This weekend, an array of the world’s motoring elite will once again collect at the base of Colorado’s most famous mountain road to participate in the 93rd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. It’s an annual test that pits a variety of vehicles against the clock in a bid to be the quickest to the summit of “America’s Mountain,” with race cars, modified street cars, electric vehicles, motorcycles, quads, trucks, and many more on hand to take the challenge.

The self-sanctioned event is nearly a century old, and incorporates a relatively lenient rulebook, which traditionally brings in vehicles prepped for a diversity of different international homologations. It also leads to the creation of some truly outrageous performers specifically created to crack the mountain.

This year is no different, with 2015 looking to showcase a Le Mans prototype, time attack coupes, experimental drivetrains, and a hyper-powered EV racer that could potentially win the whole thing outright, a first in the event’s history.

No matter what your favorite motoring flavor happens to be, the PPIHC has something for you, and it’s all set in the dramatic and demanding conditions of high-altitude, two-lane switchbacks.

Continue reading for an in-depth look at this major motoring event.

The Course

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The PPIHC takes place on the Pikes Peak Highway, beginning at mile-marker 7 and ending at the 14,110-foot crest. The route is 12.42 miles long and incorporates 156 turns, climbing a total of 4,720 feet over gradients averaging 7.2 percent. The road originally consisted of both dirt and tarmac surfaces, but was fully paved in 2011, consequently attracting some of the fastest vehicles on the planet.

At 10,000+ feet, drivers could struggle to concentrate on the task at hand, with the thin air causing things like headaches, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping.

One of the biggest standout features of the race is the high altitude’s effect on both man and machine. At 10,000+ feet, drivers could struggle to concentrate on the task at hand, with the thin air causing things like headaches, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping. And since the event doesn’t take place on a dedicated race track, there’s very little available practice time, which means veterans are usually favored.

Like the drivers, the cars will also experience a reduction in performance, with lower output from the internal combustion engines, a drop in cooling system efficacy, and lower downforce from the aerodynamics.

These factors will make forced induction and electric power all the more potent. Interestingly, General Electric used Pikes Peak as the locale to test turbocharged aircraft engines in 1918, demonstrating how the technology could be used to eliminate power loss from low air pressure and density.

Racing Classes And Divisions

This year sees 74 cars and 66 bikes make the entry list. You can view the entire roster here.

4-Wheeled Unlimited

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As you’d probably expect, pretty much any kind of car can race here, just so long as it doesn’t fail safety inspection or transform into a helicopter. This is where the best overall times are set, with the fastest and most exotic cars usually falling into this category.

Making headlines is the expected appearance of Honda’s 2014 Honda ARX-04B LMP2 prototype, which is slated to make an “exploratory effort” in anticipation of an upcoming shot at the overall record. The car should prove to be extraordinarily quick, bringing a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 and a proven aero package to the fight. However, as of this writing, the car has run into difficulties ahead of race day, failing to make the practice session on Tuesday. Honda says the 2015 effort is preliminary, with the team looking to gather data rather than accolades, so we’ll see if it can make it to the starting line.

Other standouts to look for this year include the 2010 Radical SR8 of Dominic Dobson and the 2014 Exomotive Exocet of Danny George. The rest of the Unlimited division consists of highly-modified street cars, such as the Chevy Camaro, Mitsubishi Evo, Eagle Talon, and Porsche 914.

Electric Car Division

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The PPIHC has always been about showcasing the latest in automotive technology, which makes the electric division particularly relevant today. This class is made up of two groups – the Electric Modified Class, where racing technology abounds, and the Electric Production Class, which is made up of mass-produced EVs available for public consumption with few modifications allowed.

This class is made up of two groups – the Electric Modified Class, where racing technology abounds, and the Electric Production Class, which is made up of mass-produced EVs available for public consumption with few modifications allowed.

This year, all eyes are on the Electric Modified Class, where the 2015 Tajima Rimac E-Runner Concept_One is expected to unleash lightening-bolt fury all over the Colorado landscape. The team behind the car recently released a video that demonstrates the E-Runner laying down a megawatt of power (roughly 1,340 horsepower) on the dyno, thanks to its four independent electric motors. Behind the wheel will be Peak Master Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima, who also owns the Monster Sport speed shop that helped put together the E-Runner in conjunction with Rimac Automobili.

The E-Runner boasts twice the power of last year’s entry from Tajima, plus fancy tech like all-wheel torque vectoring. With a 0-to-60 time of 2.2 seconds and no power loss in the thin atmosphere, the E-Runner could very well be the first EV to take the overall win at the Peak. After all, the gap between last year’s ICE-powered winner and the next fastest EV was only around two seconds.

The team expects a run under the nine-minute mark, which would beat last year’s best time of 9 minutes, 5.801-seconds, laid down by Romain Dumas in a Norma M20 RD.

Running alongside the E-Runner this year will be a trio of EVSRs from Entropy Racing, which feature 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque in a 2,000-pound chassis, with a top speed of 140 mph.

Meanwhile, in the Electric Production Class, Ryan Millen will pilot a 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV and Mike Tsay will pilot a Honda Fit EV.

