Following the 2019 death of Ducati rider Carlin Dunne (above) the Pikes Peak organizers decided to ban motorcycles from competing at the mountain. In spite of motorcycles having been raced on the mountain off and on for over one hundred years, and that motorcycles made up over one third of entries, the organizers had decided that the speed of motorcycles and the condition of the mountain were becoming incompatible. PPIHC organizers decided to test the event without bikes in 2020 and 2021 to see if it could still be run sustainably without two wheeled competition. As it turns out, it can.
On Wednesday an official statement was made:
“Motorcycle competition has been part of the history of the race off-and-on since 1916, and has been both thrilling and tragic for competitors and fans alike,” explained Fred Veitch, Interim Chairman of the Board. “This has been a long process and a difficult decision, but we believe it is the right decision and one that is in the best interest of the organization at this time.”
The press release went on to say that the board of directors had conducted two years of research, and deliberated with the advice from colleagues in the motorsport industry to come to their decision.
I am as dismayed as anyone to see the death of a pillar of the two-wheel racing community, and Carlin’s death rocked the bike world. It does, however, seem at least a little disrespectful to his memory to discontinue the sport he loved so much from the race that dominated his life. Even Dunne’s own mother, Romie Gallardo said, “Carlin loved the mountain. She challenged and enticed him, calling him back again and again. He gave her due respect. He was fully aware of her ability to take.”
There is an inherent danger to riding motorcycles, and there is nowhere more indicative of that than racing. Every rider knows that every ride could be their last, and nowhere is that more true than tackling Pikes Peak. Hell, that shit is dangerous in cars. Rather than try to legislate a slower and safer bike for the mountain, they just decided to throw it all away.
There are many ways they could have done this. The mountain already outright banned sport bikes with fairings, so there is some precedence to erring on the side of safety. The organizers could have disallowed any bike over 600 ccs. They could have banned slicks. Hell, they could have mandated dirt bikes with plenty of suspension to soak up the mountain’s bumps. There are so many ways they could have gone without an outright ban.
In any case, there won’t be motorcycles racing at Pikes Peak in the future, and that makes me pretty sad.