Editor’s note: Colorado native Tommy Boileau will be competing in his first Pikes Peak International Hill Climb later this year. This blog is the first of a series detailing Tommy’s journey to—and up—the mountain.
Ever since I was a kid I can always remember waking up, especially on snow days, and staring at that hill out of my window. Mesmerized by all its glory, knowing the amazing history and the number of my heroes and legends of our sport that tackled it every year since that first race up its winding road in 1916. Ever since that first race, Pikes Peak has captured the interest and hearts of fans and competitors alike, and I have been very fortunate to grow up in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs, with the beautiful fourteener staring down at me every single day.
I was born into a racing family—I never really had much of a choice about strapping into a racecar. My mom and dad met at a racetrack when they were eleven and thirteen years old, because both of their fathers were at the track racing. Not only did my parents fall in love with each other that day, but they both fell in love with the world of racing. They both went on to become racing drivers themselves, and successful ones at that. Fast forward to January of 1994 when the Boileau twins were welcomed into the world.
There were two big decisions that my parents had to make. First was the decision to carry on a family tradition and name my brother (the first-born son) Robert Boileau IV. Our grandfather Robert Boileau Jr. was the first one in our family to catch the racing bug. He was the first person in the United States to build a Honda Racecar, so he was known in the racing world as “Honda Bob”. His world-famous Honda Civic Tokyo Joe, or “ToJo” now resides in the Honda Museum in Torrance, California. The next big decision that my parents had to make was going to be the numbers that we would run on the side of our racecars. Since Bobby would be carrying the family name into a fourth generation, I would be carrying my dad’s racing number, 34. We were going to be the third generation of racecar drivers on both sides of this family.
So then starts the passion. We strapped into a go kart for the first time at the age of six, and never looked back. We were hooked. All we ever thought about was racing, and like most kids growing up in the late 90s, we absolutely loved playing our Playstation, and most particularly, Gran Turismo. We were enamored by the variety of cars and tracks, and the fact that we could live out our dreams of being professional racecar drivers all while sitting on our couch at home waiting for mom to cook us dinner.
Our absolute favorite car was the fabled Suzuki Escudo Pikes Peak. That 1000hp bright red beauty with the massive rear wing was hands down the coolest car that had ever existed. Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima was undoubtedly the coolest and bravest man alive. The fact that he took that incredible piece of machinery and tamed the grueling 156 corners of the Pikes Peak Highway truly inspired me. I knew that I wanted to race up that mountain.
Now, I know that a lot of purists will say that the mountain is not the same now that the whole road is paved. Honestly, they are right. There was something magical about watching Monster throw that bright red beauty completely backwards into the tight hairpins of the “W’s”. But I never grew up racing on dirt. I was through and through a pavement racer, and the world of dirt was a complete unknown.
I had my first opportunity to race up Pikes Peak back in 2012. I had struck a deal with Bobby Regester, a local racer who made two starts in the IRL, and had multiple class wins on Pikes Peak. Unfortunately, he is probably most famous for the massive crash that he had in 2011 when his maroon Pontiac Sunfire went off a cliff and tumbled down the mountain until it finally came to rest on a big boulder. We had agreed that I was going to be driving a tube-chassis GT1 Corvette up the hill…quite a car for an 18-year-old rookie.
I started studying as much as possible. I knew that mountain just as well as I knew my commute to and from Lewis Palmer High School. I knew where the dirt started and ended, I knew every single detail that a competitor should know. I remember the pride that I had when I received the official race program and saw my name in face in there next to legends like Rhys Millen. But unfortunately, it never came to fruition. The car was never built, and I never got to race up the mountain. I was devastated.
This year, I am finally going to live out that childhood dream. I had an opportunity arise, so I sent in my request for invitation to the PPIHC board, and to my absolute delight, I WAS ACCEPTED!! This year, in the 97th running of the Race to the Clouds, I will be competing in the highly competitive Pikes Peak Open class driving a 2014 Chevy SS NASCAR Road Race car.
The car itself has a pretty interesting history. It was actually part of the fleet of cars for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Winning Team, Furniture Row Racing. It was driven by Martin Truex Jr. on the NASCAR Circuit prior to the team making the switch to Toyota in 2016. I am incredibly excited to have an opportunity not only to finally tackle the mountain, but to get it do it in such an awesome car. It was incredible when the small team from Denver, Colorado went on to win a championship in the highest level of circle track racing in the world. For a racing fan and a Colorado native, it was the same feeling as if the Avalanche had won the Stanley Cup, or if the Broncos had won the Super Bowl. We were the champions.
The car is being built, I’m re-learning all 156 turns, and I’m trying to contain my excitement. But finally, this local kid in a local car is finally going to strap in and make his run up that hill in his back yard.
Words and images via Tommy Boileau