For a few days each summer, the esteemed, placid hunk of Colorado rock known as Pikes Peak transforms into a dirt- and exhaust-enshrouded scene of motor-powered mayhem. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb challenges vehicles of all sizes, shapes and makes to tackle thin mountain air, nearly 5,000 vertical feet (1,524 meters) of ascent, and more than 150 turns and corners.
This year, a weekend packed with high-stakes drama began with drama of the highest order. The event was delayed by more than a month due to a massive wildfire that ravaged thousands of acres of national forest and hundreds of homes around Colorado Springs.
Ducati's Carlin Dunne laid claim to the fastest time ever on the mountain by a motorcycle. He won the 1205cc division with a 9-minute 52.819-second time, blowing away the 11:11.329 record he set last year. Dunne's time headlined records across nearly every motorcycle division.
The 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Romain Dumas powered his Porsche 997 GTR-3 to a world record time of 9 minutes 46.181 seconds.
As sweet as Dumas' record was, he didn't get to savor it for too long. The ink had barely dried on the first reports of the new record, when Red Bull driver Rhys Millen piloted his 700-hp Hyundai Genesis Coupe to a time of 9:46.164, shaving just milliseconds off of Dumas' time. Rhys' father Rod had held the record until 2007, and Rhys brought it back to the family with style.
Japan's Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima had won the Pikes Peak Unlimited division six straight times going into the 2012 event, so expectations were naturally high. After breaking the ten-minute barrier last year, Tajima decided to do things a little differently, competing in the Electric division. He was taken out of the race early on by a car fire in his all-new Monster Sport E-Runner Pikes Peak Special electric race car. He probably didn't have any room on his trophy shelf, anyway.
"I will be back next year. Watch out for me!" Tajima said in a statement.
The main focus may have been exhaust-coughing engines, but Fumio Nutahara made sure to tilt the spotlight toward the electric pack. He set the record for electric vehicles with a 10:15.380 time in his Toyota Motorsport EV P002.
The event wasn't all roses and records. One of the stories that crossed the threshold between auto news and general interest news was Jeremy Foley's horrifying crash. Foley and his co-driver skidded off course at the Devil's Playground section and tumbled violently down the adjacent rocky hill. They were taken to a local hospital, and news reports at the time indicated that they were shaken but OK.
A full list of division winners, times and records follows, and our photo gallery has more highlights.
Time Attack: Rhys Millen, Huntington Beach, CA – 9:46.164 (Course record)
Pikes Peak Open: Romain Dumas, Basel, Switzerland – 9:46.181 (New Record)
Open Wheel: Spencer Steele, Denver, CO – 4:13.240 (course shortened due to weather)
Super Stock Car (Modified): Layne Schranz , Birmingham, AL – 4:21.290 (course shortened due to weather)
Super Stock Car: Clint Vahsholtz, Woodland Park, CO – 4:36.870 (course shortened due to weather)
Vintage Auto RMVR: Jess Neal, Colorado Springs, CO – 12:03.858 (New RMVR Record)
Unlimited: David Donner, Colorado Springs – 10:04.652
Electric Auto: Fumio Nutahara, Hokkaido, Japan – 10:15.380 (New Record)
Exhibition: Rick Knoop, Laguna Beach, CA – 10:56.240
250cc: Jason Archuleta, Colorado Springs, CO – 11:41.015 (New Record)
450cc: Travis Newbold, Montrose, CO – 11:06.618 (New Record)
750cc: Gary Trachy, Orange, CA – 10:40.753 (New Record)
1205cc: Carlin Dunne, Santa Barbara, CA – 9:52.819 (New Motorcycle Course Record)
Quad Modified: Steve Tutt, Platte City, MO – 11:40.521 (New Record)
Sidecar: John-Thomas Wood, Victorville, CA – 11:41.406 (New Record)
Vintage: Marc LaNoue, Houston, TX – 12:39.782 (New Record)
Exhibition Powersport: Doug Siddens, Austin, TX – 10:40.669
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