Everything was smiles in the Ducati pit on Sunday morning. The newly unveiled Streetfighter V4 motorcycle was wheeled out of its pit stall and greeted to cheers as it lined up at the start line. Carlin Dunne had qualified the pre-production bike on pole, and being that the PPIHC motorcycle class runs from slowest to fastest, he would be the final motorcycle to start, just before the four-wheeled classes were scheduled to begin. He was the favorite to win the two-wheeled competition, and was looking good to set a new motorcycle record on his way up to the summit.
Sadly, Dunne did not make it to the top, crashing in the final of four sectors at the very top. The very fast flowing corners give way to big switchbacks as you get above the treeline, and there are some very tricky corners with absolutely zero margin for error. Dunne had run faster than ever seen before on a motorcycle in the first, second, and third sectors. Spectating at the bottom of the mountain, I waited for his fourth sector time to appear, and it never came.
According to those who were at the top of the mountain when the incident occurred, Dunne’s crash came less than a quarter of a mile from the finish line.
When Pikes Peak is delayed for more than a few minutes, you begin to fear the worst. The one-hour delay between the bikes and the cars meant that the medi-vac helicopter had to be deployed, and the race could not get back underway until the helicopter returned to the mountain. In that hour you have a lot of time to speculate and worry. It’s not a good feeling.
A statement from the organizers: “We mourn the tragic death of Carlin and he will remain in our hearts forever as part of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb family,” the release said. “Carlin will be remembered as a warm-hearted mentor with a competitive spirit. He was a gentle and thoughtful man who touched everyone who met him. We will always remember his contagious smile and genuine love for sport.”
Racing motorcycles at the hill climb has always been a dangerous endeavor, and even the most experienced and best prepared are capable of failure. My heart goes out to Mr. Dunne’s friends, family, and the entire motorcycling community.