What Is Pikes Peak Hill Climb and How Can I See It?

100th Running of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb takes place this Sunday, June 26. Drivers of all types of wheeled vehicles will take their turns climbing the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado, trying to break the current record held by Volkswagen and its electricians. ID R Pikes Peak Racer from 2018.

The course is 12.42 miles long and begins at Mile 7 on the Pikes Peak Highway and rises approximately 5,000 feet. The hill climb used to feature both paved and gravel surfaces, making the drive more versatile, but since 2011 the entire route has been paved. It has an average grade of 7.2 degrees.

The event has been held since 1916, missing a few years between World War I and World War II. It is hosted and organized by the Pikes Peak Auto Hill Climb Museum.

There are several divisions of vehicles that race, each competing against its class, but also going for an overall victory, which usually comes from the fastest Unlimited class.

Jeff Zwart, #111 Porsche GT3 Cup driver, practices for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images


The first event was promoted by Spencer Penrose, who changed the carriage road to the much wider Pikes Peak Highway. Penrose made his money in mining and betting in the American West, settling on Colorado Springs. Penrose also opened a resort called The Broadmoor, a venue that served drinks in a notoriously arid county.

The Penrose Trophy was awarded to the fastest driver for the first few years. It went to Otto Loesche twice with Ree Lentz, King Riley, Noel Bullock and Glenn Schultz in 1916 with a time of 20 minutes, 55.6 seconds before being eliminated after the 1924 race.

Pikes Peak Open Wheel
Ikuo Hanawa from Japan, driver of the #8 Summit HER-02, practices for Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images


There are six divisions for Pikes Peak racers which include Unlimited, Time Attack 1, Porsche Pikes Peak Trophy by Yokohama, Open Wheel, Pikes Peak Open and Exhibition.

The unlimited class is for any vehicle as long as it passes a safety inspection and meets the general rules of the PPIHC. It has the most attractive vehicles, which are built to race.

Time Attack 1 is meant for production based two and four wheel drive vehicles. However, only closed cockpit four wheelers are allowed. Pikes Peak Open is also for production vehicles, but with unlimited permitted modifications.

The Porsche Pikes Peak Trophy by Yokohama made its debut in 2018 and features the only Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport among its four variants, including Clubsport, Clubsport Trophy Specification, Clubsport MR, and Clubsport 2017 IMSA GS.

Open wheel stands for traditional single-seat race cars ranging from old IndyCar styles to dune buggies. Classes have been going on since the first year of the incident. The exhibition class lives up to the spirit of the event, “demonstrating advances in the practical application of motorsports technology.”

Pikes Peak Hill Climb
Romain Dumas of France, driver of the #911 Norma Norma M20FCPP, practices for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

special cars

The event always featured a few special cars, sometimes prototypes, other times limited editions. The current record holder VW ID R is an electric prototype with bodywork built for ultrafast single laps. It set the overall record in 2018 with a time of 7 minutes, 57.148 seconds. IDR also holds the record in Goodwood Hill Climb.

Last year a somewhat modified version of the Tesla Model S Plaid went up the hill. This year Nissan is bringing out an electric Leaf built for the track and Porsche has a special 911 Turbo S looking to capture the production car record.

Pikes Peak Open Class
#34 Mitsubishi MIEV Evolution II driver Greg Tracy climbs a mountain during the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

weather and terrain

Because Pikes Peak rises several miles above sea level, temperature and weather play a big factor in the race. Last year, a third of the top of the mountain was closed due to snow. When this happens the winner is the one who completes the open parts the fastest.

Cold pavement also reacts differently to tires than warm pavement, which has to be adjusted for different pressures. Sometimes rain and sometimes fog.

Pikes Peak Winner
Sebastian Loeb of France, driver of the #208 Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, crosses the finish line setting a record time of 8:13.878 during the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images


Of the 99 events run so far, there have been seven fatalities during Pikes Peak competition. Four of them happened on motorcycles most recently in 2019 when rider Carlin Dunne went off the road in the final section. Two years later, two-wheelers were banned from the event.

A driver was killed in practice in 1921. Ralph Chandler Bruning Jr. was killed when he went off the road at 80 mph and collided with a tree in 2001. Pikes Peak officer Henry J. Bresciani was killed during practice in 2005.

There are at least three such places where there is no railing on the outside. Pikes Peak ace and former champion Jeff Zwart calls it “the only surviving racetrack”.

Pikes Peak Sidecar
Japanese rider Masahito Watanabe and his partner cross the finish line at the summit of Pikes Peak Mountain during the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Joe Klamer/AFP via Getty Images

how to see

Tickets for the event have been sold out but no 100 . can seeth Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for free on the Mobil 1 Facebook page. The official climb begins at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time or 11:30 a.m.

If you can’t get it there, Colorado Springs news station KRDO will broadcast it over the radio and online on its website.

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