The 2020 Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was always going to be an interesting event unlike any other in the race’s history. Starting with last year’s decision to no longer run motorcycles following the death of star rider Carlin Dune, the race was already in historically uncharted waters. Then came the virus and the announced postponement of the 2020 race originally scheduled to run at the end of June.
With the race in limbo and most of the European competitors unable to attend due to various lockdowns, things were not looking good for this year’s race to go on. However, never underestimate race director Megan Leatham and her crew. A group of people who are able to put on a race with cars going 150 mph on the side of a mountain with 1,000′ drop-offs is not going to let a little thing like a global pandemic stop them. On June 18 competitors got the news that the race would indeed go ahead but on a later date August 30 and, more importantly for us, without spectators.
This was hard news for many competitors (myself included) to hear. The diehard spectators that attend the hillclimb are some of the best spectators anywhere in the world. Many camping overnight and enduring the often harsh weather that the mountain regularly brings, to watch 100 of the dumbest people on the planet race flat out up the highest paved road in North America. The reward for these fans’ perseverance? A chance to line the roadway and high five every driver as we make the parade down from the summit after the last car has run.
Nonetheless, the show must go on and go on it will. Here are several storylines to look out for in this Sunday’s race.
One of my big stories for everyone to follow this week was to be the Tesla invasion led by Randy Pobst driving the wicked fast Unplugged Model 3. Randy had been quick in qualifying (the mountain is divided into three sections and groups run one section each day. Qualifying is held on the lower section. No one runs the entire course until race day) However fate struck Unplugged’s Model 3 on it’s first to run on the Upper section. Coming into the most accurately descriptive name for a corner, Bottomless Pit—named for the 1,200’ vertical drop just the other side of it—Randy hit a large bump in the brake zone which catapulted his EV through the air and into the low brick wall that separates the guys who get it wrong from certain death. Fortunately, that wall did its job and Randy walked away from the crash unscathed.
A second Model 3 driven by Joshua Allen met a similar fate in Qualifying on Tuesday going off at Engineers corner a sharp left-hand hairpin that follows a series of fast sweeping corners. It’s a coroner that has caught out vet and rookie alike. Joshua suffered some fractures during the crash but is said to be recovering. However that—combined with Randy’s off—means that there is just one Tesla remaining in the race. The lone Tesla is helmed by Blake Fuller, the first driver to race a Tesla to the top of the mountain in 2016.
The last incident so far this week (and hopefully the last) belonged to Don Wickstrum, affectionately known as Pastor Don ‘The fastest Pastor”. Don lost the rear of his Porsche in the fast left hand, Sump Corner, and flew off the road and into the lakebed (which coincidentally is the same dry lakebed where Randy went off in a Nissan GT-R a few years back). Don seems to have made it through with no major broken bones or internal injuries. Apparently being a Pastor has it’s perks as someone was definitely looking out for him on this one.
Moving on from that drama to one of the great features of the hillclimb every year and that is the lineup of insanely cool cars that show up to take on the mountain. This year that lineup is lead by Porsche, with a legendary group of cars piloted by an equally legendary group of drivers. Starting with Pikes Peak legend and automotive commercial director Jeff Zwart, driving the new $850,000 Porsche 935. Honestly, with acres and acres of long-tail carbon fiber, it’s one of the more stunningly beautiful racecars Porsche has put out in decades and it sounds spectacular heading up the mountain. Jeff has had eight different class wins at Pikes Peak behind the wheel of a Porsche so you can never count him out.
Next in Porsche’s all-star lineup are a pair of GT2RS Clubsports driven by a pair of Davids—Donohue and Donner. Both drivers have a lot of family and personal success in motorsports. Donohue has been leading the Porsche parade with some seriously stunning times throughout practice and looks to be the odds on favorite to take the Time Attack 1 class and possibly be competitive in the fight for overall honors. However, Donner is not that far off and look for the wily veteran to step up the fight come race day.
Continuing the Porsche parade is a fleet of GT4 Caymans that runs in their own spec Cayman GT4 class. Several Porsche hot shoes are behind the wheel of these factory-built racecars lead by Nitro Circus’ Blake “Bilko” Williams. Pikes Peak seems custom-built for these nutters from Nitro. The Nitro crew has been lead for the past few years by Travis Pastrana (who could not attend this year) a guy whose lack of fear and personal safety is well documented and plays right into the strengths of the hillclimb. Bilko has been the quickest of the GT4’s so far but George Hess is not far off. Look for a tough fight between these two in the GT4 class.
In the Open Wheel Class look for the battle between Paul Dallenbach (yes those Dallenbach’s) driving his venerable garage built 2006 PVA-03 Dallenbach Special and Clint Vahsholtz in a 2013 Ford Open. These two have been within seconds of each other throughout practice and either one could take not only class victory but overall victory as well.
Lastly, there’s little ol’ me. I’m back in the Motul/ Bluewater Performance Audi S3 that I drove into rain, fog, and hail in last year’s race in my attempt to take back the FWD record I ceded to Acura and Nick Robinson in 2018. So far we’ve been quicker than our times in practice last year and on pace to retake the FWD record. However, there is still a race to be run, and as the saying goes amongst Pikes Peak competitors. “The Mountain decides”
Tune in for live timing of the race this Sunday, August 30th, and then keep your eyes peeled for Motor Trends 2 hour special on this year’s race scheduled to air later this fall.