While it is tempting to compare these times to the current race day records, they are two separate data sets. Rhys Millen behind the wheel of the Bentley Bentayga in 2018 and a Bentley Continental GT in 2019 still holds race records for the Production SUV and Time Attack 2 Production categories – both marks have yet to be bested in competition. Race day records stand alone. “The times captured during these sessions are not race records, and do not replace any existing PPIHC records which reflect times set during the event,” continued Veitch, “but they do offer the ability for teams to clock a Certified Course Time, meaning – same race course, but under different conditions, performed on a pre-selected day.”
PIKES PEAK AS A PROVING GROUND
Testing on Pikes Peak is nothing new. In the mid-1930s Chevrolet sought to prove their heavy-duty truck’s endurance over a two-day sanctioned session with former PPIHC champion, W. P. “Wild Bill” Bentrup behind the wheel. The fascination with Pikes Peak as a proving ground for tires also began in the 1930s when Louis Unser captured his first five wins on Firestone Tires. In the 1960s, BF Goodrich, developer of the go-to tire for decades – the “Pikes Peak Special” and Gates Tires, sported by everything from dune buggies to sports cars to stock cars, were eager to test their tire compounds, tread patterns and grip.
Oldsmobile’s front-wheel-drive Toronado arrived from Lansing, Michigan in 1966 to challenge the 156 turns and convince the motoring public of its viability, doing so in spectacular fashion with Bobby Unser behind the wheel. Similar efforts by Dodge and Jeep followed in the 1990s. An autonomous Audi made a historic series of test runs in 2010. When luxury SUVs became popular, and competition was fierce in the market, Paul Dallenbach, a champion on Pikes Peak, piloted a 2014 Range Rover Sport to the summit during a closed-course session. Then, as now, marketing campaigns, product rollouts and news headlines were driven by successes and triumphs on Pikes Peak.
Within the past ten years, Peugeot and Volkswagen have invested millions to build, test, tune and race, purpose-built vehicles, garnering prestigious wins and course records with Sebastien Loeb and Romain Dumas piloting their entries. Dumas currently holds the race day course record of 7 minutes, 57.148 seconds, set in 2018.
CERTIFIED COURSE TIME PROGRAM
With the advent of this formal testing program both before and after the annual Race to the Clouds, the question remains. Will we see any of these racers back on Pikes Peak next June 25 now that they’ve proven they have what it takes to challenge the mountain? Stay tuned.
ABOUT THE PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL HILL CLIMB
First staged in 1916, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the second oldest race in America. The invitation-only event, often referred to as The Race to the Clouds is held annually on the last Sunday of June on Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. The famous 12.42-mile (20 km) course consists of 156 turns, boasts an elevation gain of 4,725 feet (1,440 m), and reaches a finish line at 14,115 feet (4,302 m) above sea level. The PPIHC’s six race divisions feature a wide variety of vehicles – from production-based Time Attack challengers to purpose-built Open Wheel racers and state-of-the-art Unlimited vehicles. The current race record was set in 2018 by Romain Dumas and Volkswagen in the all-electric I.D. R Pikes Peak – 07:57.148.