Time Attack Division

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Encompassing production-based, close-bodied vehicles with both two-wheel- and all-wheel-drive layouts, this category is split into two different classes – Time Attack 1 and Time Attack 2 Production, with the first incorporating race cars bearing more extensive specialization, and the second limiting the types of modifications used.

This category is split into two different classes – Time Attack 1 and Time Attack 2 Production, with the first incorporating race cars bearing more extensive specialization, and the second limiting the types of modifications used.

The vast majority of cars making it out to the recent practice session came from Time Attack 1, with the fastest lap awarded to Jeff Zwart in a 2013 Porsche 911. Behind him was David Rowe in a 2005 Mitsubishi Evo 9RS.

One entry to look out for is the Scion FR-S from Mackin Industries, which sees additional support from such aftermarket namesakes as Evasive Motorsports, GReddy Performance, Toyo Tires, Turn14 Distribution, Garrett and Sparco, not to mention factory support from Scion Racing. At the helm will be Robert Walker, who will make his third appearance at the Peak this year. “I’m counting on the experience the team and I have gained to give me a heads-up in the competition,” Walker recently said. Scion hopes to improve upon its third best-in-class finish from last year.

Toyota’s other subdivision, the luxury-oriented Lexus brand, will also see an effort in Time Attack 1, with a new RC F GT concept developed specifically for Pikes Peak. Driving the car will be Justin Bell, former GT2-class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA GT Championship. The RC F will bear the same 5.0-liter V-8 as its road-going variant, but will use carbon-fiber body panels and polycarbonate windows to shed 800 pounds from its curb weight, and boasts the requisite aero and handling upgrades.

The Time Attack 2 Production Class will bring with it the usual assemblage of fast street cars, including the BMW M3, Nissan GT-R, and 2013 Shelby Mustang GT500.

Pikes Peak Challenge Car Division

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This catchall category was just established last year, and sees a huge variety of classes mashed together, including the traditional Open Wheel Class (everything from formula cars to dune buggies), Pikes Peak Open Class (looks stock, but big mods under the skin), Pikes Peak Vintage Car/Truck Class (vehicles manufactured prior to 1991 that have previous experience at the Peak), and the Exhibition Class (similar to the Le Mans Garage 56 class in that cars with high-tech features that fall outside the normal PPIHC rules may enter, with no class records recorded. However, entries are still eligible for the overall course record).

Interesting entries to look out for include a slew of Wells Coyotes, which have collected several trophies in the Open Wheel Class over the years, the Freightliner Cascadia Pikes Peak Special racing semi in the PP Open Class, and a collection of ‘60s-era Mustangs in the PP Vintage Class. Most intriguing, though, is a factory-backed Honda CR-Z packing an “experimental” all-electric powertrain running through all four wheels and using the automaker’s Precision All-Wheel Steer system, which possibly preludes a similar setup in future Honda road cars.

The Schedule

Note: all times are local.

Thursday, June 25th

4AM – 5AM: Gateway open to spectators (tickets needed)
5AM: Start Line closes to uphill traffic
5:30AM – 9AM: Sanctioned practice

Friday, June 26th

4AM – 5AM: Gateway open to spectators (tickets needed)
5AM: Start Line closes to uphill traffic
5:30AM – 9AM: Sanctioned practice
9AM – 5PM: Speed Week Activity: Air Strip Attack (Colorado Springs Airport)
5PM: Final competitor list announced
5PM – 10PM: Fan Fest, open to the general public (downtown Colorado Springs)

Saturday, June 27th

9AM – 5PM: Speed Week Activity: Air Strip Attack (Colorado Springs Airport)
12PM: Pikes Peak opens for overnight camping
6PM: Gateway closes and uphill traffic stops

Sunday, June 28th

3AM: Gateway opens to the public. All spectators must use uphill lane and enter through any of the three gates available. No two-way uphill traffic
3AM – 12PM: Pre-purchased ticket holders allowed through the Gateway
8AM: Green Flag is dropped, race commences

Origins And History

Alternately called “The Race to the Clouds,” the PPIHC was first held in 1916, making it the third oldest motoring event in the Western Hemisphere behind the Indy 500 and Isle of Man TT. Past winners here include names like Unser, Andretti, Millen, and Rorhl.

Past winners here include names like Unser, Andretti, Millen, and Rorhl.

Between 1946 and 1970, the PPIHC was used as a round in the AAA and USAC IndyCar championship. In 1984, the first Europeans entered the fray, with Norweigian rallycross driver Martin Schanche and French rally driver Michele Mouton kicking off what would grow to be international interest in the American event.

In August of 2011, a Sierra Club lawsuit forced tarmac onto 30 percent of the route that remained unpaved. Despite misgivings that the new surface would diminish interest in the event, the PPIHC remains one of the premiere races in the U.S.

The current outright record is held by rally legend Sebastien Loeb, who managed to set a time of 8 minutes, 13.878 seconds in 2013 using a 2013 Peugeot 208 T16 entered in the Unlimited Class, smashing the old record set by Nobuhiro Tajima in 2011 by over 90 seconds.

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