Pike's Peak: What it Takes to Climb America's Mountain
This year marks the 92nd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and my 3rd year covering the event. This means that I have only seen the race ran entirely on pavement - as the dirt road at the top section of the mountain was just paved in 2012. Some may say that the race is not the same now that the entire course is paved, however I do feel that it opens the door for a wider variety of vehicles to attack the 156 turns of the 12.42 mile course. From stock cars and electric vehicles to time attack and drift cars, here's a look at some of the modifications necessary for these cars to race up the mountain.
Before strapping into a racecar, you need to have some guts. It's already nerve-wracking enough to drive at the posted speed limit above the tree line with a 12,000ft. drop outside your window, but to go all out at over 100mph requires courage, skill, and a little insanity to block any thoughts of going over the edge while being cautious of those tricky corners.
With an average grade of 7%, the course requires big power and that comes from big turbo set ups such as the one seen here on David Kern's EVO.
This Porsche 935 was one of the most beautiful cars on the mountain this year and those twin turbos don't look too bad either.
Big brake kits such as the Project Mu kit on the Evasive Motorsports FR-S provides the stopping power needed to control your speed going into the many hairpins of Pike's Peak. Notice the cooling setup to help reduce the chance of any lock up.
Along with the keeping the brakes cool, the Evasive Motorsports FR-S also has custom venting to direct air into the radiator and oil cooler as well.
Greddy Racing brought out their 2013 Formula Drift car to compete in the Time Attack class and the first thing on their modification list was to change the fuel cell to a much larger cell to make it up the mountain and back.
In addition to the larger fuel cell, a custom water sprayer set up needed be fabricated in between practices to keep things cool on the drift car as it heads up the course.
Although Pike's Peak is held in the middle of the summer, mornings on the mountain are still cold and the motorcycles are the first up the mountain. Tire warmers ensure that tire temperatures get up to speed on the cold pavement.
The quick ascent from the start line with an altitude of 9,340 ft. to the summit at 14,110 ft. can be taxing on the body and a large number of racers choose to run an oxygen supply to avoid getting altitude sickness on the way up.
The most important features on a hillclimb racecar are the aerodynamics. The wing and rear diffuser set up on Dave Carapetyan's Rally Ready EVO provides maximum downforce along with the grip of the Hoosier slicks.
Another good example of aerodynamic modifications is the large rear wing on legendary Pike's Peak racer Monster Tajima's E-Runner. Although the car ran into some trouble during the race, he still posted a 3rd place podium finish.
Sporting a different sort of rear wing setup, Mitsubishi's pair of MIEV Evolution took home the top honors in the Electric Vehicle class.
Wild front splitters like the one on this GTR are not an uncommon sight at Pike's Peak.
The same aerodynamic principles can be found on open wheel cars such as Spencer Steele's PVA Special.
While front splitters help provide downforce, they are usually a hideous necessity - however in the case of Rick Knoop's Knoop-Mann Special and Mark Rennison's RS200E below, the front end aerodynamics makes both cars look that much better on the mountain.
As with any racecar, a proper roll cage is needed to climb the mountain and increase driver safety in the event of an 'off'.
Romain Dumas of France won the 92nd running of the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb with a time of 9 minutes 5.801 seconds in his Norma M20 RD Limited.