The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), also known as The Race to the Clouds, is an annual automobile and motorcycle hillclimb to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado, USA.
The track measures 12.42 miles (19.99 km) over 156 turns, climbing 4,720 ft (1,440 m) from the start at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway, to the finish at 14,110 ft (4,300 m), on grades averaging 7.2%. It used to consist of both gravel and paved sections, however as of August 2011, the highway is fully paved and as a result all subsequent runnings will be on asphalt from start to finish.
The race is self sanctioned and has taken place since 1916. It is currently contested by a variety of classes of cars, trucks, motorcycles and quads. There are often numerous new classes tried and discarded year-to-year. On average there are 130 competitors. The PPIHC operates as the Pikes Peak Auto Hill Climb Educational Museum to organize the annual motorsports event.
The first Pikes Peak Hill Climb was promoted by Spencer Penrose, who had converted the narrow carriage road into the much wider Pikes Peak Highway.
The first Penrose Trophy was awarded in 1916 to Rea Lentz with a time of 20:55.60.
The event was part of the AAA and USAC IndyCar championship from 1946 to 1970.
In 1984 the first European racers took part in the PPIHC with Norwegian Rallycrosser Martin Schanche (Ford Escort Mk3 4x4) and French Rally driver Michèle Mouton (Audi Sport quattro), thereby starting a new era for European teams in the almost unknown American hillclimb. While Schanche failed to set a new track record, due to a flat right front tyre, Mouton (together with her World Rally Championship co-driver Fabrizia Pons from Italy) won the Open Rally category, but also failed to break the current overall track record.
In 1989, an award-winning short film about the 1988 event was released by French director Jean-Louis Mourey. The film, titled Climb Dance, captured the efforts of Finnish former World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen, as he won the event in a record-breaking time with his turbocharged Peugeot 405 Turbo-16.
Paving of the highway
The City of Colorado Springs began to pave the highway in 2002 after losing a lawsuit against the Sierra Club. The local authority paved approximately 10% of the route each year after the order. The 2011 event was the last race with dirt sections, comprising approximately 25% of the course.
Hill Climb champion Rod Millen warned at the time that paving the road would put an end to the race. However, the 2012 race saw over 170 racer registrations by December 2011, compared with 46 at the same time in 2011.
Emergence of electric vehicles
The 2012 race saw numerous unusual occurrences, namely a larger field than ever before and the longest race day in the race's known history. The 2012, 90th running of the race was the first time the race has been run on all asphalt and saw the toppling of several records, notably the overall record, being set by first Romain Dumas in the Open Division only to be overturned later in the day by Rhys Millen, son of the famed Rod Millen, in the Time Attack Division. Nobuhiro Tajima, the 2011 winner and at the time overall record holder, running in the Electric Division saw a surprising upset when his car caught fire in the lower portion of the course causing a DNF. One of the unusual highlights, and proof that asphalt has changed the race; Mike Ryan spun his big rig in a hairpin in a section called the "W"s, slamming into the guard rail, he then managed to execute a three point turn and continued on course, at which point he broke his old record by 5 seconds. Jeremy Foley flew off the road at Devil's Playground and totaled his Mitsubishi Lancer. The race also saw the first ever motorcycle to achieve a sub 10 minute time with Carlin Dunne in the 1205 Division riding a Ducati pulling out a 9:52.819 (only a bit over a second slower than the 2011 overall record).
Due to the race's postponement, weather also caused issues. Towards the end of the raceday, freezing rain and snow closed in on the summit, causing a race stoppage and the eventual relocation of the finish line to Glen Cove.
2013 saw the nine-minute barrier shattered by WRC legend Sébastien Loeb, with a time of 8:13.878, while Rhys Millen ended up second with 9:02.192, beating his own record by more than 44 seconds. Jean-Philippe Dayrault finished third with a time of 9:42.740, and Paul Dallenbach fourth with a time of 9:46.001, making it four drivers to beat the record set only the previous year.
2015 was the first time in the history of the race that an electric car won in all classes. Second place was earned by an electric car, too. Already in 2014, electric cars were at the places 2 and 3. In an interview with the winning driver, Rhys Millen, he said that he had lost power to the car's rear motor pack before the halfway point, and had expected his run to be 30 seconds faster.
