Race Recap: The Lion roars at 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
As always, however, a million other things took place on that sliver of road named for Lt. Zebulon Pike. For the complete race results you can still catch the live timing info here. For our report on the day, read on...
The day began beautifully, all of the motorcycle classes able to run in dry weather. The weather got so bad and so changeable throughout the course after the Electric division ran, however, that the first Open Wheel finisher was Clint Vahsholtz with a time of 11:07.305, putting him 32nd overall after a ton of motorcycles and quads, and the first Pikes Peak Open class finisher came in 41st. After Janis Horelkis in the Electric class had an accident on the lower part of the course, there was a break while officials cleared the car and then waited for the weather to clear. But even at 5 pm when the final cars were running the radio announcers were saying, "We'd love to tell you where the second car is, but we can't see it."
The road and the crowds also conspired to confuse. Due to the freezing and thawing road and the shifting of the mountain, a section of the course after Bottomless Pit was so bumpy that some riders called it "motocross" – Rhys Millen said his car went airborne three times. The increased number of people lining the course made for increased acts of a questionable nature: spectators running across the course just yards in front of competitors; one woman leaned so far in that her camera tore a hole in the fender of Randy Schranz's Shelby Cobra and she had to be sent to the hospital. Jake Holden, riding on his Kawasaki ZXR1200 also had a moment coming around a left hander, sending crowds on the outside of the turn scattering when he nearly failed to make the corner. Another rider said the crowds made him nervous, but the mountain was worse: "I was too scared to look at anything but the road."
After the bikes ran, there was meant to be a break to get the riders off the mountain, but the organizers cancelled it when a weather pattern began moving. This did not make the riders happy at all, seeing as they were only prepared for a few hours stuck at the top. But it did give a certain Frenchman the best window to work his magic, and he made the most of it.
Sebastien Loeb – 8:13.878, 1st overall
Rhys Millen – 9:02.192, 2nd overall
Jean-Philippe Dayraut – 9:42.740, 3rd overall
Yes, Peugeot threw tons of money at it, yes, they brought a huge team with the world's best equipment and the world's best rally driver, yes they were competing against guys who build their own cars, but it doesn't change the result: Peugeot still had to battle the mountain, and Sebastien Loeb demolished it.
His time of 8:13.878 takes almost 1:33 off the record set last year by Rhys Millen, the kind of galactic improvement that's perhaps not totally unexpected now that the road to the top has been completely paved. Loeb's average speed of 87.471 miles per hour is better than most people can do on a straight stretch of highway, never mind a road with 156 turns that climbs almost 5,000 feet after starting at 9,300 feet of altitude.
Millen came behind at 9:02.192, his second place a serious achievement seeing as he took 44 seconds off his time from last year. His primary competition wasn't Peugeot, though, it was Romain Dumas, but the battle with Dumas didn't happen because the Norma M20FC PP stopped on the course with a broken gearbox just after the start.
Millen said "Eight is not a problem" – that is, breaking into the Eight-Minute club – but after Dumas' exit, Millen chose not to push to the limit, knowing he couldn't beat the Peugeot and because "the biggest challenge is to get to the top." Millen said his Hyundai PM580T "performed flawlessly," but adding a little to his time was that the difference in road temperature from the bottom to the top of the track meant the soft-compound tires he was using were sliding around on the upper sections.
As for Loeb's time, Millen said he thought it would stand for a while. He told us, "I just spoke to [Loeb] and he said the run was perfect, the car was perfect and he didn't know if he could push any harder."
Paul Dallenbach – 9:46.001, 4th overall
David Donner – 9:53.581, 7th overall
Jeff Zwart – 10:13.856, 10th overall
Loeb was mighty impressive, but the Peugeot effort was all business, and big-money business at that. For us, Paul Dallenbach was one of the best stories this year, one in the true spirit of the event (we're sure there are plenty of others, Dallenbach's just the one we were closest to). For the past two years, he hasn't made it past the third corner. And even though he's won the race in the Unlimited class before and broke Peugeot's previous record in 1993, he's never made it to the top in under ten minutes, and he didn't get into a race car for a whole year after the crash in 2012. This year, though, after about a week's worth of practice and testing, he got the Genesis Coupe that Millen used to set the overall record last year to the top in 9:46.001, winning his class and setting a new record in Time Attack.
Furthermore, he said brake fade robbed him of stopping power with about two miles to go – "Bottomless Pit is where I went, 'Oh ***.' Press the pedal, it goes all the way to the floor" – it was raining during the last part of his run, and the crowds were intense. "There were lots of people out there standing right where you want to be, and you can't find the groove."
