Two-time World Rally Champion Marcus Gronholm has tested the Ford Fiesta he will drive at the Pikes Peak hill climb in Colorado next month. The Finn drove the car, run by the Olsberg Motor Sport Evolution team, for two days in Sweden, completing the test last night.
Gronholm's first impressions of the new car are positive, but he says he will reserve full judgment until he drives it at the next test in Colorado – just before making his debut at the July 19 event.
"The car was quite good," said Gronholm. "We have lots of power – it's 800 horsepower, which is very nice! But it's not easy to get all of that power down; at the moment it's a bit like a switch, so we have some more work to do.
"I wouldn't say I feel confident now. I feel better having driven the car, so I know more about what it's going to be like in the car, but the place we tested was not so much like Pikes Peak – it was Sweden. So, we have to wait until we get to America for the next test. Let's see then."
Gronholm will be joined by rallycross expert Andreas Eriksson at the event, where the two Fiestas will run in the unlimited class and attempting to become the first drivers to break the 10-minute barrier through the 12.4-mile hill.
The pair will face stiff competition from Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima and his Suzuki SX4 Hillclimb Special. Tajima, the former boss of the Suzuki World Rally Team, holds the record for the hill, at 10m01.408s – which he set in 2007.
"I welcome Marcus, Andreas and Mark [Rennison, British rallycross champion] to the mountain this year," Tajima said. "It is nice to be joined by such talented drivers and this is wonderful news for the event!"
While he welcomed his rivals, Tajima also added words of caution: It's experience that counts at Pikes Peak.
"The mountain is not a place for the faint-hearted – it's a very specialized course, long and very challenging with its own unique characteristics that take years to come to terms with," Tajima noted. "This is not like an extended rallycross track, it's very similar to a super-long and high-speed rally superspecial stage with multiple surface combinations unlike any found elsewhere in the world, it is a course that requires extreme concentration and a very good memory certainly helps!
"Car setup is also something that is unique to this event and without previous experience on the mountain, I am sure that the newcomers will find this event a huge challenge. Andreas may be a specialist on the snow and ice, Marcus is undoubtedly a specialist on the world rally Stage, and Mark a specialist in gravel rallycross but for over 20 years now, I have been a specialist at hill climb racing!"