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Pikes Peak Hill Climb Postponed Because of Forest Fire

America's second-oldest continuously run motorsports event takes a momentary breather.

By Sam Smith Jun 29, 2012 4:33AM
Pikes Peak International Hillclimb.The 2012 running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has been indefinitely postponed due to a forest fire near Colorado Springs. The race, the second-oldest continuously run motorsports event in the United States, is an annual car and motorcycle hill climb on the 19-mile Pikes Peak Highway

The hill climb has always fascinated me. First off, almost anyone can enter. It's arguably the last balls-out pro motorsports event where average citizens can just show up and enter. Up until last year, the highway was at least partly dirt, making it very treacherous but  thoroughly awesome. Major manufacturers commit hundreds of thousands of dollars to the event by sponsoring cars, backing drivers and so on. Average speeds are insanely high, and deaths are not uncommon. Amateurs race alongside paid professionals -- and they occasionally win.

It does not get more old-school than this. Pikes makes the Indy 500 look like a demolition derby held in someone's bathtub, and yet it's almost entirely ignored by the international press. Still, I'm glad that it's been postponed.
Pikes Peak International Hillclimb.
According to a recent press release, the hill climb organizers postponed the race not for safety reasons, but out of concern for Colorado Springs. The event borrows safety and crowd-control officials from the city, and since half of Colorado is on fire, the city needs every last public servant it can get. 

I've never been to Pikes -- either the race or the hill itself, which is a public highway most of the year. But I've always wanted to go. I realize this is somewhat lame. One particularly well-known friend of mine has competed in it, albeit with varying levels of success. Last year, he drove off the hill and kinda-sorta-maybe almost died, a moment that provided the image below. He's told me about the event more times than I can count. It kills me that I'm missing it, again, this year. It kills me that I missed it last year, the final year they ran the event on the part-dirt, part-asphalt (just 30 percent dirt) highway before a Sierra Club lawsuit resulted in the paving of the whole thing.

Pikes Peak International Hillclimb.
About that paving: A recent piece on The New York Times' Wheels Blog contained the following. It's from an interview with Walter Röhrl, the race's dirt/gravel record-holder:

Asked his thoughts on the changes to the road surface, Röhrl said the race had lost its mystique. “The special thing of Pikes Peak was that it was on gravel,” he said. “There are hundreds of tarmac hill climbs in Europe. The big point is gone.”

Perhaps. Few people are better equipped to have that opinion, that's for sure. At the same time, the race holds a certain mystique. It's the only truly big-league hill climb left in North America. The friend of mine who went and crashed last year did so because his navigator miscalled a turn; both men were scared out of their wits when the car went off, but both have also said they can't wait to go back. 

There are rumors that the race won't last much longer. People say that, fully paved, Pikes is going to be too fast -- too deadly. People will take too many chances. Maybe. I hope it lasts, if only for one more year. It kills me that I couldn't make it this year, even postponed. I'm going. Soon. 

[Source: PPIHC via Autoblog]
1Comment
Jun 29, 2012 5:28AM
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With all the fires we have going in colorado it no wonder they canceled this. This is the worst fire season in colorado history.
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