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Explainer – Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 2015

Starting Monday the 28th of June, the 93th running of the Pikes Peak hill climb race will begin in Colorado. The Race to the Clouds, as it is unofficially known, is a time trail up the Mountain Highway that winds its way from the town of Manitou Springs to the summit at 14,000 feet.  The modern race course is 12 miles (20km) long, and contains 156 corners and a vertical ascent of 7000 feet.  The difference in altitude means that competitor often face wildly changing weather conditions, visibility and oxygen levels as they climb, making it one of the most challenging races in the world.

Pikes Peak is the second oldest motor racing event in North America, it’s first year was 1916, and notable for its role in developing not only a tremendous number of talented drivers and riders, but also as a crucible for developing new technologies.

The PPIHC is open to a wide array of vehicles, from cars, both production based and prototypes, to trucks, quads, and motorcycles.  Vehicles may be powered by anything from gasoline, diesel, CNG, alcohol or battery electric motors.

Drifting through a corner in the middle section of the course, known as "the Devil's Playground"
Drifting through a corner in the middle section of the course, known as “the Devil’s Playground”

 

The motorcycle divisions have been often overshadowed by the spectacular car races throughout the decades, most notably the heavily customized V-8 powered prototypes that American racing dynasty the Unser family propelled to many victories, as well as the Audi Quattro prototypes that first demonstrated the potential of four wheel drive in performance cars.  One of the greatest ever motorsport videos is Climb Dance, a short featuring the 1990 race winning drive in a Peugeot 405Ti16. Note that in sveral places the rear wheels of the car are not in contact with the earth…

Carlin Dunn takes victory in 2012 on a Ducati Multistrada
Carlin Dunn takes victory in 2012 on a Ducati Multistrada

Motorcycles have become more prominent over the past several years, after several high profile victories by Greg Tracy, and Carlin Dunn, who together have been the fastest up the mountain on two wheels for twelve years.  They were featured in another terrific film, 156 Turns, which showcases the pair’s record smashing rides on Ducati Multistradas.

Carlin Dunn wins the 2013 event and sets a new motorcycle hill climb record aboard the all-electric Lightning LS-218
Carlin Dunn wins the 2013 event and sets a new motorcycle hill climb record aboard the all-electric Lightning LS-218. Photo courtesy of Asphalt&rubber.com

Since 2011, electric vehicles began featuring prominently at Pikes Peak, when Chip Yates took his 575lb converted Suzuki Hayabusa up the mountain in 13 minutes.  This was the last time the race still had dirt sections near the top, an added danger that was eliminated when the whole road was paved the next year.  Japanese race driver Okuo Hanawa also broke the electric car record that year with a custom built open wheel racer, while a stock electric Nissan Leaf managed to climb to the top as well.

In 2013, Carlin Dunn demolished not only the electric record for a motorcycle but set a time almost equal to his best ever finish on the Ducati racing the electric Lightning LS-218.  That same year CMG contributor Michael Uhlarik’s Amarok P1 electric prototype also competed, along with a slew of Zero motorcycles.

Pikes Peak is now open to all manner of sport motorcycles, including superbikes for the first time, which has attracted many new people and teams to the mountain.  Last year, Isle of Man favourite Guy Martin attempted the race on a supercharged Suzuki GSXR, while Rob Barber, another TT racer, was contesting it this year on the electric prototype developed by the University of Ohio team.  Roland Sands and Victory motorcycles built a special one-off for Project 156, but it suffered a crash early on and may not be able to compete this year.

The race will be held Sunday, June 28.  Grandstand will be following up with detailed results.

 

 

 

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