Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Location Colorado Springs, Colorado USA
38°50′N 105°02′W / 38.84°N 105.04°W / 38.84; -105.04
First race 1916 (1916)
Last race 2016
Circuit information
Surface Tarmac (and historically, dirt)
Length 19.99 km (12.42 mi)
Turns 156
Lap record 8:13.878 (Sébastien Loeb, Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, 2013, Unlimited)
Randy Schranz rising above treeline at the 85th Race to the Clouds, 2007.
Monster Tajima Electric Car displayed during 2013 PPIHC Fan Fest at Colorado Springs, USA.
Sébastien Loeb's Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak in 2013
Suzuki Grand Vitara (aka. Escudo) at the 2006 Race to the Clouds

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), also known as The Race to the Clouds, is an annual automobile and motorcycle hillclimb to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado, USA. The track measures 12.42 miles (19.99 km) over 156 turns, climbing 4,720 ft (1,440 m) from the start at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway, to the finish at 14,110 ft (4,300 m), on grades averaging 7.2%.[1] It used to consist of both gravel and paved sections, however as of August 2011, the highway is fully paved and as a result all subsequent runnings will be on asphalt from start to finish.

The race is self sanctioned and has taken place since 1916.[1] It is currently contested by a variety of classes of cars, trucks, motorcycles and quads. There are often numerous new classes tried and discarded year-to-year. On average there are 130 competitors. The PPIHC operates as the Pikes Peak Auto Hill Climb Educational Museum to organize the annual motorsports event.


Early history

The first Pikes Peak Hill Climb was promoted by Spencer Penrose, who had converted the narrow carriage road into the much wider Pikes Peak Highway.

The first Penrose Trophy was awarded in 1916 to Rea Lentz with a time of 20:55.60.[2][3]

The event was part of the AAA and USAC IndyCar championship from 1946 to 1970.[4]

European involvement

In 1984 the first European racers took part in the PPIHC with Norwegian Rallycrosser Martin Schanche (Ford Escort Mk3 4x4) and French Rally driver Michèle Mouton (Audi Sport quattro), thereby starting a new era for European teams in the almost unknown American hillclimb. While Schanche failed to set a new track record, due to a flat right front tyre, Mouton (together with her World Rally Championship co-driver Fabrizia Pons from Italy) won the Open Rally category, but also failed to break the current overall track record.

In 1989, an award-winning short film about the 1988 event was released by French director Jean-Louis Mourey. The film, titled Climb Dance, captured the efforts of Finnish former World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen, as he won the event in a record-breaking time with his turbocharged Peugeot 405 Turbo-16.

Paving of the highway

The City of Colorado Springs began to pave the highway in 2002 after losing a lawsuit against the Sierra Club. The local authority paved approximately 10% of the route each year after the order. The 2011 event was the last race with dirt sections, comprising approximately 25% of the course.[5][6]

Hill Climb champion Rod Millen warned at the time that paving the road would put an end to the race.[7] However, the 2012 race saw over 170 racer registrations by December 2011, compared with 46 at the same time in 2011.[8]

Emergence of electric vehicles

The 2012 race saw numerous unusual occurrences, namely a larger field than ever before and the longest race day in the race's known history. The 2012, 90th running of the race was the first time the race has been run on all asphalt and saw the toppling of several records, notably the overall record, being set by first Romain Dumas in the Open Division only to be overturned later in the day by Rhys Millen, son of the famed Rod Millen, in the Time Attack Division. Nobuhiro Tajima, the 2011 winner and at the time overall record holder, running in the Electric Division saw a surprising upset when his car caught fire in the lower portion of the course causing a DNF. One of the unusual highlights, and proof that asphalt has changed the race; Mike Ryan spun his big rig in a hairpin in a section called the "W"s, slamming into the guard rail, he then managed to execute a three point turn and continued on course, at which point he broke his old record by 5 seconds.[9] Jeremy Foley flew off the road at Devil's Playground and totaled his Mitsubishi Lancer.[10] The race also saw the first ever motorcycle to achieve a sub 10 minute time with Carlin Dunne in the 1205 Division riding a Ducati pulling out a 9:52.819 (only a bit over a second slower than the 2011 overall record).

Due to the race's postponement, weather also caused issues. Towards the end of the raceday, freezing rain and snow closed in on the summit, causing a race stoppage and the eventual relocation of the finish line to Glen Cove.

