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96th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb: Drivers to Watch

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Porsche Motorsport North America (1); Mike Rogers/Driven Imagery (2)

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the few major races remaining in the world where just about anything goes. This year, 12 different classes will compete for top honors, split evenly at six and six between car and motorcycle groups. As always, technological innovation and unbridled creativity are paramount, with numerous electric vehicles joined at the starting line by some of the most unique and interesting vintage and modern builds in any form of motorsport.

There are plenty of familiar names and faces on the entry list, from action sports icon Travis Pastrana to multi-time Pikes Peak record holder Rhys Millen, and each will take on the Race to the Clouds in an exciting ride. But if you’re tuned in to Sunday’s live stream, make sure to give these four drivers their due:

Unlimited: Romain Dumas

Volkswagen Motorsport is shooting for a sub-nine minute time this weekend, while Dumas aims to take his fourth PPIHC win in five years. But if qualifying is any indication, Sebastien Loeb’s overall record of 8:13.878 just might be in jeopardy, too. Dumas smashed Loeb’s qualifying record by ten seconds on Wednesday, finishing the run at 3:16.083 in his second pass. The electric I.D. R Pikes Peak will, at the very least, challenge Millen’s EV record of 8:57.118, set just two years ago in the Drive eO PP100.

Exhibition: Ray Evernham

The Exhibition class always sees some of the wildest rides on the mountain, and 2018 is no exception. Evernham’s is by far the most interesting: an open-wheel 1936 Chevrolet Sedan nicknamed “The Ghost” and equipped with massive wings. It’s already raced this month at the SVRA Brickyard Invitational, where Evernham placed on the podium in the Pro Am race paired with Bill Elliott. In Thursday qualifying, Evernham outran Millen’s Bentley Bentayga by almost five seconds for best time in the Exhibition class.

Time Attack 1: David Donohue

Only four drivers managed to break the four-minute mark in qualifying this week. Three came from the headline Unlimited class, but Donohue’s Porsche 911 GT3 R was the only one to do it in any other division. With a qualifying time of 3:55.438 on Thursday, he was nearly eight seconds faster than Clint Vahsholtz in his best run of the day, and crossed the line in under four minutes on all three qualifying attempts. Donohue was fastest in his entire group on all three days on the mountain this week.

Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport: J.R. Hildebrand

Pastrana is the clear headliner of Pikes Peak’s first-ever one-make class, C.J. Wilson adds crossover star appeal, and Mike Skeen is a past Open class winner and event Rookie of the Year. But don’t sleep on Hildebrand, who actually qualified best in the eight-car class on Thursday with a time of 4:23.942, roughly half a second ahead of Pastrana. The 2009 Indy Lights champion and 2011 Indianapolis 500 runner-up has always been willing to try new racing disciplines; will the mountain reward his versatility?

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