Even though he was aiming for a time of 9:30, he got the record and the top-five finish he was after.
The rest of the class got stirred and shaken by the weather, David Donner doing the best he could in his naturally aspirated Porsche to come in 7.5 seconds after Dallenbach, Jeff Zwart another 20 seconds back at 10:13. How bad did the weather get for the other class runners? The next two Time Attack finishers came in 36th and 71st overall. Jamie Melhuish, who came 16th in class, 199th overall, told us the hail was so bad in some parts that it was nearly causing him to understeer off the course. Jerad Voight in the No. 77 Chevrolet Camaro SS RS who came 12th in class, 108th overall, said it was raining up to the Ws, a set of switchbacks that begins seven miles into the race, then it was fog so bad he couldn't see more than 60 feet, "After the fog it was snow, Devil's playground was hail, just past that it was rain and then heavy winds on the last section – I could feel it shaking the car." When we asked what was the weather report he was given at the start line, he laughed and told us, "They said there was a sprinkle at Engineer's Corner."
Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima – 9:46.530, 5th overall
Hiroshi Masuoka – 10:21.866, 13th overall
Greg Tracy – 10:23.649, 14th overall
Rod Millen – 10:24.301, 16th overall
Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima was a surprise in the class that was also beset by weather – except for Rod Millen, the finishing order reversed from the starting order as the weather cleared up. We were told the two Mitsubishis encountered a lot of rain, but we don't yet have the full story on why two cars that were topping the field during practice days fell 40 seconds behind on race day.
Millen's showing is explained by the fact that his Toyota TMG POO2 is rear-wheel drive only. A developmental car built by the Toyota's motorsports division in Germany to test Formula One KERS technology, it was updated this year by TMS, the motorsports division in North Carolina that runs the NASCAR program. Knowing that Mitsubishi will be back to work on next year's car for the overall victory, and knowing Monster will always be gunning for the top, it will be up to Toyota to decide if it wants to continue merely testing on Pikes Peak or it if wants to win.
Here are the top finishers in the other classes, and check out the gallery of high-res images for more race-day action:
Clint Vahsholtz – 11:07.305, 32nd overall
Donner Billingsley – 12:06.840, 68th overall
Rodney O'Maley – 12:22.250, 77th overall
Pikes Peak Open
Randy Schranz – 11:21.410, 41st overall
Layne Schranz – 11:29.245, 44th overall
Robert Prilika – 11:33.437, 47th overall
Kenshiro Gushi – 12:03.085, 65th overall
Simon Pagenaud – 12:54.325, 96th overall
Sage Marie – 14:06.446, 123rd overall
Pikes Peak Vintage
Ralf Christensson – 12:08.507, 69th overall
Christopher Lennon – 12:16.837, 75th overall
John Jack Rogers – 12:30.306, 83rd overall
Pikes Peak 1205
Bruno Langlois – 10:21.323, 12th overall
Wes Orloff – 11:40.009, 52nd overall
Bobby Goodin – 11:46.728, 57th overall
Pikes Peak Superbike 750
Michael Henao – 10:31.499, 18th overall
James McKay – 11:09.460, 34th overall
Erik Dunshee – 11:41.938, 54th overall
Jeff Grace – 10:57.928, 26 overall
Joseph Bernard Toner – 11:04.319, 29 overall
Eric Piscione – 11:05.278, 30 overall
Pikes Peak 450
Jeffrey Tigert – 10:32.964, 19 overall
Davey Durelle – 10:38.697, 22 overall
Dan Berendes – 10:56.724, 25 overall
Pikes Peak 250
Codie Vahsholtz – 11:24.792, 42nd overall
Jason Archuleta – 11:52.715, 60th overall
Matt Meinert – 12:02.029, 64th overall
Michael Coburn – 11:05.874, 31 overall
Mike Ell – 11:09.995, 35 overall
Theo Bernhard – 11:38.810, 50 overall
Dave Stock – 12:42.969, 89 overall
Bobby Spann – 12:53.110, 94 overall
Lloyd Hale – 13:00.684, 99 overall
Wade Boyd – 11:26.987, 43 overall
Masahito Watanabe – 11:41.837, 53 overall
Christophe Lebert – 12:15.250, 74 overall
Carlin Dunne – 10:00.694, 9 overall
Jake Holden – 10:24.058, 15 overall
James Compton – 10:33.832, 20 overall
Jeff Clark – 12:00.978, 63 overall
Jeremiah Johnson – 12:05.612, 67 overall
Troy Siahaan – 12:24.083, 79 overall
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