Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pikes Peak Hill Climb

The Pikes Peak Hill Climb race first began in 1916.  This year was its 90th running, and the first with all paved roads.  The track was all dirt when it started, but over the years, the Pikes Peak Highway has slowly been paved, and in 2011 they completed the pavement clear to the top.  The second oldest motorsport event in the U.S., it is considered to be the most dangerous.  It is 12 miles, with 156 turns, with an elevation change of 4,720 feet and grades of 7%.  That said, they completed the race this year in less than 10 minutes.
I first heard about the race when I lived in the area some 20 years ago.  It usually is held in late June or early July, but the Waldo Canyon fire caused a delay and it wasn't run until August 12, and I just happened to be in town.  Since the Pikes Peak Highway is the race track, you have to be in place early because they close the road at 8am.  I wanted to be at the top, mile 16, Devils Playground, since it is the best view.
The parking lot at The Devils Playground was packed tight with several hundred cars.  It didn't matter if you got blocked in, because no one was leaving until the race was over.  (Because of the 8 red flags during the race, it didn't end until about 7pm)  I left the house about 2am, so I could be assured of getting in line early.  They didn't open the highway until 4am and I was about a mile back, so I sat in the car and tried to nap since I had over an hour wait for the highway to open.

Here I am with my place all set up on the side of the hill.

This was my viewpoint.  I could see a total of eight turns.

The race started with the motorcycles, then moved on to quads and specialty vehicles.  It even had a category with over 13 entries for all electric cars.  

Looking down to one of the turns I spotted this camper.  He has a primo view.  The night before the race is the only night of the year in which they allow camping at Pikes Peak, and then they only sell 200 tickets. Total estimated tickets sold for this race was 6500.

The first wreck of the day.  There are no spectators on the last four miles of the race, and this guy hit a guard rail about a mile from the top.  They brought his car back down to mile 16 (where I was at) and left it there for the duration of the race.

I don't think that tire is any good.

Boy, did he mess up the front end.

It didn't seem like the cars were going that fast, but the average speeds were 60-70 mph. Personally, I wouldn't want to be standing where those spectators were.  What if he lost control and hit the guard rail or went over the side?  

This MDT (medium duty truck, which was also diesel) spun out on the mile 15 turn.  But he straightened out and continued on up the hill to finish.

You can see the entire hillside was dotted with people.

There were several incidents, but none serious, until late in the afternoon.   Jeremy Foley and his co-driver, in their Mitsubishi Evolution 8, went over the cliff just before mile 16, rolling over about 12 times as they tumbled down the hill.  A large boulder stopped their descent.  Amazingly both driver and co-driver survived the crash, although they did airlift the co-driver to the hospital and the driver was taken down by ambulance.  But they must be ok since they have been on the Today Show.
I have inserted a link to a video showing the crash.  I had just put my camera down, so only got after shots.
                                               Jeremy Foley Pikes Peak Hill Climb crash

This was what the car looked like after.  Only the roll cage was still intact.  The engine was 20 feet up the hill.

You can tell where they left the road by following the debris down the hill.

It took over 30 minutes just to get the first occupant up to the top of the hill.  It was quite a climb for the rescue team.

The helicopter landed where I was parked.  They took the injured driver by ambulance up the hill to the helicopter.  I had been walking Fancy when I heard the helicopter, looked up, and had to run down the hill  because they were landing where I had been.

The wreck delayed the race for almost 2 hours, during which it started raining, then sleeting, and eventually snowing on top of the mountain.  You can see the ice pellets collecting on top of my hood.

Fancy and I just hung out in the car waiting.  

They have never shut down a race for weather, but this year they did shorten the race to end it at about mile 13.  After they restarted following the big accident, the next three cars skidded pretty bad on the wet pavement, plus they said it was snowing hard fours mile up at the top.  So the last 30 drivers, and last hour of the race I only heard over the radio, since I was at mile 16.  By then I was tired and cold and just ready for the race to be over.

Finally, the race is over and we can now go home.  Well, so I thought.  It took over 2 hours to drive down Pikes Peak Highway because of all the traffic.  They even had us going down using both lanes, making it a one way.  (Remember the racers only took 10 minutes)  So I got to drive up 16 miles of the Pikes Peak Highway in the dark and got to drive down the highway in the dark.  I know people who won't even drive it in the daytime.
A long day, I left home at 2am and got back home at 10pm, but what a day.  Another check on my bucket list taken care of.

Jeremy Foley Pikes Peak Hill Climb crash

No comments: