Take a Look Back at Per Eklund’s 850-Horsepower Saab 9-3 As it Makes Its Record-Setting Pikes Peak Run
The legendary run set a record that couldn’t be touched for 12 years.by Kirby Garlitos, on
Per Eklund is a Swedish rally driver that built an impressive and highly successful career from 1973 to 1997. He never made it to the top of his sport, but Eklund is still regarded as one of the finest rally racers of his era. One of his most impressive feats, however, took place after his active years in rally racing. It was in 2000 when Eklund drove his Saab 9-3 Viggen 4x4 at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Competing in the Pikes Peak Open Wheel category, Eklund set a record time of 11:21.58 that remained untouched for 12 years until Frenchman Romain Dumas eclipsed the Swede’s time by almost two minutes with a time of 9:46.181. The record has been broken numerous times since 2012, and the current record holder is Clint Vahsholtz, who shot up the leaderboard in 2017 when he drove his Ford Open to a time of 9:35.747. As impressive as these record times are, it’s hard not to be impressed with Eklund’s performance in 2000 when he was at the ripe old age of 54 years old. For his record to last as long as it did speaks to his abilities behind the wheel of a rally racer.
Who is Per Eklund?
You’d be forgiven if you’re not familiar with the exploits of Per Eklund, the Swedish rally racer that competed in the biggest rally races in a career that spanned almost 30 years.
Eklund had a long and very successful career, and while he didn’t become the greatest rally car driver of his era, he did win the FIA Europen Rallycross Championship in 1999 to go with second-place finishes in the 1998, 2002, and 2003 seasons and third-place finishes in 2000 and 2001.
Outside of his rallying career, Eklund is also known for building some of the most insane rally cars you’ll ever see. One of these cars is the Saab 9-3 Viggen 4X4, an 800-horsepower monster that Eklund and his team built specifically for one purpose: conquer the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Did the Saab 9-3 Viggen 4X4 help Eklund achieve his goal of conquering Pikes Peak?
Yes, it did…and then some. From 2000 to 2002, Eklund and his team spent countless hours building, developing, tweaking, upgrading, and doing just about everything to the 9-3 Viggen. The long hours spent working on what would become an 800-horsepower beast paid off in 2000 when Eklund set the Open class record at Pikes Peak with a time of 11:21.58. That record stood for 12 years until Frenchman Romain Dumas eclipsed in 2012.
As long as that impressive record stood, Eklund’s greatest claim to fame happened two years later in 2002 when he competed — and won — the event’s Unlimited Class, posting a time of 11:13.20, 34 seconds clear of second-place finisher and long-time rival, Stig Blomqvist.