The 86th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb brought with it a large number of red flags and very few new records. The event was held on July 20, 2008 along the 12.42-mile, 156-turn course that ends at the mountain's 14,110-foot summit.
The King of the Mountain himself, Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, was unable to best his time from last year. After beating Rod Millen's long-standing record in 2007 with a time of 10:01.408, Tajima and his crew from Suzuki Sport were determined to break the ten-minute barrier with their twin-turbo V-6 Suzuki XL7 Hill Climb Special. Tajima managed a time of 10:18.250, which was still a win for the uncontested Unlimited class and the event overall. Tajima was "happy given the conditions," and felt that, with the improvements made since last year, the car performed better.
Conditions, Conditions, Conditions
Dry, hot weather leading up to and during race day put the course in less-than-ideal shape for the competitors. The lack of rain caused the gravel sections to be very loose, while in years past a clean, packed line would form on the course. Temperatures in the 90s caused problems for several vehicles, especially those running hot turbo setups.
Records are a funny thing at Pikes Peak these days, because along with varying weather and dirt conditions, the amount of tarmac on the course increases each year. As a result of a Sierra Club lawsuit citing soil erosion, paving of the road began in 2001. Since then, two sections of the road have been paved, with this year's total at six miles, or nearly half of the course length.
Next year there will be a third paved section at the top where Tajima and others believe they lost the most time. There, the road has been narrowed by concrete curbs that were poured in preparation for the next section of pavement. This forced racers to use a tighter line, and also use greater caution to avoid damage from the sharp edges.
Few Records Broken
Though the conditions may not have been right for Monster's sub-ten-minute run, several racers managed to best the times for their divisions. The records for two motorcycle classes and one quad division were broken, as it seemed the smaller vehicles had an easier time finding a packed line in the loose conditions. The exhibition class record also fell to Leonard Vahsholtz who drove a heavily modified Ford Explorer up the mountain.
For the second year in a row, Rhys Millen won in the Time Attack two-wheel drive class with his Pontiac Solstice GXP. Millen beat his own record by nearly 14 seconds, which was set last year when the class was first introduced. What's more impressive is that Millen had no practice time in the car before the event because it was being repaired after a crash at a drifting competition.