Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

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Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Pikes Peak Course.svg
Location Colorado Springs, Colorado USA
First race 1916 (1916)
Circuit information
Surface Tarmac (and historically, dirt)
Length 12.42 mi (19.99 km)
Turns 156
Lap record 8:13.878 (Sébastien Loeb, Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, 2013)
Randy Schranz rising above treeline at the 85th Race to the Clouds, 2007.
Monster Tajima Electric Car displayed during 2013 PPIHC Fan Fest at Colorado Springs, USA.
Suzuki Grand Vitara at the 2006 Race to the Clouds

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), also known as The Race to the Clouds, is an annual automobile and motorcycle hillclimb to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado, USA. The track measures 12.42 miles (19.99 km) over 156 turns, climbing 4,720 ft (1,440 m) from the start at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway, to the finish at 14,110 ft (4,300 m), on grades averaging 7%.[1] It used to consist of both gravel and paved sections, however as of August 2011, the highway is fully paved and as a result all subsequent runnings will be on tarmac from start to finish.

The race is on the FIA International Events Calendar and has featured competition from United States rally sanctioning body SCCA ProRally in 2004 and Rally America in 2005. It has taken place since 1916, making it the second oldest motorsport event in the United States of America.[1] It is currently contested by a variety of classes of cars, trucks, motorcycles and quads. There are often numerous new classes tried and discarded year-to-year. On average there are 150 competitors.


The first running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb was promoted by Spencer Penrose. Penrose had finished widening the narrow carriage road into a much wider "Pikes Peak Highway." He decided to encourage tourists to visit by creating a race to the clouds.

The oldest current class is the Open Wheel division which has been run since 1916 and has been won by such names as Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, and Robby Unser (the current class record holder, achieving 10 minutes 5.85 seconds in 1994). On July 4, 1966, Bobby Unser won the event overall for the eighth time in ten years. The event was part of the AAA and USAC IndyCar championship from 1946 to 1970. First in the Stock Car class was Nick Sanborn Jr in an Oldsmobile Toronado.[2] The overall record is held by Sébastien Loeb who recorded a time of 8 minutes 13.878 seconds on June 30, 2013 driving the 875 hp mid-engined Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, breaking the previous record (set in 2011 by Nobuhiro Tajima) by over a minute and a half. The first Penrose Trophy was awarded in 1916 to Rea Lentz with a time of 20:55.60.[3][4]

In 1984 the first European racers took part in the PPIHC with Norwegian Rallycrosser Martin Schanche (Ford Escort Mk3 4x4) and French Rally lady Michèle Mouton (Audi Sport quattro), thereby starting a new era for European teams in the almost unknown American hillclimb. While Schanche failed to set a new track record, due to a flat right front tyre, Mouton (together with her World Rally Championship co-driver Fabrizia Pons from Italy) won the Open Rally category, but also failed to break the current overall track record.

In 1989, an award-winning short film about the 1988 event was released by French director Jean-Louis Mourey. The film, titled Climb Dance, captured the efforts of Finnish former World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen, as he won the event in a record-breaking time with his turbocharged Peugeot 405 Turbo-16.

The 2011 running was the last running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb that had dirt sections of the course, for approximately 30% of the route, as Colorado Springs is being forced by a Sierra Club lawsuit to pave the road all the way to the summit.[5] The paving project was completed in August, 2011.

The likes of Hill Climb champion Rod Millen have warned that paving the road will put an end to the race.[6] However, the 2012 race saw over 170 racer registrations by December 2011, compared with 46 at the same time in 2011.[7] Registration for the 2012 event had to be stopped to allow management of all the registrations they have received. Consideration was made to create a qualifying system for the 2012 race, and to run the 2013 race as a two-day event.

The 2012 race, originally scheduled for July 8, was postponed until August 12 due to the Waldo Canyon fire.[8]

The 2012 race saw numerous unusual occurrences, namely a larger field than ever before and the longest race day in the race's known history. The 2012, 90th running of the race was the first time the race has been run on all tarmac and saw the toppling of several records, notably the overall record, being set by first Romain Dumas in the Open Division only to be overturned later in the day by Rhys Millen, son of the famed Rod Millen, in the Time Attack Division. Nobuhiro Tajima, the 2011 winner and at the time overall record holder, running in the Electric Division saw a surprising upset when his car caught fire in the lower portion of the course causing a DNF. One of the unusual highlights, and proof that tarmac has changed the race; Mike Ryan spun his big rig in a hairpin in a section called the "W"s, slamming into the guard rail, he then managed to execute a three point turn and continued on course, at which point he broke his old record by 5 seconds.[9] The race also saw the first ever motorcycle to achieve a sub 10 minute time with Carlin Dunne in the 1205 Division riding a Ducati pulling out a 9:52.819 (only a bit over a second slower than the 2011 overall record).

