After dealing with raging forest fires and the hottest month ever recorded in the US, Colorado has a fantastic event to celebrate things returning to normal. The 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado Springs has finally launched after being postponed from the original date of July 8. This is the second oldest race in America (after the Indianapolis 500) and attracts competitors from around the world.
There are currently eight different classes of cars and four classes of motorcycles competing. Last year, Nobuhiro Tajima became the first person to complete the 12.42 mile course in less than 10 minutes driving a heavily modified Suzuki SX4. This year, I expect to see a number of competitors breaking the 10 minute mark as this is the first year the entire track will be paved.
While I can certainly see the benefits of having the entire course paved, I feel the competition is losing a bit of its heart without the billowing clouds of dirt rolling behind the cars. I feel the same way about the use of electric cars. Sure, they provide constant torque and don’t suffer from compression issues as they gain altitude but they just don’t get my heart pounding the same way the roar of a gasoline engine does.
Fortunately, we have nine decades of amazing vehicles to look back upon that have competed in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. It’s hard not to marvel at Bill Milliken‘s 1947 run in his Bugatti Type 35. If he hadn’t crashed the car later that year at Watkins Glen (coining the name for Milliken’s Corner), it would easily command a price over a million dollars at auction, even in rough shape. With high demand of the Type 35 and very limited supply, it’s not surprising that a good reproduction will sell for over $250,000.
Move forward a few years and you’ll see the beautiful 1949 Snowberger-Offy Indianapolis “500” Roadster that never won a race but was always exciting to watch. The best finish for this car was fourth place at the 1950 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Even without a win, this car still sold for $192,500 earlier this year as part of The Milhous Collection auctioned by RM auctions.
For people that want a winner, there’s Bobby Unser’s 1962 Lotus Type 23 that set the Sport Car class record in 1964. This record still stands, but only because the class was removed after 1966 (I’m sure there have been faster sports cars and equally talented drivers). The record setting Type 23 recently changed hands for $180,000.
I will be following updates and checking out videos and photos as they are posted throughout the weekend. To keep my hands busy, I will be assembling a paper model of the Audi S1 that won the PPIHC in 1985, 1986 and 1987. You can download a copy of the car for yourself from the kind folks over at YMjr Design.