When it comes to Pikes Peak, expect the unexpected. The legendary mountain is known for its ever-changing conditions, and one driving up to the top might experience warm sunshine and a snow storm all in a matter of minutes. That was the case this past weekend at the 90th annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb when race officials were forced to shorten the course due to snow, rain and near-freezing temperatures at the finish line on the summit. It is only one of three times since 1916 that the length of the race has been shortened.
Thankfully many of the drivers and riders did get to fully complete their runs up the 12.42-mile, 156-turn course, and due to the new fully paved course the times were faster than ever. Last year, Monster Tajima was the first to break the ten-minute barrier on the mountain, but it was clear early on that his record would fall. Romain Dumas, a winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans but a rookie at Pikes Peak, blasted past the finish line in 9:46.181 in a Porsche 911 GT3R, setting a new record for the course.
The record didn't stand long, however, as Rhys Millen, driving his 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe race car, completed the course in 9:46.164 – just 17/1000s of a second ahead of Dumas.
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While some might be surprised by just how much quicker the cars were with the new pavement, Rhys had fully expected to be well under the ten-minute mark. "Me and my dad went over numbers yesterday and we added up all of our sectors and came up with a 9:21," he said after setting the new record. "With the sections that you don't get to practice, we added 20 seconds which was a 9:41. The buffer of just knowing that things usually run hard on race day, I said 9:45."
Things didn't go nearly as well for the cars in the Unlimited division, however. Frenchman Jean-Philippe Dayraut and Colorado native Paul Dallenbach looked to be the early favorites during last week's practice sessions, but neither finished the race. Dallenbach had a particularly rough race, suffering a devastating crash due to a stuck throttle and needing to be airlifted to the hospital. Fortunately he was released only with minor injuries, but his race car is totaled. That left David Donner, driving a 2012 Palatov D4 Pikes Peak Special, to take the Unlimited class win with an overall time of 10:04.652.
Six-time overall race winner Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima also had a disappointing race with his new Monster Sport E-Runner in the Electric division. After setting promising times in each of the three practice sessions, Tajima's race ended early when a small fire sidelined his custom-built race car. "I saw smoke coming out from the motor, and I had no choice but to stop the car so it wouldn't get any worse," he said after the race. "I am very disappointed because my team and I have put a tremendous effort to get where we are today."
With Tajima out of the running, the Electric division crown went to Fumio Nutahara driving a 2012 Toyota Motorsport EV P002. His time of 10:15.380 easily broke the record for the fastest time by an electric car by more than two minutes. Hiroshi Masuoka, driving the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Evolution repaired from Wednesday's crash, finished second with a time of 10:30.850.
The cars weren't the only ones setting fast times on Pikes Peak this year. After setting the fastest time for a motorcycle on the mountain last year, Ducati returned for 2012 with the Multistrada 1200 S and the hope of setting another record. They did with ease, with Carlin Dunn running a blistering time of 9:52.819 – and reportedly hitting a top speed of 144 mph on a short straightaway – with teammate Greg Tracy finishing not far behind with a 9:58.262.
"Today was an emotional day," said Dunne after setting his time. "The year of work the Spider Grips Ducati team put into preparing for Pikes Peak got us across the finish line in under 10 minutes, an achievement we're very proud of. When we heard that we won and broke the record for the second time, I was speechless. The one-two finish proves the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S is the ultimate bike to conquer Pikes Peak."
You can see a full list of results from the 2012 Pikes Peak Hill Climb over at www.PPIHC.com.