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Pikes Peak pre-race report

  1. Welcome, TopGear.commers, to the 90th running of Pikes Peak International Hillclimb. Having ingested bacon you can read through and battled with minor altitude sickness (the race is held a staggering three miles above sea level), we can report that the delayed, all-tarmac course has been well and truly broken in by this year’s competitors.

    And it looks like 2012 is the year of the electric vehicle. Eleven EVs have joined the fray, including the Monster Sport E-Runner, driven by reigning King of the Hill, “Monster” Tajima, who looks set to best his own 9:51 record.

    There’s sound science behind going electric, y’see. Between the start and finish there’s a 4720 foot elevation gain and a colossal drop in air pressure, which means competitors using a petrol engine have to compromise their fuelling setup - optimise the car for the top section of the hill and it won’t run properly at the bottom, and vice versa. An EV, though, doesn’t suffer from the altitude, and will run just as well at the bottom as it will at the top.

    That said, there is one small niggle: cooling. Racing EV motors get mighty hot, and many of them rely on water for cooling. Thing is, as you wind up the hill here, the atmosphere changes so much that the boiling point of water reduces. Near the top when the motor’s thoroughly warmed through, it drops to around 82 degrees Celsius, so there’s a risk the cars will get a bit… explodey. Then there’s the charging issue; Monster’s car only runs for 12 minutes after a full night plugged in.

    As well as the EVs, there’s another big coup at this year’s race - the whole thing’s paved. While this means a departure for giant great big rooster tails of dust, it allows some very cool, very low cars to compete without the risk of bottoming out every two yards, like the 911 GT3-R driven by official Porsche and Audi works driver, Romain Dumas. Times to the summit should also be whittled down, as competitors are allowed to run slick tyres - the only requirement is a single groove, as you’d find on most DOT-legal slicks.

    Now click on for more pics from practice, and check back soon to learn more about the different classes at this year’s event.

  2. Colorado Springs local, John Heavey, in his Porsche 911 Targa for the Vintage class

  3. Richard Hockert in his fuel-injected Austin Healey 3000 racing in the Vintage division

  4. A Shelby Cobra with non-factory aero…

  5. Romain Dumas in his 911 GT3-R. Next week, the aero kit’s being removed and the very same car’s heading to Macau, China, for a GT race.

    Romain told “Porsche thought I was crazy when I said I would enter Pikes Peak, but then they saw the car and realised that I’m in deep and serious about the race. It’s my first time here, and I’m only here for fun, but we’re getting quite fast…”

  6. After some early ECU mapping issues, the Porsche has posted blistering times during practice.  

  7. Jess Neal’s 1971 Plymouth ‘Cuda for the Vintage division looked deeply evil.  We like.  

  8. The Vintage class snake back down the mountain after an early-morning practice session. 

  9. Dane Rose’s 911 leads the procession back to base camp. 

  10. One of two Acura NSX racers competing at this year’s event. This one’s running in the Pikes Peak Open class.

  11. Toyota Motorsport’s all-electric TMG EVP002, running, surprisingly enough, in the EV class. 

  12. No weight over the rear end, massive power and lots of unguarded death drops. What could possibly go wring for this Chevy S10 truck?

  13. The Pikes Peak Open class attracts some interesting vehicles, like this Freightliner Cascadia truck, which is offsetting the EV’s lack of emissions nicely…

  14. This Summit Her-02 has come all the way from Japan to race in the EV class. 

  15. Randy Schranz’s Shelby Cobra is racing in the Pikes Peak Open divison. Awesome name. Awesome car. 

  16. A Porsche 912 is one of many lower-riding cars that can compete for the first time in Pikes Peak now it’s been paved. 

  17. This is one of two Ford Falcons racing in the Vintage division. It makes a lot of noise…

  18. Here’s that Plymouth ‘Cuda again. Dear Santa…

  19. This drift-spec Lexus ISF CCS-R concept’s competing in the Exhibition division, driven by Californian, Ken Gushi.  

  20. Here’s another shot of that Falcon, fully loaded up near the hill climb’s summit. 

  21. This Porsche 914 belonging to thoroughly nice chap, Jeff Macpherson, has had some fairly major modifications…

  22. The most obvious of which is an LS6 V8 engine. There’s also an oxygen tank in there for Jeff - he’s a pilot and the Federal Aviation Administration says he can’t be between 12,00 and 12,500 for m,ore than half an hour without an oxygen supply otherwise he may compromise his faculties…

    He told “I mounted the oxygen tank in the cabin, which is right next to the fuel cell and battery. If I go up in flames, I want there to be a mushroom cloud.”

  23. This is near the top of the mountain where the air’s so thin the boiling point of water’s reduced to 84 degrees Celsius. 

  24. Unlike the team, the Toyota EV doesn’t suffer from the altitude…

  25. Despite its 4535kg mass, the Freightliner’s remarkably agile. 

  26. This thing looks like it’ll set a surprisingly fast time up the hill, but we’ll have to wait till Sunday to find out. 

  27. The zero emissions EVs are being offset beautifully by A RUDDY GREAT BIG DIESEL TRUCK.

  28. And finally, a parting shot of this rather wondrous Acura NSX. Keep visiting for more from the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, 2012. 

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