Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

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Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Logo.jpg
Pikes Peak Course.svg
Location Colorado Springs, Colorado USA
38°50′N 105°02′W / 38.84°N 105.04°W / 38.84; -105.04
First race 1916 (1916)
Last race 2015
Circuit information
Surface Tarmac (and historically, dirt)
Length 19.99 km (12.42 mi)
Turns 156
Lap record 8:13.878 (Sébastien Loeb, Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, 2013, Unlimited)
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.
Sébastien Loeb's Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak in 2013
Suzuki Grand Vitara (aka. Escudo) 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 7.2%.[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 asphalt from start to finish.

The race is self sanctioned and has taken place since 1916.[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 130 competitors. The PPIHC operates as the Pikes Peak Auto Hill Climb Educational Museum to organize the annual motorsports event.


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 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 driver 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.

2015 was the first time in the history of the race that an electric car won in all classes. Second place was earned by an electric car, too. Already in 2014, electric cars were at the places 2 and 3.[11][12][13] In an interview given by the winning driver Rhys Millen, he told, that on half way he lost more or less the half of his six engines, so that he had to finish with only the half power of the car. From testing drives they expected a run 30 seconds faster at the end.[14]

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

Current racing classes[edit]

4-Wheeled Divisions & Classes[edit]

Unlimited Division

  • Anything goes in the Unlimited Division as long as it passes safety inspection and meets the PPIHC’s general rules. The Unlimited Division features the most exotic vehicles, most of them built specifically for this race. These race cars have the best chance of setting a new overall race record. In 2013, Sébastien Loeb set a new record of 8'13"878 in a Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, beating Rhys Millen's previous record.[15]

Electric Car Division

  • The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb recognizes the future of electric technology in the automotive industry and Pikes Peak as the ultimate proving ground to test and display it. While internal combustion engines gradually lose power as they near the Summit due to the lack of oxygen at high altitudes, these EV (Electric Vehicles) racers maintain the same amount of power at 14,115 feet as they do at sea-level. In an effort to allow EV constructors to showcase the engineering excellence of these truly unique vehicles there are 2 classes within the Electric Division.
Electric Modified Class
  • This class features the cutting edge of electric technology as it applies to racing.
Electric Production Class
  • This class features mass-produced EV’s that are readily available to the public. Very few modifications are allowed

Time Attack Division

  • A division for production based two and four wheel drive vehicles; this division features the Time Attack 1 Class and Time Attack 2 Production Class. Eligibility is restricted to close-bodied four-wheeled vehicles.
Time Attack 1 Class
  • This class features production based race vehicles with more modification and specialization than what is seen in the Time Attack 2 Class.
Time Attack 2 Production Class
  • This class features production based race vehicles with minor modifications allowed.

Pikes Peak Challenge Car Division

  • Established is 2014, the Pikes Peak Challenge Division encompasses a wide variety of class options.
Open Wheel Class
  • The traditional Pikes Peak racecars with appearances ranging from Indy style sprinters to dune buggies. Open wheel cars have competed in every Pikes Peak International Hill Climb since the inaugural race in 1916.
Pikes Peak Open Class
  • These cars may look like stock cars from the outside, but major modifications can be done to their engines, transmissions and suspension.
Pikes Peak Vintage Car/Truck Class
  • These vintage race cars make us remember back to the glory days of Pikes Peak with cars like; Mustang, Cobra, Mercury and Lincoln too. Vehicles manufactured in 1990 or earlier that have previously raced Pikes Peak are eligible for this class.
Exhibition Class
  • In keeping with the mission statement of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, specifically to “demonstrate advancements in the practical application of motor sports technology,” the race encourages competitors with vehicles that do not meet the technical specifications of PPIHC sanctioned divisions and classes to enter in the Exhibition Class. While there are no class records for this class because of its exhibition status, entries are eligible for recording an overall course record.

2-Wheeled Divisions & Classes[edit]

Pikes Peak Lightweight Division

  • A popular class with many riders. Two-stroke and four-stroke engines are eligible. Many older design machines of this size will be successful in this race, but bikes off the showroom floor will also be competitive. Single and twin-cylinder engines are allowed.

Pikes Peak Middleweight Division

  • This division features a wide range of motorcycles. Competitors are eligible to enter bikes with 1-4 cylinders and a displacement of up to 849cc.

