Racing to the Clouds. Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Chapter 1: Destination Pikes Peak

My wife booked our flight for Pikes Peak months ago. The plan was to experience all that is Pikes Peak and get a glimpse into the racing side of the event. On the official Pikes Peak website, they state “prepare for all types of weather conditions”. I’m glad we did, but I’ll get to that later. We left the swamp lands of central Florida and headed west for Colorado.fullsizeoutput_b1.jpeg

Once we landed, we headed to pick up our rental car. After my wife had a lovely exchange with the representative, it’s safe to say we won’t be using Hertz again… I give you the all mighty “Turbo Egg” AKA Buick Encore.DSC02928fullsizeoutput_b2

 We started on our journey to Colorado Springs, but my wife wanted to stop and have brunch at a little spot called “Just Be Kitchen”. She’s a health food nut, and I didn’t have the highest of hopes. I ended up being pleasantly surprised with my over easy eggs, bacon, shredded sweet potato hash browns, and paleo biscuits.   fullsizeoutput_b3.jpeg

 We hopped back in the Turbo Egg and made our way to our Air BNB in Colorado Springs. We thought it would be fun to stay somewhere that was within walking distance to local restaurants and a bit closer to the mountain, and I’m glad we did. fullsizeoutput_b4

Our view of Pikes Peak.fullsizeoutput_b5

Chapter 2: Fan Fest

Pike Peak International Hillclimb puts on an event the Friday of the race weekend. It’s a chance to get up close to the race cars and motorcycles. About 40 thousand people make it out. I was pleasantly surprised how nice Ken Blocks “Hoonacorn” and Chuckles Garage’s Ol Smokey F1 were in the flesh. Both were very well sorted.

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The Cluckles Garage’s story is pretty crazy. About 2 weeks prior to the race, they were testing at Pikes Peak. They had an unfortunate get off at “engineers corner”. It caused a lot of damage to the truck, but they pieced it back together to make qualifying. That’s pretty impressive to say the least. Unfortunately they had a engine failure before race day and just couldn’t make it happen. DSC02969.JPG

Then we made our way over to the Volkswagen ID R entry. One mission: to crush the recored. It did and ‘ll get to that later. This thing has a serious amount of engineering.fullsizeoutput_b7fullsizeoutput_b8

Here are a few other entries. DSC02947DSC02950fullsizeoutput_b9DSC02962DSC02967

We had a lot of fun at Fan Fest and met a lot of great people. I got some sound advice from crews on what I needed to do it make sure the Z is Pikes Peak ready. We had a bite to eat and headed back to the condo.

Chapter 3: Road to the Summit.

Saturday, Pikes Peak was open to the public, so my wife and I decided it would be fun to drive up to the summit.  I’ve seen photos of Pikes Peak and nothing compares to seeing it in person. The word I keep saying over and over is “crazy”. This road in simply crazy. It’s also one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

The mountain has an elevation of 14,115 ft, the “track” has 156 turns, and Pikes Peak is very much in charge of her ever changing climate. It’s still very surprising that average joe’s are allowed to dive on the road, let alone race up it.fullsizeoutput_bb

For some reason I imagined that my first drive up Pikes Peak would be in the Z. Not sure why, but it never crossed my mind that it would actually be in a Buick Encore…DSC03037.JPG

It was pretty amazing at the summit. I believe the temperature was 55 degrease. It was also difficult to breath. Once we checked all of the tourist sight seeing at the summit off the list, we decided to make our way back down the Mountain.DSC03006

We had just hopped in the car when I noticed a Nicky Hayden eddition RC51. This was one of the cleanest examples I’ve ever seen with tasteful modifications. Only one choice of exhaust that belongs on a RC and that’s a set of SATO high mounts. To complement the exhaust, a set of SATO rear sets and carbon bit’s were added. A perfect RC51 in my eyes. fullsizeoutput_bdDSC03021DSC03023

“Hey son” came from a shuttle bus. “Do you know what kind of bike that is?”. I said, “I sure do”. I talked bikes a little bit with Mr. Bill. He knew Pikes Peak very well. I had mentioned I was going to race next year. He asked what kind of car and I said my little 72 240Z. He told me about how he used to hot dog his 280Z back in the day. One of the reasons I love Z cars. Everyone has a story about one.DSC03030

We made a few scenic stops on the way down. I saw a good spot to photograph the “Turbo Egg” and decided that we needed to make our mark with a stone stack.DSC03050.JPG

My wife drove on the way down. I was too busy paying attention to the road on the way up, so it was nice to snap some photos on the way down.fullsizeoutput_c1DSC03079.JPGfullsizeoutput_c2DSC03078

Once we got back to the condo, we walked over to a little local tapas restaurant. We decided to have an early dinner (read 4pm) as we needed to get up early (read 1:30am).

Chapter 4: Race day.