Due to the race's postponement, weather also caused issues. Towards the end of the raceday, freezing rain and snow closed in on the summit, causing a race stoppage and the eventual relocation of the finish line to Glen Cove.

2013 saw the nine-minute barrier shattered by WRC legend Sébastien Loeb, with a time of 8:13.878, while Rhys Millen ended up second with 9:02.192, beating his own record by more than 44 seconds.[10] Jean-Philippe Dayrault finished third with a time of 9:42.740, and Paul Dallenbach fourth with a time of 9:46.001, making it four drivers to beat the record set only the previous year.

Current records[edit]

Nobuhiro Tajima's Suzuki SX4 during his record breaking 9:51 run in 2011
Ralph Murdock breaking the vintage class modified (RMVR modified) record with a time of 12:51.004 in a 1970 Chevrolet Camaro


Record Driver Car Year Time Speed Notes
Electric United States Greg Tracy 2014 Mitsubishi MiEV Evolution III 2014 9:08.188 126.8 km/h
Production Electric United States Chad Hord Nissan Leaf 2011 14:33.429 82.4 km/h
Open Wheel United States Robby Unser ADT/Speedway Chevy 1994 10:05.850 118.8 km/h
Pikes Peak Open France Romain Dumas Porsche GT3R 2012 9:46.181 122.8 km/h
Super Stock Car United States Clint Vahsholtz Ford Mustang 2011 10:55.603 109.8 km/h
Time Attack United States Paul Dallenbach Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2013 9:46.001 122.8 km/h
Unlimited France Sébastien Loeb Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak 2013 8:13.878 145.27 km/h Overall
Vintage United States Jess Neal Plymouth Barracuda 2012 12:03.858 99.4 km/h


Record Rider Motorcycle Year Time Speed Notes
250cc Codie Vahsholtz Kawasaki KX 250 2013 11:24.792 105.3 km/h
450cc Jeffrey Tigert Honda CRF450 2013 10:32.964 113.9 km/h
750cc Michael Henao Kawasaki ZX-6R 2013 10:31.499 114.0 km/h
1205cc Carlin Dunne Ducati Multistrada 1200 2012 9:52.819 121.4 km/h Overall
Exhibition Powersports (Electric) Carlin Dunne Lightning Electric SuperBike 2013 10:00.694 115.7 km/h
Heavy Weight Supermoto Jeff Grace KTM 525 2013 10:57.928 105.7 km/h
Exhibition Powersports-Z (Electric) Jeff Clark Zero FX 2013 12:00.978 96.4 km/hr
Sidecar Wade Boyd Suzuki GSRX 2013 11:26.987 104.8 km/h
Vintage Marc LaNoue Triumph Bonnie 2012 12:39.782 94.7 km/h
Quad Modified Michael Coburn Walsh 450R 2013 11:05.874 108.3 km/h

Current racing classes[edit]

Car and truck
  • Unlimited – No form of restrictions. Any car is permitted if built to certain safety regulations.The term "Pikes Peak Car" is usually referring to the Unlimited class.
  • Open Wheel – The traditional Pikes Peak race car. These range from Indy style cars to buggies.
  • Mini Sprint – Small bore Open Wheel category. Smaller and lighter with no more than 220 cu in (3.6 L) engines and no forced induction.
  • Super Stock Car – Traditional tube-frame stock cars. Must be less than 10 years old.
  • Pro Trucks – Purpose-built tube-frame off-road pickups and SUVs.
  • Pikes Peak Open – Cars or trucks that look like a stock vehicle from the outside, but retain little of the original design.
  • Time Attack 4wd – Production based AWD or 4wd vehicles
  • Time Attack 2wd – Production based 2wd vehicles.
  • HPSS (High Performance Showroom Stock) – These are stock performance vehicles with upgraded safety features.
  • Exhibition Car/Truck – Cars and trucks that don't fit into standard categories. Often these categories feature advances in alternative fuels or technologies.
  • Vintage (RMVR) – New category for 2008
  • Vintage Modified (RMVR Modified)
  • Electric - Vehicles with only electric motors
Motorcycle and quad
  • Motorcycle 1205 CC
  • Motorcycle 750 CC
  • Motorcycle 450 CC
  • Motorcycle 250 CC
  • Motorcycle Vintage
  • Motorcycle Sidecar
  • Quad Modified
  • Exhibition Powersport


