Pikes Peak Hill Climb: More attention, more popular

Jeff Denmeade, with his Skelta race car, is registered for the 2012 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

After 90 years, the race up America’s Mountain is getting more attention – and becoming more popular

Registration for the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb opened this month with a record 30 racers and drivers signing up on the first day.

So far, 65 racers and drivers have applied to compete in the hill climb, which began in 1916 and is America’s second oldest motor sports race behind the Indy 500. The deadline to enter is June 15, 2012. Only the first 100 motorcycles and 50 autos are guaranteed entry.

The race will be held July 8.

Organizers opened registration early. National and international news coverage is helping the event spread the word as well, said Mike Moran, spokesman for the Sports Corp., which is organizing the event. And, for the first time in its nearly 90-year history, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb will be on a completely paved asphalt surface.

Veteran competitors will no longer have to adjust to the usual gravel and asphalt challenges that have been part of the race, Moran said.

The race is staged on a 12.42 mile course with 156 turns. It begins at 9,390 feet and ends at the mountain’s 14,110 foot summit above Colorado Springs.

Five-time motorcycle division champion Greg Chicoine from South Dakota is already signed up to race.

The 2010 Time Attack 4WD champion, Australian Jeff Denmeade, will bring a brand-new auto to Pikes Peak in the Time Attack division, combined now to include both 2WD and 4WD autos.

“Now Pikes Peak is 100 percent paved from top to bottom, and it’s a whole new event,” said Denmeade, who will be on the hill with navigator Catherine Hammond. “The speeds have gone up and times are starting to tumble, and it’s great to be back there in Australia’s own phenomenal 300 HP Skelta G-Force, making us the first Australians to compete there in an Australian produced, designed and manufactured vehicle.”

Last summer’s race sold more tickets, more merchandise and had more sponsors than in years past, setting new records for the 89-year-old Colorado Springs event. The event brought in an estimated $1 million to the local economy.

Official driver and racer registration is open at www.ppihc.com