I got that feeling once I woke up, that same feeling I get the morning of any race I was in. Excitement and nerves. I’m not sure why, as I was just a spectator. We wanted to view the race from “Devils Playground”. It was 13,000ft up the mountain and was as high as they would allow spectators. It’s a prime spot and in order to be guaranteed that prime spot you better get there early. We set off at 2AM (I know right…)DSC03085

On the Pikes Peak official website, they highly recommend that you prepare for ALL weather conditions. Being from Florida, we wanted to “over do” it. So we packed tons of snacks, mini foldable chairs, soft cooler, and warm attire. Boots. Don’t forget your boots!

We arrived at the base of the mountain and were greeted by a long line of cars. Needless to say, we were not the only ones with the “get there early” idea. I was getting worried that we wouldn’t be able to get our prime spot at Devils Playground. The line started moving, and the road started to get windier and windier. Mind you that there are no street lights on the mountain, but then again, why would there be. We made it up about half way and noticed a FC RX7 upside down in a ditch. Maybe this guy watched too much Initial Drift. They were yanking him out of the ditch as we were going by, I wanted to snap a photo, but my wife said “ten and two Shawn”.DSC03097.JPG

We arrived at Devils Playground about 3:30am. The parking lot was pretty full. We just made it! My wide and I noticed that everyone was setting up their viewing spots on a ridge. We followed suit. I noticed three guys setting up a tent next to us. I quickly asked if they needed help as rain was in the forecast that day. They offered to share the pop-up tent. “Thanks my dude”.

Remember it’s pitch black outside. The sun was starting to glow from the horizon. We quickly realized we were above the clouds. The locals said that it was rare. You have never seen a sunrise until you have seen a sun rise at 13,000 ft and above the clouds. It was a pretty incredible experience.DSC03102.JPG

Fast forward a few hours and the pace car made it’s way to the summit. It was time for the motorcycles to do their thing. It was a very diverse grid: electric sport bikes, quads, supermotos, and everything in between. DSC03169.JPGDSC03152DSC03159DSC03184

Chapter 5: Records are meant to be broken.

Chris Fillmore is well know in the super moto community. In short, he rips! He’s also well known at Pikes Peak. He set a record time last year and set another one this year. He was flying.DSC03200DSC03476

There was a big buzz about the Volkswagen ID R entry. They came to Pikes Peak for one reason, to smash the record time and that they did with a sub eight second time of 7:57.14. Previous record was 8:13.87. The average speed for the car was 90.53 MPH. That’s blistering fast considering some areas you almost have to stop the car to make a U-turn.DSC03216DSC03424

On a side note, I’m really excited to see motorsports incorporate electric power plants. I was surprised how in control and quiet the Volkswagen car was. I’ll be honest and note that it was kind of boring to watch considering the next car was gas powered and spun it’s tires around the same corner and you could hear it coming from miles away. Just an observation.

Chapter 6: Unpredictable.

The weather was suppose to be great until about 10am when we were expected to have heavy rain showers. The weather held off and about half of the cars made it through in ideal conditions.DSC03302DSC03274DSC03289DSC03266DSC03252

Man this Bentley was flying! Pulling a rear wheel up and all (in the second photo). It broke the record for the fastest production SUV. I want one badly. DSC03382DSC03378.JPG

The race was moving, records were being broken, and then right around mid-afternoon the mountain quite clearly had other plans… out of nowhere the skies darkened. “Is that snow?” Being from Florida it was a bit of a shock. It let off and a few more cars made the climb.DSC03238DSC03233DSC03224DSC03395.JPG

My wife wasn’t feeling great and she decided to take a nap. I went to check on her and the skies darkened again. A few minutes later, a few pea sized pieces of hail hit the windshield. “Really?”. We were both in shock. Then it REALLY started to come down for about an hour.DSC03421.JPGDSC03488

We noticed that the cars stopped making the climb. The weather let up for about 10 minutes and it started snowing. Pikes Peak is very much a living creature and she does what she wants. At this point, the upper portion of the “track” was closed due to conditions. The remaining 20 or so cars just raced the lower half.

Chapter 7: What goes up…

The skies opened up once again. Of course after the race was over. I saw people running over to the edge of road. I assumed that the racers were going to make the parade down. It’s tradition for spectators to line the road and high-five the racers. I was looking forward to this moment and it was all that it was cracked up to be.DSC03423DSC03431DSC03464DSC03445DSC03458DSC03490DSC03484

Once the cars and bikes made their decent, it was only a mater of time before we made ours. If you can imagine 60K+ people trying to leave a one way mountain, it took about 2.5 hours to get off. My wife and I were a little over sitting in traffic, but it was really cool to see all of the nature on the way down. We went to bed early that night as we were just absolutely exhausted. The next morning we drove into Denver, hopped on a plane and made our way back to Orlando. All in all, it was a great trip. It really opened my eyes on all that is Pikes Peak, and what I need to prepare for. I’m counting down that days until I get my shot at it in the Z.

Bonus Photos.DSC03455DSC03409DSC03190DSC03198DSC03256DSC03308DSC03329DSC03427DSC03462DSC03347DSC03101

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