The year 1987 was a strange one. First of all, I was born that year. It was also the year Audi broke a record at the little hill known as Pikes Peak during the 65th running of the Climb to the Clouds. In an equally strange dichotomy, the course in 1987 was completely dirt, while the course stands today 100% paved.
Facing stiff competition from Peugeot and their 405, Ford’s RS200, and Lancia’s Delta Integrale, Audi placed Walter Rohrl and Michele Mouton in the new long wheel base Quattro S1. Rohrl would reach the summit victorious, having set the record of 10 minutes 47.85 seconds. This marked the third straight victory for Audi at Pike’s. The record would only stand for 12 months, however, as it was eclipsed by Ari Vatanen’s “Climb Dance” the following year.
July 3rd marks the 90th running of the event, and it’s not one many will forget any time soon. Herr Rohrl has decided that he has been away from the hill for too long, and would like to return. To ensure that his return will be somewhat violent, Walter will be driving the car that brought him to victory 25 years ago. Unfortunatly as an exhibition only, as he will not be an official entrant, and will not be timed.
As an opportunity to stand on my soap box, I would like to comment that the paving of the mountain was an absolute mistake. The Sierra Club wanted to have the mountain paved because the roads were causing erosion of the national park’s mountainsides. The thing they did not foresee was the fact that the additional paved areas are allowing rainwater to gain much higher runoff speeds and have exacerbated the issue. Furthermore, the PPIHC has become even more dangerous than in years past. Successful competitor Jeff Zwart even commented to me that he was unsure whether he would return this year due to the increased speeds and decreased safety. With a softer hill-climb type setup, you are allowed much less grip and an earlier and more predictable breakaway point of slip angle. With many competitors opting for what amounts to a road race setup with grippier tires and stiffer suspensions, the limit is much less defined, and the breakaway point found at a much higher speed. Let’s hope the hill doesn’t claim too much sheet metal this year, and wish all competitors a safe arrival at the peak. Good luck!
(editor’s note: Sorry for the punny title.)