Jalopnik.com, a top motor sports website, puts the Hill Climb at No. 7. The site said the race, which is 12.42 miles of 156 turns, always was tough. And then the road got paved, the site said.
In 2012, for the first time, the entire road up Pikes Peak Highway was paved. The paved road attracted many new competitors — those with cars two inches off the ground who wouldn’t dream of racing on gravel, and those who wanted to test the performance of electric cars.
And, in fact, records were broken and there were two major crashes. French driver Romain Dumas finished with a time of 9:46.181 — the fastest time in the race’s history.
The Hill Climb is the second oldest auto race in the U.S., behind only the Indianapolis 500, and has always attracted big names in racing, from Mario Andretti, Rick Mears and Parnelli Jones to Bobby Unser and the rest of the iconic Unser family. The race attracts hundreds of competitors and thousands of spectators and has a multi-million economic impact on the city.
The paved road changed everything. The highway’s first six-mile stretch (below the Hill Climb’s start line) was paved in the 1950s, but the entire race was on dirt and gravel until the past decade.
Thirteen years ago, the city was required to pave the entire length of the highway after settling a lawsuit with the Sierra Club, which claimed the dirt highway was causing erosion and affecting the watershed.
This year’s Hill Climb is set for June 30.