96th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb: Weekend Preview

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Volkswagen Motorsport (1); Porsche Customer Racing (2)

This week, some of the world’s most unique purpose-built racing machines take on 12.42 miles of the most challenging roads in America as the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb presented by Gran Turismo returns to Colorado. The ultimate test of man and machine, the 96th annual Race to the Clouds will see drivers and riders take on 156 corners in the ascent to nearly three miles above sea level.

Many of the best racers of all time have conquered the mountain, from legendary brothers Bobby and Al Unser to the father-son duo of Rod and Rhys Millen. Ari Vatanen’s “Climb Dance” showed the Finnish star setting a record time back in the days of an all-dirt road, while nine-time WRC champion Sebastian Loeb shattered the all-time record in 2013 not long after the course was fully paved.

Of that list of legends, only Rhys Millen will compete this year, joining the Exhibition class in a purpose-built Bentley Bentayga. NASCAR champion crew chief Ray Evernham joins him in a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan, while PPIHC veterans Paul Dallenbach and Greg Tracy will line up in the Open Wheel class and a number of familiar faces will compete in Time Attack.

This year’s PPIHC will also see the first spec one-make class of its type, as the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport Pikes Peak Hill Climb Trophy by Yokohama sees eight evenly matched rides take on the mountain. Eight-time PPIHC class winner Jeff Zwart leads the class as driver coach, while the driver roster boasts such talented names as action sports legend Travis Pastrana, 2011 Indianapolis 500 runner-up J.R. Hildebrand, sports car team owner and two-time MLB All-Star C.J. Wilson, and experienced racer Mike Skeen.

But Romain Dumas and Volkswagen may be campaigning one of the most hyped individual entries of the event this year, partnering to enter the I.D. R Pikes Peak in the marquee Unlimited class. The fully electric, all-wheel drive racecar is powered by a pair of 680-horsepower engines and weighs in at under 2,500 pounds. They’ll shoot for the EV record of 8:57.118, set by Rhys Millen two years ago.

12 classes will take on the mountain in all, split evenly between six car classes and six bike and quad classes. The first on-track action took place on Tuesday morning; practice and qualifying runs continue on Wednesday and Thursday morning, with an optional session on Friday before the annual Fan Fest in downtown Colorado Springs. The race itself will take place on Sunday morning, with more than five dozen competitors in all expected to take part. Fans can follow along with live timing or paid live streaming during the event at www.ppihc.org.

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