First run in 1916, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the oldest motorsport events in the world. The 12.42-mile-long climb to the summit is famous for its difficulty and danger. While the entire course has been paved for over a decade now, the 156-turn ascent is still as treacherous as it was over a century ago. However, Pikes Peak as an event has lost some of its cachet in automotive culture over the years relative to motorsport’s other prestige events, like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.
This year, organizers of the renowned hill climb event have started conducting sanctioned closed-course sessions for automakers outside of the traditional Race to the Clouds competition. This new testing program will give manufacturers more opportunities to push their machinery to the limit throughout the year.
Fred Veitch, Board Chairman for the PPIHC, said:
“Like the Nürburgring and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 12.42-mile course on Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain has become a legendary and iconic racing venue. Unlike those courses, it is used only one day each year for the Race to the Clouds. With increasing interest from vehicle manufacturers to prove their racing technology, we have designed a program to facilitate private testing on the mountain, outside of race day, to obtain a Certified Course Time sanctioned by the PPIHC. We’re witnessing excitement from a range of manufacturers, drivers and race teams interested in putting their vehicle to the test.”
There have already been two notable Certified Course Times up Pikes Peak since the 100th running of the Race to the Cloud earlier this year. In July, Simone Faggioli drove a Lamborghini Urus Performante up the hill climb in 10 minutes, 32.064 seconds. In September, David Donner drove the 000 “Triple Zero” Porsche 911 Turbo S to the summit in 9 minutes, 53.541 seconds. Both times were faster than the current Production SUV and Time Attack 2 Production category records, both set by Rhys Millen. However, neither the course time set by the Urus nor the 911 Turbo S will go into the record book.
Veitch clarified that the hill climb’s official records can only be broken during the annual Race to the Clouds, no matter how fast how anyone runs up Pikes Peak during a closed-course session. He said, “The times captured during these sessions are not race records, and do not replace any existing PPIHC records which reflect times set during the event, but they do offer the ability for teams to clock a Certified Course Time, meaning – same race course, but under different conditions, performed on a pre-selected day.”
It’s clear that the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb want their Certified Course Times to slip its way into common automotive discussion like official Nürburgring lap times. Ideally, it would like to see automakers market their vehicles as being tested on Pikes Peak. For the iconic hill climb, that kind of promotion would allow Pikes Peak to occupy a more prominent place in the automotive world. Will it actually work? I don’t know.