed the course in 15 minutes and 46 seconds.
After the electric and exhibition classes went, the vintage class up next.
This class was the most diverse, and for car lovers, the most interesting.
Where else can you see a BMW 2002…
…an Oldsmobile Super 88…
…an Austin Healey…
…a Ford Falcon…
… a ’67 Porsche…
…and a Ford Mustang compete in the same class? It’s an auditory and visual feast for any gear head!
After the treat that was the vintage class, the Pikes Peak open class went up.
This class consisted of trucks…
…and a rally cross prepped Hyundai Veloster.
It was definitely neat to see these things take on Pikes Peak as I didn’t have the chance to see them during the three days of morning practice…
…like this Nissan Frontier…
…or this off-roader.
While this Ford Mustang was making its way up the mountain, the car which went ahead of it went off course in the upper section of the track and red flagged the Mustang’s session.
Luckily, he was able to redo his run.
Lauchlin O’Sullivan, driving the Hyundai Veloster, was looking to take the class title with some solid times the Picnic grounds, Glen Cove, and 16 Mile sections. But with one mile to go, the
Veloster’s transmission wasn’t able to hold
O’Sullivan’s pace. His official result was a DNF.
Back at the 16 mile marker, people were getting comfortable with their spectating spots. I believe these folks have the best seats in the house.
Since photographers don’t quite have lawn chairs to watch in, some guard rails works fine just as long as there’s no cars flying past!
After the open class finished up, it was time for the 2WD time attack class to strut their stuff. This Acura Integra Type-R finished 8th in class with a time of 14:54.
Kris Antal, who was driving this very cool looking Toyota Celica TG-S Turbo, completed the run with a time of 13 minutes and 29 seconds and placed 7th.
Kenneth Stouffer, in his very iconic pink S14, blew a head gasket and was unable to finish.
Rogers Matthews in this VW Jetta GLI was another casualty of the mountain and was unable to finish.
Roy Tomkins with his Toyota Corolla took 5th in the 2WD class with a time of 13:04.
This has to be the strangest photo of Toshiki Yoshioka’s S15 as it is actually going straight! He finished 3rd in the 2WD time attack class with a time of 11:33.
The 2WD time attack second place finisher went to Jeff Zwart, in the car he drove to Pikes Peak, this street legal Porsche GT2 RS…
…who completed the trek up the mountain in 11 minutes and 7 seconds.
The legendary Rod Millen, piloting his son, Rhys’, Hyundai drift car, crossed the finish line at the summit three seconds faster than Zwart.
He flew up the mountain in 11 minutes and 4 seconds, killing Jeff’s record, of 11:31, from last year by 27 seconds and holds the new record for that class.
After the 2WD class finished up, the AWD time attack class was up next.
The crowd seemed to have calmed down since the excitement of the 2WD time attack world record by Rod Millen.
The #21 Audi, driven by Valentin Ivanitski, finished 9th in the AWD class with a time of 14:48.
David and Allison Kern in the AMS Mitsubishi Evo nailed a guardrail at the first hairpin, in the middle section, but continued onto the summit missing a few things. Their rally-ready determination gave them a 5th place finish with a time of 12:12!
The driver of this GC8 WRX STI, Victor Kuhns, completed the 156 mountain course in 12:08 finishing 4th in class.
The little SEAT-that-could, driven by Harrad Demuth, finished 3rd with a very respectable time of 12:07.
Stephan Verdier was looking to take the AWD class win, but a mile up passed the half way point he came into a corner that got dusty by wind, got on the brakes lost the car into the guard rail. His official result was a DNF.
After the AWD class finished their runs, it was up for the class everyone was up on the mountain to watch, the unlimited class.
The first one to go was the class’ first place qualifier, Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima.
The race commentator had his truck set up at the 16 Mile marker and was commentating as he saw Tajima fly up the mountain.
I’ve never seen a mountain shuffle and move so quickly in anticipation of Monster Tajima. The crowd was restless, the photographers ran from spot to spot trying to find the best shot, and the announcer kept giving updates on what section Monster just finished.
When Tajima passed the 16 mile marker where I was stationed, there was nothing else left to do but to find the closest radio and listen to the broadcast. Never have a felt a mountain be completely silent except for what was coming out of the radio.
After what seemed like an eternity, Tajima’s time was announced: 9 nine minutes and 51 seconds. The ten minute barrier was finally broken.
You can see Monster’s complete run here.
Next up was everyone’s favorite romanian, the amazing VR38 powered Dacia Duster.
The driver, Jean Philippe Dayraut, crossed the finish line with a time of 10:17 placing him 3rd in class.
Second went to a Rhys Millen who was looking to also break the 10 minute barrier but ran into some brake problems. His time was 10 minutes and 9 seconds.
After the unlimited class, the super stock class and the motorcycles made their runs. The sidecar class was of particular awesomeness to watch.
After all the competitors have completed their runs, it was time for them to head back down the mountain for the “Parade of Champions.”
The spectators line the course greeting every competitor as they come back down the mountain.
It’s a chance for spectators and drivers celebrate with each other.
High-fives all around!
Even the side car guys high-five in style.
David and Allison Kern rode their guard-rail kissed, rear tire missing Evo down the mountain.
It’s strange to think that the 10 minute barrier was finally broken on the last time in the hill climb’s history that there would be gravel. Is this a sign for what’s to come? Are time’s going to drop immensely once the whole course is completely paved?
We’ll have to wait till next year to find out.