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2011 Pike's Peak - Rhys Millen vs The Monster - DrivingScene

2011 Pike’s Peak – Rhys Millen vs The Monster

Posted on 26 June 2011 by Adam Kaslikowski

It’s a beautiful thing when crisp mountain air mixes with high octane exhaust. There are a litany of automotive Mecca’s that every auto enthusiast must experience at least once in this lifetime, and the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb is one of them. This stunning event takes place in the mountains outside of Colorado Springs, CO, and gives the petrol head the rare chance to enjoy nature and fast cars. I went yesterday for the first time, continue reading to see what I found…

This year’s race was an important one because it was generally expected by the “experts” that a new course record would be set. For years, racers in the top tier Unlimited class (read “no rules”) have been attempting to scale the mountain in under 10 minutes. In 2007, Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima clocked in a tantalizingly close 10:01. Clearly this man has had something to prove for years. Tajima competed this year in a custom Suzuki SX4 with 910hp against Rhys Millen in an advanced Le Mans prototype doppelganger with 750hp and a whole gaggle of lesser-well known racers in custom cars that looked like the love child between a dirt sprint car and an Indy racer.

Beyond the staggering talent (and staggering budgets) of the two headliners, the other reason why the 10 minute record was expected to fall is because Pike’s Peak itself is changing. The race is run on roads that for the other 364 days of the year are open to the public wishing to camp on the mountain or to drive to the summit at a more leisurely pace than the avg. 72mph on display yesterday. Being a mountain road, it has always been part gravel and part paved, with the paved constantly encroaching upon the dirt. This year had the least amount of gravel road ever, with many speculating that this will be the last year with any dirt sections at all. Simply put, the more paved surface there is, the faster the racers are able to go. This constant advancement of asphalt is why the mountain’s records are expected to change hands every year.

So did Monster do it? Well, when watching him ascent, he seemed a little slow to me, and I quietly questioned if perhaps he was having mechanical issues. Rhys Millen went next – all day racers go up one at a time every three minutes as this is solely a time attack event – and seeing his speed brought on an uncontrollable giddiness. He looked so much faster than anything else I had seen all day, and his carbon brakes where glowing red which is just so …… cool. I thought to myself, “This is definitely a record run.”

Chalk all that up to just another example of my visual impairment though. Millen’s Hyundai powered racer snagged him a time of 10:09. Tajima? He did it – 9 minutes and 51 seconds. That’s the most owned I’ve ever seen a modern record get. Congratulations “Monster” Tajima, you are officially king of the hill.

Not interested in custom built million dollar hill climbers? Worry not my friend, Pike’s Peak has something for everyone. Throughout the day I also saw race trucks, 4-wheelers, factory backed motorcycles, muscle cars, electric cars, trikes, stock cars, vintage motorcycles, plus some vehicles I can’t begin to describe, such was their awesomeness. The hill climb is a unique event in the automotive world, and for those with the means – $45 and transportation to Colorado – I highly recommend it. I for one will be back next year.

-Adam Kaslikowski