The Pikes Peak International Hillclimb has been held 96 times since 1916, with contestants once slithering up a challenging dirt course. Now paved, the roads still offer a difficult trial for those who wish to be “King of the Mountain.”
Drivers face 156 turns and ascend nearly 5,000 feet as they race to the summit, which sands at 14,110 feet. The altitude alone presents a slew of problems for those developing the right car for the race since the air density thins considerably during the 12.42-mile climb and engines become choked for oxygen.
These limitations necessitate innovative car building, and we’ve picked out five cars that overcame the restrictive nature of the mountain to set new records.
Volkswagen I.D. R
The Volkswagen I.D. R was the main event at this year’s Pikes Peak. VW kept its all-electric and all-wheel drive racecar under a tent, which built excitement as much as it was meant to keep the tech secret. The I.D. R tips the scales at about 2,400 pounds while making 671 hp from its electric motors, making for a monstrous power-to-weight ratio.
Driver Romain Dumas wheeled the racecar up the mountain, laying down a time of 7:57.148 and shattering Sebastian Loeb’s previous record of 8:13.878. It’s a big win for VW’s all-electric I.D. brand and a staggering shakeup for the Pikes Peak competition, which had previously been dominated by gasoline-fueled cars.
Bentley enlisted its super luxurious and super powerful Bentayga SUV in this year’s hill climb in a bid to smash the time set by a Range Rover Sport in 2012. And smash it did—by over one and a half minutes, posting a time of 10:49.902 thanks in part to the driving of competition veteran Rhys Millen.
I did some research to see how this time stacks up in terms of past records. The Bentayga ran a time that would have been faster than the world-record set in 1986 by Pikes Peak legend Bobby Unser, albeit when the course wasn’t paved. You can find our full coverage of Bentley’s record-breaking run here.
Acura staked a claim at this year’s Pikes Peak to set a record of its own. Nick Robinson, Honda R&D engineer and five-time Pikes Peak veteran, piloted the 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec to take the title of fastest-ever front-wheel drive car.
Robinson eked out a better time than Millen in the Bentayga by just under two seconds for a run of 10:48.094. The TLX A-Spec featured a 500-hp version of Acura’s 3.5-liter V-6, a limited-slip differential, and a reworked aerodynamic body kit.
Acura may not have won the Time Attack 1 class, but it did set the record for a hybrid car at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb with a time of 10:02.448. The NSX racecar, driven by Honda R&D engineer James Robinson (and younger brother of Nick Robinson), is based on the production supercar but uses bigger turbos, updated powertrain programming, and an upgraded aero package.
Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport
This is a new class in the Pikes Peak entrant field and the first-ever one-make Porsche category. Four versions of the customer-racer Cayman GT4 are allowed to compete in the event, Clubsport, Clubsport Trophy Specification, Clubsport MR, and Clubsport 2017 IMSA GS.
Multi-talented racer and stunt driver Travis Pastrana came out on top over seven other contenders, including former professional baseball player C.J. Wilson and racecar driver J.R. Hildebrand. Porsche, in conjunction with the local Colorado Springs dealership and Yokohama tires, built up a lot of excitement over this addition to the annual event and attendees seemed amped to meet and root for the drivers.
Peruse our gallery for a complete look at the competitors from this year’s Pikes Peak International Hillclimb. Next year’s event takes place June 30, 2019.