2013 saw the nine-minute barrier shattered by WRC legend Sébastien Loeb, with a time of 8:13.878, while Rhys Millen ended up second with 9:02.192, beating his own record by more than 44 seconds.[11] Jean-Philippe Dayrault finished third with a time of 9:42.740, and Paul Dallenbach fourth with a time of 9:46.001, making it four drivers to beat the record set only the previous year.

2015 was the first time in the history of the race that an electric car won in all classes. Second place was earned by an electric car, too. Already in 2014, electric cars were at the places 2 and 3.[12][13][14] In an interview with the winning driver, Rhys Millen, he said that he had lost power to the car's rear motor pack before the halfway point, and had expected his run to be 30 seconds faster.[15]

Nobuhiro Tajima's Suzuki SX4 during his record breaking 9:51 run in 2011
Ralph Murdock breaking the vintage class modified (RMVR modified) record with a time of 12:51.004 in a 1970 Chevrolet Camaro

Current racing classes

4-Wheeled Divisions & Classes

Unlimited Division

Electric Car Division

Electric Modified Class
  • This class features the cutting edge of electric technology as it applies to racing.
Electric Production Class
  • This class features mass-produced EVs that are readily available to the public. Very few modifications are allowed

Time Attack Division

Time Attack 1 Class
  • This class features production based race vehicles with more modification and specialization than what is seen in the Time Attack 2 Class.
Time Attack 2 Production Class
  • This class features production based race vehicles with minor modifications allowed.

Pikes Peak Challenge Car Division

Open Wheel Class
  • The traditional Pikes Peak racecars with appearances ranging from Indy style sprinters to dune buggies. Open wheel cars have competed in every Pikes Peak International Hill Climb since the inaugural race in 1916.
Pikes Peak Open Class
  • These cars may look like stock cars from the outside, but major modifications can be done to their engines, transmissions and suspension.
Pikes Peak Vintage Car/Truck Class
  • This class is exclusively eligible for vehicles manufactured in 1990 or earlier and have previously competed in PPIHC. Competitors can vary from Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros, to Datsun 240Zs and Porsche 911s.
Exhibition Class
  • In keeping with the mission statement of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, specifically to “demonstrate advancements in the practical application of motor sports technology,” the race encourages competitors with vehicles that do not meet the technical specifications of PPIHC sanctioned divisions and classes to enter in the Exhibition Class. While there are no class records for this class because of its exhibition status, entries are eligible for recording an overall course record.

2-Wheeled Divisions & Classes

Pikes Peak Lightweight Division

Pikes Peak Middleweight Division

Pikes Peak Heavyweight Division (Formerly known as Pikes Peak Open Motorcycle in 2013)

Pikes Peak Electric Motorcycle Division

Electric Modified Class
  • This class features the cutting edge of electric technology as it applies to motorcycle racing.
Electric Production Class
  • This class features mass-produced EVs that are readily available to the public. Very few modifications are allowed.

Pikes Peak Challenge Motorcycle Division

Pikes Peak 250 Class
  • These machines are usually factory built for racing with two-stroke and four-stroke single or twin cylinder engines.
Quad Class
  • Essentially four-wheeled motorcycles, these machines are limited only by tread width and the use of an ATV engine of 500cc or less.
Sidecar Class
  • Three wheels, two riders (“driver” and “passenger”)
Pikes Peak Vintage Motorcycle
  • This division includes 650cc-750cc 4-stroke twin cylinder bikes that qualify for current AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) events.
UTV/Exhibition Powersport
  • This division includes Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) and other vehicles that don’t fit perfectly in other Pikes Peak Divisions. While there are no records for this class because of its exhibition status entries are eligible for recording an overall course record. [17]

