This morning, the Unlimited Class cars headed for the bottom portion of Pikes Peak, the sole remaining part of the course that still contains unpaved roads. The three-plus miles of dirt will be paved over before next year's race, and since we'll be spending race day at the finish line, this is the last time we'll ever see the race cars run on the dirt. Sad.
The practice session on the bottom third of the course also serves as a qualifying time, which determines the starting order at the official race. The top qualifier can choose to go first or last in his class. Why is this important? With the ever-changing weather at Pikes Peak, a few minutes can mean the difference between good and bad weather. Last year, Monster Tajima elected to go first, leaving Rhys to deal with the snow that started falling just a few minutes later at the top of the mountain.
While Tajima hasn't been in his usual dominant form during the practice days, he crushed the competition in today's qualifying, beating his closest competitor, Rhys Millen, by 15 seconds. Dallenbach qualified just one second behind Millen, and Jean Philippe Dayraut was another ten seconds back in his Dacia Duster. Even so, the race could be anyone's come Sunday. Millen, whose car is set up more for the fast pavement sections, put in a time 15 seconds faster than Monster on the top section, and the two were nearly equal in the middle portion of the course. Dallenbach can't be counted out, either, as he's been nearly dead even with Millen throughout the week.
Rod Millen looks to be the close favorite in the 2WD Time Attack class, edging out his close friend Jeff Zwart by a second and a half during today's qualifying. Millen's Hyundai Genesis was far faster on yesterday's practice session, however, topping Zwart's Porsche 911 GT2 RS by thirteen seconds.
Stephan Verdier will be the man to beat in 4WD Time Attack. He piloted his highly modified Subaru Impreza WRX STI to the top qualifying spot, five seconds faster than David Kern's Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
For a full list of practice and qualifying times, head over to www.ppihc.com.
Check back Sunday afternoon for the final race results and to see if the ten-minute barrier will finally be broken at Pikes Peak. Until then, as always, check out our live photos from today in the gallery below.