Spectating at Pikes Peak is NOT for everyone. It is a full commitment sort of thing. You need to know when you leave your house at 1 am that you will not be getting home anytime soon. You will be sleeping in your car, you will be eating whatever you brought with you and you will be dealing with the elements with whatever you are prepared with. You need to be ready to be isolated to one place on a mountain side for a solid 12 hours.
At 2:45 am we rolled up to the line of cars that had already formed at the Pikes Peak Highway gate. We were about a mile back fromt the gate and we were ready, sleep was tough to come by even at this hour…so we waited…we chatted and we watched the row of racecars that drove up the access lane. At 4 am the gates opened and we followed the twisty road up and up the mountain. It is fun driving up there at night because you can see the headlights of the cars ahead of you traversing the road thousands of feet above and below you.
We arrived at our destination, 12,760 feet above sea level, Devils Playground. We parked the car and attempted to sleep. Anticipation is the key problem to sleeping however, so sleep was light and strange. Dreams mixed with reality and eventually we awoke to see the sun shining, it was 7am, 2 more hours.
We prepared for the day, a light hike to about 13,300 ft to see Boulder Park, then we would slowly make our way back to Devils playground.
Cars were on their way when we arrived in Boulder Park. Actually they were on their way, completely out of order. We were fortunate to have arrived prior to the Unlimited classes departure however, so we got to see them speed past at unimaginable speeds through corners and at the edge of clifs on the way up to 14,000 ft.
We began heading back along the road in order to take advantage of a few shooting locations, but the weather began to turn, so we started making quicker time back to the safety of the car. We spend some time using the cars shelter, then time out on the course watching and spectating the race. Rain came, lightning, hail, sleet and sun… Temperatures fluctuated from cold to hot in an instant and the road’s personality was revealed. I don’t think the mountain wanted to be beaten that day. 10:15 was the fastest time, posted by Monster Tajima. Marcus Gronholm crossed the line about a minute slower, with a blown turbo and a rear wheel/tire/brake on fire. Eriksson crashed at Engineers corner, which is a popular crash location and Mark Rennison posted a mediocre time because of engine trouble.
Dave and Allison Kern were looking amazing all week during practice…however their car just sounded a bit different during the race. They posted a time of 12:15 (approximately) and I came to find out that they lost an intercooler line at the start line. They went from 30lbs of boost to 4-8lbs in an instant. The power loss was dramatic but they were able to capture 2nd place even with this loss! Imagine what they will be capable of with all their horsepower available.
I am already looking forward to next year. I have my fingers crossed that Gronholm and Eriksson will return ready to take on the mountain with a bit more experience under their belts. I hope to see Rennison return, maybe with a more reliable motor and I hope to see the Dave and Allison Kern return with their motor in full working order too.
Pikes Peak is an amazing race, there is no other event that I am aware of that puts the spectators so close to the race, the drivers, the cars and the course. The history of the mountain is a great thing. I look forward to seeing it again… and if you are an event organizer reading this, drop me a line, i’d love to help you make this race even bigger and better than it is already.