Pikes Peak: Cool heads required



The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb might not mean too much to casual motor sports fans in this country, but in the US the annual "Race to the Clouds" is a major fixture in the automotive calendar.

The gruelling 12-mile ascent to the summit of Pikes Peak mountain in Colorado is the second oldest race in America, and this year's event marked the 88th time it has been staged since 1916.

Movie fans might recall the brief impact the event had on European culture in 1990 when Jean Louis Mourey's short film swept the board at several festivals with its record of Ari Vatanen's run in a Peugeot 405 T16. Click above to remind yourself of that epic five minutes.
The course takes in 156 turns during its 4,720 foot climb over a mixture of dirt roads and tarmac. Thanks to America's love of the internal combustion engine in all its forms, today just about every sort of vehicle is represented in the hill climb's 11 class system, including super stock cars, open wheelers, bikes and trucks.

Top of the tree though is the Unlimited class, where, as the name suggests, anything goes. So long as the car passes technical inspection, it runs, and as this is a hill climb event against the clock, the quickest time brings the ultimate glory. This means that 1000hp purpose-built machinery is not uncommon.

The overall record is held by Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima – a Pikes Peak legend. The Japanese driver clocked a time of 10:01.408 in 2007 behind the wheel of a mid-engined Suzuki XL7. Rhys Millen – another regular – had hoped to better that time in the 750hp Hyundai-powered prototype he lined up in this year, but unfortunately it wasn't to be and Tajima prevailed with a time of 10:11.5, again in a Suzuki.

The overall record may be safe for another year then, but that didn't mean class times weren't bested. Jeff Zwart set a new qualifying run record with this effort in his Porsche GT3 Cup. Click below to watch.



It's not all about the professional teams though. To see what an inclusive event the Pikes Peak Hill Climb is, just check out the weirdly wonderful range of machinery that's thrown up the course in this amateur footage. Click below to watch.


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