Board temporarily ends a 30-year tradition of famed biker competitions
~ by Trevor Phipps ~
For the last few weeks, rumors have abounded that future motorcycle racing during the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb faced the cancellation axe due to the recent death of a popular professional bike racer, Carlin Dunne, during the 2019 contest.
Last Friday, Hill Climb officials confirmed these earlier reports, saying that the board of directors decided to kill motorcycle racing for next year’s event.
In a press release, officials did not use the fatal accident of this year’s race as a reason to cancel the motorcycle event for next year. The statement just said that the race was being cancelled for one year, so that the board could look into whether motorcycle racing would exist in the future on America’s Mountain or not.
“The motorcycle program hasn’t been an annual event,” Board Chairman Tom Osborne said in a statement released Friday. “They have run only 41 of the 97 years we’ve been racing on Pikes Peak. It’s just time to take a hard look at every aspect of the race, including the motorcycle race, and determine whether or not the event may change.”
However, motorcycles have raced up the Peak for the last 29 years in a row. The board decision made last week will end a tradition that occurred for 30 consecutive years.
According to volunteer race officials, since the fatal motorcycle accident during this year’s event, many experts have been trying to figure how to make racing on two wheels up the fourteener safer. The press release sent out by the board stated that there will be no motorcycle racing in the 2020 Hill Climb, but that the board would reconvene before the race in 2021 to decide the future of the two-wheeled racing event.
The news was not good for many local race enthusiasts who look forward to the motorcycle racing portion of the Hill Climb every year. Even volunteers of the race, said that the news was sudden and came as a shock even to them.
“I think that it’s terrible,” said race official Frank Vayle, who has been waving the green flag at the start line during the motorcycle race for the last several years. “The racer who died (Carlin Dunne) would be heartbroken if he knew that the motorcycle racing event up Pikes Peak was cancelled due to an accident he had.”
Vayle said that they were working with experts from California and others to figure out ways to make the race safer before this sudden decision to cancel motorcycle competition was made. He said that one idea they had was to limit the motorcycles to a smaller engine size so that it would decrease the speeds racers could travel on two wheels without metal or a roll cage protecting them.
Another idea that was tossed around had the motorcycles and cars racing up the mountain on separate days.
All in all, the veteran race official hope that if they stick with the decision to cancel the motorcycle race for 2020, some sort of an agreement will occur to continue motorcycle racing in the future. He said that there are other motorcycle races such as the Ile De Man occurring every year, which experience one to three deaths per race on average. Proponents of the Hill Climb motorcycle competition note that this is a lot lower than the number of deaths that have occurred on Pikes Peak.
In the nearly 100 races up Pikes Peak over the last century, the race has only caused seven deaths.
Three of those seven died during the competition on race day, and all three of them were motorcycle racers. However, the number of deaths is a relatively small number compared to the large number of people who have raced the mountain on a motorcycle during the 41 runs over the last 100 years.
Another race official, Will Willits, who has rode a motorcycle up the mountain as a part of the sweeping team that follows the racers up the mountain, said that he hopes the motorcycle aspect of the event comes back for 2021.
“I have never raced it but I do the sweep riding now so I go as fast as I want to go,” Willits said. “Those guys (the racers) are insane. They are next level dudes.” He said that all of the two-wheel competitors realize how dangerous of a sport motorcycle racing (especially up Pikes Peak) can be.
“Motorcycle racing is dangerous no matter what,” the motorcycle mechanic and race official said. “There are cliffs everywhere and no roll cages. That road is dangerous for anyone. Carlin Dunne was a world class expert racer and even he made a mistake.”
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