Race Records

Current 4-Wheel Division & Class Records[18]
Division Class Year Name Vehicle Time
Electric Modified 2016 Rhys Millen e0 PP100 8:57.118
Production 2016 Blake Fuller Tesla Model S 11:48.264
Pikes Peak Challenge Exhibition 2015 Tetsuya Yamano Honda Electric SH-AWD with Precision All-Wheel Steer 10:23.829
Open Wheel 2015 Paul Dallenbach PVA Dallenbach Special 9:36.496
Pikes Peak Open 2012 Romain Dumas 2012 Porsche GT3 R 9:46.181
Vintage 2014 Ralf Christensson 1967 Ford Mustang GT350 10:46.000
Time Attack Time Attack 1 2013 Paul Dallenbach Hyundai Genesis Coupe 9:46.001
Time Attack 2 Production 2015 David Donner 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S 10:26.896
Unlimited 2013 Sébastien Loeb Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak 8:13.878
New Records for 2016 listed in red.
Current 2-Wheel Division & Class Records
Division Class Year Name Vehicle Time
Pikes Peak Lightweight 2015 Codie Vahsholtz 2006 KTM SMR 10:50.421
Pikes Peak Middleweight 2014 Eric Piscione 2013 Ducati Streetfighter 10:46.159
Pikes Peak Heavyweight (Open) 2014 Jeremy Toye 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R 9:58.687
Electric Motorcycle Modified 2013 Carlin Dunne 2013 Lightning Motorcycle LS-218 electric Superbike 10:00.694
Production 2014 Jeff Clark 2013 Zero FX 11:59.814
Pikes Peak Challenge Motorcycle Exhibition Powersport 2016 Jeremy Toye 2016 Victory Project 156 10:19.777
Pikes Peak 250cc 2013 Codie Vahsholtz 1996 Kawasaki KX 250 11:24.792
Quad 2016 Cyril Combes 2011 Suzuki KTM JF Prototype 11:05.664
Sidecar 2016 John Wood 1999 Shelbourne Superlite F2 11:26.644
Vintage 2012 Marc LaNoue 1969 Triumph Bonneville 12:39.782
New Records for 2016 listed in red.


Ari Vatanen's 1988 Peugeot 405 T16
Rod Millen's Pikes Peak Toyota Tacoma

Unlimited Class

1981United States Bud HoffpauirWells Coyote Special Roadster13:10.100
1982United States John BuffumAudi Quattro12:20.520
1983United States John BuffumAudi Quattro12:27.910
1984France Michèle MoutonAudi Sport Quattro S112:10.380
1985France Michèle MoutonAudi Sport Quattro E211:25.390
1986United States Bobby UnserAudi Sport Quattro E211:09.220
1987Germany Walter RöhrlAudi Sport Quattro E210:47.850
1988Finland Ari VatanenPeugeot 405 Turbo 1610:47.220
1989United States Robby UnserPeugeot 405 Turbo 1610:48.340
1992Japan Nobuhiro TajimaSuzuki Swift12:51.630
1993Japan Nobuhiro TajimaSuzuki Swift10:44.220
1994New Zealand Rod MillenToyota Celica AWD Turbo10:04.060
1995Japan Nobuhiro TajimaSuzuki Escudo7:53.000*
1996New Zealand Rod MillenToyota Celica10:13.640
1997New Zealand Rod MillenToyota Celica10:04.540
1998New Zealand Rod MillenToyota Tacoma10:07.700
1999New Zealand Rod MillenToyota Tacoma10:11.150
2000Sweden Per EklundSaab 9-311:21.580
2001Japan Yutaka AwazuharaSuzuki Vitara11:01.770
2002Sweden Per EklundSaab 9-311:13.200
2004Sweden Stig BlomqvistFord RS200E5:16.800*
2005Japan Koichi HoriuchiMitsubishi FTO11:34.570
2006Japan Nobuhiro TajimaSuzuki Sport7:38.900*
2007Japan Nobuhiro TajimaSuzuki XL710:01.408
2008Japan Nobuhiro TajimaSuzuki Sport Co. Ltd. XL710:18.250
2009Japan Nobuhiro TajimaSuzuki SX410:15.368
2010Japan Nobuhiro TajimaSuzuki SX410:11.490
2011Japan Nobuhiro TajimaSuzuki SX49:51.278
2012United States David DonnerPalatov D4PPS10:04.652
2013France Sébastien LoebPeugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak8:13.878
2014France Romain DumasNorma M20 RD9:05.801
2015Germany Dominic DobsonRadical SR810:15.289
2016France Romain DumasNorma M20 RD8:51.445

*Course shortened

AAA/USAC IndyCar championship years (1946–1970)

Year Driver
1970 United States Ted Foltz
1969 United States Mario Andretti
1968 United States Bobby Unser
1967 United States Wes Vandervoort
1966 United States Bobby Unser
1965 United States Al Unser
1964 United States Al Unser
1963 United States Bobby Unser
1962 United States Bobby Unser
1961 United States Bobby Unser
1960 United States Bobby Unser
1959 United States Bobby Unser
1958 United States Bobby Unser
1957 United States Bob Finney
1956 United States Bobby Unser
1955 United States Bob Finney
1954 United States Keith Andrews
1953 United States Louis Unser
1952 United States George Hammond
1951 United States Al Rogers
1950 United States Al Rogers
1949 United States Al Rogers
1948 United States Al Rogers
1947 United States Louis Unser
1946 United States Louis Unser

See also


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