Pikes Peak Heavyweight Division (Formerly known as Pikes Peak Open Motorcycle in 2013)

  • This is the top motorcycle division offered at Pikes Peak. This division features some of the fastest bikes available today

Pikes Peak Electric Motorcycle Division

  • The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb recognizes the future of electricity in the automotive industry. It is through this effort that constructors of electric vehicles may showcase their engineering excellence of these truly unique vehicles. There are 2 classes within the Pikes Peak Electric Motorcycle Division.
Electric Modified Class
  • This class features the cutting edge of electric technology as it applies to motorcycle racing.
Electric Production Class
  • This class features mass-produced EV’s that are readily available to the public. Very few modifications are allowed.

Pikes Peak Challenge Motorcycle Division

  • Established is 2014, the Pikes Peak Challenge Motorcycle Division encompasses a wide variety of class options.
Pikes Peak 250 Class
  • There are motorcycles with bigger engines on Pikes Peak, but the Pikes Peak 250 class is fast and competitive. These machines are usually factory built for racing with two-stroke and four-stroke single or twin cylinder engines.
Quad Class
  • Essentially four-wheeled motorcycles, these machines are limited only by tread width and the use of an ATV engine of 500cc or less. Stability is aided by extreme weight-shifting by the rider. Quads are quick and nimble making them fast through the corners despite having low top speeds.
Sidercar Class
  • Three wheels, two riders (“driver” and “passenger”), and one winning mission. The passenger (or aptly named “the monkey”) hangs out in the turns, making for some interesting action. Sidecars are always a crowd favorite.
Pikes Peak Vintage Motorcycle
  • This division includes 650cc-750cc 4-stroke twin cylinder bikes that would qualify for current AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) events.
UTV/Exhibition Powersport
  • This division includes Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) and other vehicles that don’t fit perfectly in other Pikes Peak Divisions. While there are no class records for this class because of its exhibition status entries are eligible for recording an overall course record. [16]

Race Records[edit]

Current 4-Wheel Division & Class Records[17]
Division Class Year Name Vehicle Time
Electric Modified 2015 Rhys Millen e0 PP03 9:07.222
Production 2014 Roy Richards 2012 Honda Fit 12:55.591
Pikes Peak Challenge Exhibition 2015 Tetsuya Yamano Honda Electric SH-AWD with Precision All-Wheel Steer 10:23.829
Open Wheel 2015 Paul Dallenbach PVA Dallenbach Special 9:36.496
Pikes Peak Open 2012 Romain Dumas 2012 Porsche GT3 R 9:46.181
Vintage 2014 Ralf Christensson 1967 Ford Mustang GT350 10:46.000
Time Attack Time Attack 1 2013 Paul Dallenbach Hyundai Genesis Coupé 9:46.001
Time Attack 2 Production 2015 David Donner 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S 10:26.896
Unlimited 2013 Sébastien Loeb Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak 8:13.878
New Records for 2015 listed in red.
Current 2-Wheel Division & Class Records
Division Class Year Name Vehicle Time
Pikes Peak Lightweight 2015 Codie Vahsholtz 2006 KTM SMR 10:50.421
Pikes Peak Middleweight 2014 Eric Piscione 2013 Ducati Streetfighter 10:46.159
Pikes Peak Heavyweight (Open) 2014 Jeremy Toye 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R 9:58.687
Electric Motorcycle Modified 2013 Carlin Dunne 2013 Lightning Motorcycle LS-218 electric Superbike 10:00.694
Production 2014 Jeff Clark 2013 Zero FX 11:59.814
Pikes Peak Challenge Motorcycle Pikes Peak 250cc 2013 Codie Vahsholtz 1996 Kawasaki KX 250 11:24.792
Quad 2013 Michael Coburn 2013 Walsh 450R 11:05.874
Sidecar 2013 Wade Boyd/Christine Blunck 2006 Suzuki GSXR 11:26.987
Vintage 2012 Marc LaNoue 1969 Triumph Bonneville 12:39.782
New Records for 2015 listed in red.


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 S1 12:10.380
1985 France Michèle Mouton Audi Sport Quattro E2 11:25.390
1986 United States Bobby Unser Audi Sport Quattro E2 11:09.220
1987 Germany Walter Röhrl Audi Sport Quattro 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 Pikes Peak 8:13.878
2014 France Romain Dumas Norma M20 RD 9:05.801
2015 Germany Dominic Dobson Radical SR8 10:15.289

*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. 
  11. ^ Electric power lights up Pikes Peak
  12. ^ Electric car wins title at Pikes Peak race
  13. ^ Rhys Millen wins Pikes Peak under all-electric power
  14. ^ video: Rhys Millen winnig run at Pikes Peak 2015 and an interview at the end of the video with Rhys Millen
  15. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y20CLumT2Sg
  16. ^ http://www.ppihc.com/divisions/
  17. ^ "PPIHC Race Records". www.PPIHC.com. PPIHC. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 

External links[edit]