Current racing classes
4-Wheeled Divisions & Classes
- Anything goes in the Unlimited Division as long as it passes safety inspection and meets the PPIHC’s general rules. The Unlimited Division features the most exotic vehicles, most of them built specifically for this race. These race cars have the best chance of setting a new overall race record. In 2013, Sébastien Loeb set a new record of 8'13"878 in a Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, beating Rhys Millen's previous record.
Electric Car Division
- The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb recognizes the future of electric technology in the automotive industry and Pikes Peak as the ultimate proving ground to test and display it. While internal combustion engines gradually lose power as they near the Summit due to the lack of oxygen at high altitudes, these EV (Electric Vehicles) racers maintain the same amount of power at 14,115 feet as they do at sea-level. In an effort to allow EV constructors to showcase the engineering excellence of these truly unique vehicles there are 2 classes within the Electric Division.
Electric Modified Class
- This class features the cutting edge of electric technology as it applies to racing.
Electric Production Class
- This class features mass-produced EVs that are readily available to the public. Very few modifications are allowed
Time Attack Division
- A division for production based two and four wheel drive vehicles; this division features the Time Attack 1 Class and Time Attack 2 Production Class. Eligibility is restricted to close-bodied four-wheeled vehicles.
Time Attack 1 Class
- This class features production based race vehicles with more modification and specialization than what is seen in the Time Attack 2 Class.
Time Attack 2 Production Class
- This class features production based race vehicles with minor modifications allowed.
Pikes Peak Challenge Car Division
- Established is 2014, the Pikes Peak Challenge Division encompasses a wide variety of class options.
Open Wheel Class
- The traditional Pikes Peak racecars with appearances ranging from Indy style sprinters to dune buggies. Open wheel cars have competed in every Pikes Peak International Hill Climb since the inaugural race in 1916.
Pikes Peak Open Class
- These cars may look like stock cars from the outside, but major modifications can be done to their engines, transmissions and suspension.
Pikes Peak Vintage Car/Truck Class
- These vintage race cars make us remember back to the glory days of Pikes Peak with cars like; Mustang, Cobra, Mercury and Lincoln too. Vehicles manufactured in 1990 or earlier that have previously raced Pikes Peak are eligible for this class.
- In keeping with the mission statement of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, specifically to “demonstrate advancements in the practical application of motor sports technology,” the race encourages competitors with vehicles that do not meet the technical specifications of PPIHC sanctioned divisions and classes to enter in the Exhibition Class. While there are no class records for this class because of its exhibition status, entries are eligible for recording an overall course record.
2-Wheeled Divisions & Classes
Pikes Peak Lightweight Division
- Two-stroke and four-stroke engines are eligible. Single and twin-cylinder engines are allowed.
Pikes Peak Middleweight Division
- Competitors are eligible to enter bikes with 1-4 cylinders and a displacement of up to 849cc.
Pikes Peak Heavyweight Division (Formerly known as Pikes Peak Open Motorcycle in 2013)
- This is the top motorcycle division offered at Pikes Peak.
Pikes Peak Electric Motorcycle Division
- There are 2 classes within the Pikes Peak Electric Motorcycle Division.
Electric Modified Class
- This class features the cutting edge of electric technology as it applies to motorcycle racing.
Electric Production Class
- This class features mass-produced EVs that are readily available to the public. Very few modifications are allowed.
Pikes Peak Challenge Motorcycle Division
- Established is 2014, the Pikes Peak Challenge Motorcycle Division encompasses a wide variety of class options.
Pikes Peak 250 Class
- These machines are usually factory built for racing with two-stroke and four-stroke single or twin cylinder engines.
- Essentially four-wheeled motorcycles, these machines are limited only by tread width and the use of an ATV engine of 500cc or less.
- Three wheels, two riders (“driver” and “passenger”)
Pikes Peak Vintage Motorcycle
- This division includes 650cc-750cc 4-stroke twin cylinder bikes that qualify for current AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) events.
- This division includes Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) and other vehicles that don’t fit perfectly in other Pikes Peak Divisions. While there are no records for this class because of its exhibition status entries are eligible for recording an overall course record.