Race to the Clouds at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

admin February 11, 2011 0

Pikes Peak is sometimes called “America’s Mountain”. Each year, this iconic mountain inspires thousands of people to reach its magnificent summit and enjoy the beauty of its scenic panoramas. Many choose to drive up the Pikes Peak Highway, a twisting road which escalates the rolling slopes of the mountain.

But the road to the summit has a different destination also. Every year, usually during early summer, the quiet peace of the Rockies is torn by the roaring engines of powerful rally cars. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of the best known motorsports events in the United States, and at the same time, one of the oldest. Its glorious history spans on over 90 years, being first held in 1916.

The founder of the rally was Colorado Springs businessman and philanthropist Spencer Penrose. In 1915, he completed a gravel road which climbed the Pikes Peak. Recognizing the touristic potential of Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas, he decided to organize a motorsports event, to better promote the newly opened road to the summit. He invited top drivers of automobiles and motorcycles to compete in a grueling course to the top of the mountain.

Interestingly, the course and the race format of the Pikes Peak Rally didn’t change significantly in its nine decades of existence. Drivers still race up the mountain following a challenging 12.42 miles road, made of dirt, gravel and some paved portions, like they did in 1916. The course features a whopping 156 turns, which take the drivers on a 4,721 climb from the foothills of the mountain to the peak at an altitude of 14,110 feet.

Adding to the difficulty of this grueling course, the weather often plays tricks on the contestants. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is notorious in the motorsports competition world for being extremely unpredictable. Drivers often start the race in clear weather and encounter rain, thunderstorms or even blinding snowfalls as they ascend Pikes Peak. For this reason, the pilots need to be permanently on their toes and be prepared for anything the nature has to throw at them.

Each year more than 150 contestants enter the competition, in various classes. The number and type of vehicles which enter the competition is one of the things which change from year to year. From electric vehicles and small cars like Minis and Beetles to supercharged monsters, harnessing more than 1,000 hp, the Pikes Peak Rally is an open competition. Motorcycles, quads and trucks also take part in the challenge in their own classes. The current record of the track is hold by a Japanese pilot who got tantalizing close to beating the illusive 10 minutes mark.

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a world class event which draws the best pilots in motorsports. Thousands of spectators gather each year in Colorado Springs to witness their amazing performances. Tourists coming to the event often admire the other attractions of the Colorado Springs area as well as the natural beauties of the great Centennial State.

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