The PPIHC was a while ago, but it doesn't seem to get as much media coverage as it should so if you want to know about this years PPIHC give this a read. This year saw some serious competition with some serious drivers. It was my third time on the peak. Living only 10 minutes away my entire life you would think I would have been there every year of my life. I fell in love the first time I saw a car come screaming around a corner at 5:30 in the morning. I have become obsessed with this race from that moment. I know the name of every turn and could potentially drive the road in my sleep. I will be back every year I can. Of all the racing I've photographed this is my favorite by far. But the best part is you can hear them the entire run. V8's, Flat 6's (God's personal favorite sound track) it has it all. This years Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was supposed to be the year that an electric powered vehicle was supposed to take down the polar bear killing, ice melting, dinosaur juice powered cars. Electric cars have all the power instantly and they don't lose power at high altitude on the mountain due to the thin air. So if your going to bring an electric car and do it, why not overdo it?
This year Rhys Millen, a Californian Kiwi with many years on the mountain in different cars would be piloting a 7 motor.... wait, yes, 7 motor, 1,800 horsepower, AWD, electric machine. He had 3 motors sending power to the front wheels and 4 motors to the back. His car had some of the most horsepower the mountain has ever seen. I don't think they over did it.
Fred Veitch just below Double Cut in his Cayman GT4. He is no stranger to the mountain or to Porsches.
Hankook was the tire sponsor for the DriveEVO team, and they made special tires just for the car. With that much power and the extreme conditions that Pikes Peak brings, the tires had to be formulated by mad scientists over several paid sessions of tire testing on the mountain weeks before the actual race. The Latvian team couldn't have done anything to be more prepared; special tires, one of the hill climb's best drivers with ridiculous amounts of knowledge on the 156 turn road, and a mechanical issue on race day the year before. They had every reason to take the title of "King of the Peak" back to Latvia.
Monster Tajima in his E-Runner in the W's. He is no stranger to the Peak. He has made the race popular in Japan. He is one of the most decorated drivers on the mountain.
On the other side of things the closest contender was Romain Dumas. Romain just the week before won at Le Mans with Porsche in the 919 LMP1 car, in a knockdown drag-out, bloody battle with Toyota that eventually led to Toyota having a mechanical failure after 23 plus hours of racing had occurred. Toyota was set up to take the top spot on the podium. Then on one of the final straights on the final lap... nothing. No noise. No power. Complete mechanical failure. No time to take the car into the garage. Only time to watch the number 2 car of the Germans fly buy and snatch the trophy from the grasps of the Japanese.
The Pikes Peak Racing Ford Mustang. Massive V8 with a even bigger turbo. He stuffed it at the next turn.
Romain was flying high coming into the week of the PPIHC. He had two mountains to climb during peak week. He had the buzz of the media touting how fast Millen and his car were, and then he had a 14,115 foot mountain to race. His weapon of choice was a bespoke AWD Norma M20 RD with a high revving reliable Honda engine behind him propelling him up the side of a 14'er. Just a great driver in a great car. No big deal. Romain had been there before twice. Once in 2012 in a 997 GT3 Cup car and then in 2015 in his Norma that was only rear wheel drive. Romain says it his goal is to beat his French colleague Sebastian Loeb's recored of 8:13.878.
This year being the 100th Anniversary of the PPIHC there were some of the best competitors the Hill Climb has ever seen. Rob Holland, a World Touring Car Championship driver and British Touring Car Championship driver was in a front wheel drive Audi TTRS. David Donner in a 997 GT3R, and Monster Tajima in his E-Runner to name a few.
Then of course you have your drivers that have been there for years that can show up and run a sub-10 minute time in a car that was built in their garage and beat teams with factory prepared cars and hired drivers. Those are the guys like Clint Vasholtz, Layne Schranz, Steve Goeglein and company. All of those drivers are locals that make big names look bad. They have big V8's in cars that have run up there since it was full dirt and have adapted their beasts to the tarmac. All week during practice both drivers looked blisteringly fast and rightfully so. You always knew when Romain was coming. He was bobbing and weaving around corners down below, his Honda engine popping like some classic Orville Redenbacher with extra butter, then you would see him for a meer second and he was up and around 6 more corners before you could think. Out of sight, but not out of ear shot.
To take part in this duo you have to be mentally insane. These side-cars put on a great show every year.
Rhys on the other hand was not so different, but yet it was. As his car is electric it is very quiet except for the rather airplane like sound of the aero combined with the 7 motors. The hill climb organizers do require electric vehicles to have a siren to alert you of their presence but they are never as loud as an engine. Siren and all, it was never enough to prepare yourself to raise the camera and take pictures. And being he was so fast you could never get the camera to the eye and snap a few off. A different feel, but equally as fast.
David Donner in his 997.2 GT3R. The sound this car makes is heavenly. (Still biased as the 911 is my favorite car).
The way their cars were setup were quite different and somewhat noticeable. Rhys was all about speed. Get out of the corner ASAP and launch the car to the moon like straight line speed, where as Romain was about downforce and keeping the speed through the corner and maintain speed the whole run. On straight aways Rhys would blow your mind. 155 mph through Picnic Grounds is one of the fastest speeds ever through the 1/4 mile straight.
Romain's speed was by no means slow at 150 mph. Downforce vs. Brutal Speed/Acceleration. Don't get me wrong, Dumas's car was not slow out of corners. Millen's was just that fast. Both cars would surely run a sub-9 minute time, but how close could they get to Sebastian Loeb's 8:13.878.
The Schranz family has been racing the PPIHC for a long time. Layne is actually a Pastor when he isn't racing the Peak.
It came down to race day. Romain blew his engine the Friday before race day. Luckily the team had a whole off day to get it going again.
Robert Prilika had one of my favorite cars this year. A 997.1 GT3 World Challenge Spec Cup Car, in Martini livery. Nothing better.
The cars run in order of how they qualified regardless of class where as before they did it by class and then qualifying order within the class. Romain would run first, then Rhys. I'll put it this way, it was close, very very close.
The drivers practice in three sections in the mornings but come race day there are 4 timing sectors. Romain Dumas S1= 1:30.032 S2= 2:05.097 S3= 2:31.484 S4= 2:44.832. Rhys Millen S1= 1:30.609 S2= 2:08.208 S3= 2:36.941 S4= 2:41.360.
The bike rules this year caused a lot of controversy. I could go without the bikes on the mountain personally.
Thats pretty damn close in every sector, but I'm sure the quick math in your head does put Romain Dumas ahead of Rhys Millen, and your not wrong. Romain ran a 8:51.445. Rhys ran a 8:57.118. Both times are mind blowingly fast. Anything under 10 minutes is fast, anything under 9 minutes is mental. While they didn't beat Sebastian Loeb's rocket launch speed of 8:13.878 they are still fast. But in the end only one person takes first. Thats Romain. That has to be the first time in history anyone has won at Le Mans and Pikes Peak in the same week. Damn and blast the dinos win again. So yes while electric may be the way of the future it isn't quite its time. But in motorsports will it ever have its time. The beauty of racing is the sounds, and thats something electric will never do.