Preview: 87th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
The 87th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is set to go on Sunday, with 51 auto or truck drivers and 115 motorcycle racers in 11 divisions, including automotive, semi truck, exhibition, open wheel, super stock car, pro truck and motorcycle classes.
Vintage cars, including three 1960s-era Ford Mustangs, a ’55 Chevy Corvette, a 1954 Oldsmobile Super 88, a 1952 DeSoto Firedome 8, and a ’71 Plymouth Barracuda, will open the competition schedule for the 87th running of the Race To The Clouds, which takes its competitors to the summit of Pikes Peak, Colo., a distance of 12.42 miles over 156 turns, climbing 4,721 ft from the start at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway at 9,390 ft) on grades averaging 7% over both gravel and paved sections.
The buzz about this year’s race centers around four well-known international drivers who will try to crack the Peak’s elusive 10-minute barrier for the first time in the Unlimited division. The overall record is held by Japan’s Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, who clocked a time of 10:01.408 in 2007’s Hill Climb driving the 1000hp mid-engined Suzuki XL7 Hill Climb Special, breaking the record set in 1994 by Rod Millen by less than three seconds.
Two Supercharged Ford Rallycross Fiestas from the Olsberg Motor Sport Evolution team from Sweden make their debut, driven by Andreas Eriksson and rally legend Marcus Gronholm. Eriksson, 35, is a four-time Swedish rally champion, with multiple Rallycross victories, and Grönholm, 41, is one of World Rallying’s greatest drivers, with two World Championships and 30 WRC victories. However, Eriksson got off to a problematic start during practice runs on Thursday, when he put his Fiesta on its side. The car is currently undergoing repairs.
Japanese superstar Tajima will be back again this year in his Suzuki Sport speed machine to go for the mark again, but this time, he faces the new and exciting challenge posed by the entry of the Fiesta and their super-star drivers. He clocked 10:18.250 last summer in his attempt to crack the barrier. The trio will also face British Rallycross Champion Mark Rennison, a new entry who will bring his famous 1999 Ford RS200 to the Peak to square off with the three other international drivers in the assault on the record.
In all, a dozen defending champions are back from the 2008 event, including record holders like veteran Rhys Millen (Time Attack 2WD) He set a class record on the Peak last summer with his winning clocking of 12:31.06 in his 2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP, but this time, he’ll be driving a modified 550-hp Hyundai Genesis Coupe as he goes for his third straight win.
Mountain veteran Paul Dallenbach, has served notice that he also feels he can crack the 10-minute barrier this year in the Open Wheel division, which has been run since 1916 and has been won by such names as Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, and Robby Unser (the current class record holder, achieving 10:05.85 min in 1994). Dallenbach has won the division four times
2008 Super Stock Car winner Clint Vahsholtz will defend his Pikes Peak crown in a 2002 Ford Mustang to represent the famed family again. He’s won 15 of the 17 Hill Climbs he’s entered, and needs only three more wins on the Peak to break his dad’s (Leonard) record mark of 18.