Reigning champion Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima again took top honors in the unlimited class at the 87th running of the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb on Sunday, driving his new Suzuki SX4 hillclimb special.
Tajima fell 14 seconds shy of his record 2007 run with a 10:15.368 on the at the top of the 12.4-mile, 156-turn course, which runs up the famed Pikes Peak Highway. The veteran complained of time lost due to loose gravel on the dirt sections of the course. The late runners were also hit by some thunder and lightning with sudden downpours, causing a few delays and leaving the asphalt parts of the hill particularly slippery.
Even so, Tajima's time was enough to hold off the challenge of Marcus Gronholm and Timo Alanne in their Ford Rallycross Fiesta, who only managed an 11:28.963. Gronholm crossed the line with his Ford's right-rear tire in flames. Gronholm was also slowed by a mechanical issue with the turbocharger on his 800-horsepower Fiesta rallycross car that resulted in a power reduction during the crucial final climb to the top.
“I always wanted to compete at Pikes Peak,” said Gronholm. “Having been here the last week I have to admit that it is one of the most challenging events I have ever done in my career. The handling of the Fiesta is absolutely fantastic, and the BFGoodrich tires were great. Unfortunately we had a few small problems today. I lost some power during the last few kilometers, but I was determined to finish. The Fiesta has the potential to beat the 10-minute record. If I come back I know what we need to do to be fastest.”
Teammate Andreas Eriksson’s first trip to Pikes Peak was cut short when in Engineer’s Corner (2 mile mark) when two tires slipped off their rim and sent the Olsbergs MSE Fiesta off course, where it clipped a tree and sustained damage to the rear wing. The DNF brought an end to a frustrating introduction for Eriksson to the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
“I am disappointed because the car was handling fantastic through the early portion of the course,” said Eriksson. “Overall it has been a tough week. We had a lot of challenges, but we learned a lot and I know what I need to do now to come back and be fastest. Now we turn our attention to the X Games and getting the Fiestas ready for Tanner [Foust], Brian [Deegan] and Kenny [Brack} so that we can go to L.A. and bring home a win.”
“While it is still a year until the Ford Fiesta comes to America it was a great opportunity to showcase the versatility and performance capabilities of the Fiesta at one of the most challenging motorsports events in the world,” said Jost Capito, Ford Motor Company Director of Global Motorsports Business Development. “The Olsbergs MSE team did an outstanding job competing at Pikes Peak for the first time and now they have an opportunity to campaign their Fiestas at the X Games.”Related story:• Gronholm already looking forward to Pikes Peak return