Racing is a dangerous sport, and motorcycle racing doubly so. For the last 29 years motorcycles have competed for ever more incredible record times up the hill at Pikes Peak. In fact, the very first motorcycle record up the mountain was set a few months before the race officially began (below). One would have thought motorcycles and the mountain shared an unbreakable bond. But even the strongest of bonds can be broken by fear and danger.
This may have seemed an inevitability back in 2015 when the race banned bikes with fairings, but since then the heavyweight bike class has included larger engines in ever more competent streetfighter-style frames, and the times have continued to tumble in the meantime.
With one of the best motorcycle hillclimb racers in the world, Ducati’s Carlin Dunne, dying in a tragic crash at the mountain this June, as well as further motorcycle deaths in 2015 and 2014, the board of directors in charge of the race have decided not to include motorcycles for the 2020 running of the event. It is unfortunate, from the standpoint of fans and motorcycle racers, but perhaps an inevitability of the ever increasing speeds carried by two-wheel competitors.
“Motorcycles have been a part of the PPIHC for the past 29 years, and their history on America’s Mountain dates back to the inaugural running in 1916,” said Tom Osborne, Chairman. “That said, the motorcycle program hasn’t been an annual event. They have run 41 of the 97 years we’ve been racing on Pikes Peak. It’s just time to take a hard look at every aspect of the race, including the motorcycle program, and determine whether or not the event may change,” he added.
The board says the dis-inclusion of motorcycles is currently a temporary measure for next year. Based on how things progress through the 2020 running of the hill climb, the board will make a decision late next year as to whether motorcycles will return to the hill in 2021 or the suspension extended.
It is possible that Rennie Scaysbrook’s 9:44.963 record set this year will stand indefinitely.
I somehow doubt that Dunne, the first Pikes Peak racer on two wheels to break the 10-minute barrier [lede image], would request his legacy be the cancellation of motorcycle racing on the hill. On the other hand, perhaps the bikes are getting too fast and the hill too fast to allow this madness to continue. It’s a serious consideration, and I do not envy the race board their decision.