The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has officially entered its second centenary. The 101st running of the race has just concluded and it was a proper send-off to the next 100 years. The weather was cooperative for once and was delightful the entirety of race day. Over the years poor weather conditions typically ruin runs. Often, the first group to leave the start line has to manage ice from snow melting and freezing across the road surface overnight. Other years it’s the tail end of the field that has to deal with the afternoon storms that are common in the area. Typically, there is a very small window for warm tarmac and optimal conditions. Drivers and teams never know what mountain they will get on the one and only full run of the year. This year, the racing gods were looking out for the race, and its future.
Qualifying only takes place on the bottom ⅓ section which runs from the start, to just below the tree line at Glen Cove. If you haven’t been to the race, you may recognize this spot as the building you crashed into that sits in the middle of the road in the Colin McRae or Dirt video games. This section is fast and perfectly suited to eventual pole sitter – Robin Shute in his Wolf TSC-FS that has proven to be a winning combo in recent years. The second qualifier was overall race record holder Romain Dumas in… a van. Specifically the Ford Supervan 4. This was no ordinary van and stood apart from the sea of Colorado locals in Transits covered in brewery stickers. This was a factory effort with big electric power (1,400 hp) and an even bigger wing. Third on the “grid” was James Clay in his Bimmerworld E36 M3 with a V8 stuffed in it and you guessed it – a massive wing.
These completely opposite cars made up the top 3 positions going into race day but were followed by Alpine, Acura, BMW, Ford, Porsche, Mazda, Radford, Sierra, KTM, Radical, Rivian, Tesla… and more. Pikes Peak wouldn’t be what it is, without an eclectic concoction of race cars fitted with absurd aero, accompanied by drivers with diverse backgrounds such as Astier, Vahsholtz, Donohue, Unser, Foust, Pobst, Zwart, Millen, Dallenbach. When walking through the pits it was clear that this is what makes the PPIHC iconic.
With perfect conditions, race day was full of record times and personal bests by so many teams. Shute, Dumas, and Clay weren’t able to topple the overall record held by Dumas in the VW IDR (7:57), or the overall ICE record held by Loeb in the Peugeot 208 T16 (8:13). However the field is inching closer. Shute took the overall win with a time of 8:40.080, with Dumas only 7.6 seconds behind in the bread van, followed by Astier rounding out the podium in the Alpine A110 GT4 Evo. 12 drivers broke the 10-minute barrier and 3 of the 5 main classes had record-breaking runs. Time Attack 1, Pikes Peak Open, and Open Wheel all saw records fall. If you dig deeper even more records were broken like the Production Car record and the Diesel Fuel record. What a way to begin the next 100 years on America’s Mountain.
Race day was capped off with 16-year-old Lia Block driving the 1,400-hp Hoonipigasus up the mountain in honor of her dad, Ken Block. Every person on that mountain cheered, celebrated, or cried during this run. A run that wasn’t for time, results, or a trophy. It was about something more and showed what the motorsports and car community as a whole is all about. This proves that the perfect mountain road or racetrack isn’t anything without great cars and good people.
Images copyright 2023 Hooniverse/Stuart Cross/MotionMotoring