Ari Vatanen's 1988 Peugeot 405 T16
Rod Millen's Pikes Peak Toyota Tacoma

Unlimited Class[edit]

Year Winner Car Time
1981 United States Bud Hoffpauir Wells Coyote Special Roadster 13:10.100
1982 United States John Buffum Audi Quattro 12:20.520
1983 United States John Buffum Audi Quattro 12:27.910
1984 France Michèle Mouton Audi Sport Quattro 12:10.380
1985 France Michèle Mouton Audi Sport Quattro 11:25.390
1986 United States Bobby Unser Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 11:09.220
1987 Germany Walter Röhrl Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 10:47.850
1988 Finland Ari Vatanen Peugeot 405 Turbo 16 10:47.220
1989 United States Robby Unser Peugeot 405 Turbo 16 10:48.340
1992 Japan Nobuhiro Tajima Suzuki Swift 12:51.630
1993 Japan Nobuhiro Tajima Suzuki Swift 10:44.220
1994 New Zealand Rod Millen Toyota Celica AWD Turbo 10:04.060
1995 Japan Nobuhiro Tajima Suzuki Escudo 7:53.000*
1996 New Zealand Rod Millen Toyota Celica 10:13.640
1997 New Zealand Rod Millen Toyota Celica 10:04.540
1998 New Zealand Rod Millen Toyota Tacoma 10:07.700
1999 New Zealand Rod Millen Toyota Tacoma 10:11.150
2000 Sweden Per Eklund Saab 9-3 11:21.580
2001 Japan Yutaka Awazuhara Suzuki Vitara 11:01.770
2002 Sweden Per Eklund Saab 9-3 11:13.200
2004 Sweden Stig Blomqvist Ford RS200E 5:16.800*
2005 Japan Koichi Horiuchi Mitsubishi FTO 11:34.570
2006 Japan Nobuhiro Tajima Suzuki Sport 7:38.900*
2007 Japan Nobuhiro Tajima Suzuki XL7 10:01.408
2008 Japan Nobuhiro Tajima Suzuki Sport Co. Ltd. XL7 10:18.250
2009 Japan Nobuhiro Tajima Suzuki SX4 10:15.368
2010 Japan Nobuhiro Tajima Suzuki SX4 10:11.490
2011 Japan Nobuhiro Tajima Suzuki SX4 9:51.278
2012 United States David Donner Palatov D4PPS 10:04.652
2013 France Sébastien Loeb Peugeot 208 T16 8:13.878
2014 France Romain Dumas Norma M20 RD 9:05.801

*Course shortened

AAA/USAC IndyCar championship years (1946–1970)[edit]

Year Driver
1970 United States Ted Foltz
1969 United States Mario Andretti
1968 United States Bobby Unser
1967 United States Wes Vandervoort
1966 United States Bobby Unser
1965 United States Al Unser
1964 United States Al Unser
1963 United States Bobby Unser
1962 United States Bobby Unser
1961 United States Bobby Unser
1960 United States Bobby Unser
1959 United States Bobby Unser
1958 United States Bobby Unser
1957 United States Bob Finney
1956 United States Bobby Unser
1955 United States Bob Finney
1954 United States Keith Andrews
1953 United States Louis Unser
1952 United States George Hammond
1951 United States Al Rogers
1950 United States Al Rogers
1949 United States Al Rogers
1948 United States Al Rogers
1947 United States Louis Unser
1946 United States Louis Unser

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b PPIHC race overview, http://www.ppihc.com/2014-spectator-guide/
  2. ^ Competition Press & Autoweek, July 23, 1966, Vol.16, No.29, Pages 1, 3.
  3. ^ Race Winners by Year - PPIHC official website
  4. ^ Pikes Peak History - PikesPeak.us.com
  5. ^ CNN, April 15, 1999, http://articles.cnn.com/1999-04-15/nature/9904_15_pikes.peak.enn_1_settlement-clean-water-act-toll-road?_s=PM:NATURE
  6. ^ "Denver Uphill Battle". Westword. 1997-06-12. Retrieved 2012-06-09. 
  7. ^ Daniel Chacón (2011-12-20). "Pikes Peak hill climb could expand to 2-day race". Colorado Springs Gazette. Retrieved 2013-06-01. 
  8. ^ "Pikes Peak International Hill Climb to run Aug. 12". Colorado Springs Gazette. 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2013-06-01. 
  9. ^ "Mike Ryan Sets New Pikes Peak Record!". DesignEngineering.com. Retrieved 2013-06-01. 
  10. ^ "8:13.878—Sebastien Loeb vaporizes the Pikes Peak record". Retrieved 2013-07-01. 

External links[edit]