Colorado Springs, CO – One day. One run. One King of the Mountain. And 364 days to prepare. The 99th running of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, brought to you by Gran Turismo has come and gone but the stories are still being told.
A recap of the final 48-hours.
Saturday, June 26 – 24 hours to Green Flag
6:30am – Event staff meets semi-trucks and trailers to escort and stage in pit area
7:00am – Heavy fog from 16 Mile up….no visibility. The highway was not open for tourists above Cove Creek all day.
7:05 am – Communications network on Pikes Peak was not operating.
“On a clear sunny day, Friday, we had one Gb at the Start Line, by Saturday, we had nothing – no internet. We were relying on spotty cell phones and two way radios. Not being able to get telephone calls into and out of that whole production area, including the pits and the start line was frustrating. No one had telephone service or Wi-Fi,” shared Jim Voige, Frequency Liaison for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. “I don’t think the world realizes how complex it is to provide that kind of connectivity on the mountain. Just the sheer scope of it.”
11:00 am – Gates open to overnight campers who are undeterred by the weather. Camping permits had been sold out for weeks.
12:30 pm – Organizers and officials discuss the possibility of no connectivity on Sunday for the race. Dismal weather forecast increases the chances of network failure. Decision is made to order a satellite truck to boost the live stream signal. With a higher-powered transmitter, it pushes the signal right through the clouds. Closest one available – Cheyenne, Wyoming.
2:00 pm – Race teams arrive to stage their vehicles and set up their pit space.
2:00 pm – Heavy fog rolled in blocking all of our microwave signals. Two trips to the summit to devise a workaround for the blocked signal. Installed another microwave to restore livestream and timing system. Equipment was in place, but had to be aimed accurately and tested in the middle of the storm. “But first we had to chop the ice off,” recalls Voige, Frequency Liaison for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. “Just getting to the summit and back that day, the road had to be plowed so we could get up there. The trip took a lot longer than normal.”
4:00 pm – With a temp hovering at 30 degrees, winds at 15 mph, and visibility limited to 10 feet, the continuous snow and rain made access and working conditions tough, wreaking havoc on network switches and equipment at 14,115’ above sea level.
6:30pm – Back-up microwave tower brought online at summit – not an easy task in the ice, snow and cold!
9:00 pm – Satellite truck arrives and is staged near the Start Line to provide audio and video feeds from the course to the livestream.
As darkness falls it’s wait-and-see what the weather on the mountain will allow on Sunday.
Sunday, June 27 – Race Day – The 99th Running of the Race to the Clouds
1:30 am – Gates open to credentialed personnel.
1:45 am – First notification about a bear and her cubs roaming the pit area.
2:30 am – Gates open to ticketholders eager to catch the racing action since no spectators were allowed in 2020.
2:30 am – Summit Team departs Start Line for Summit to place final banners/signage and experience significant snow and ice over the last three miles of the course.
3:30 am – Call to Colorado Division of Wildlife. No Bear Aware volunteers available.
4:00 am – Ice remains on the course.
4:30 am – Decision made to delay the start time by one hour – from 7:30 to 8:30am.
4:45 am – US Forest Service on-site to monitor mother bear and two cubs active in the pit area. Roped off the area with CAUTION tape. The three bears remained in the tree all day, taking the loud noises and big crowd in stride.
5:20 am – A brief, spectacular sunrise holds promise for a mild race day – but it was short-lived.
5:25 am – Parking lots are full as fans anticipate a day of racing action.
5:30 am – Race director and event organizers travel to the summit to check road conditions which were still icy and slick.
6:30 am – Additional runs to the summit to make final condition determination.
7:15 am – Decision made to shorten the official length of the course for the 99th Running from the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak to the 16 Mile marker just below Devils Playground at 12,780 feet above sea level.
7:45 am – What is there to do but wait for the green flag!
8:00 am – Enthusiastic fans wait at Devils Playground for racers to arrive.
9:00 am – Worth the wait as drivers finish just below Devils Playground.
9:15 am – Bigfoot sighting in the Optima Batteries Pits!
Just after 12:00 noon, race ends and weather looks brighter.
2021 King of the Mountain, Robin Shute, crosses the Finish Line to capture the overall crown capping a unique day of auto racing on Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain.
Competitors return to the Start Line in the Parade of Champions cheered on by hearty and enthusiastic fans.
Volunteers and officials begin wrapping up the event, directing traffic and cleaning up.
Organizers begin planning for 2022.
Bears welcome peace and quiet, and stroll back to the woods.
Until 2022 and the 100th Running…
ABOUT THE PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL HILL CLIMB
First staged in 1916, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the second oldest race in America. The invitation-only event, often referred to as The Race to the Clouds is held annually on the last Sunday of June on Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. The famous 12.42-mile course consists of 156 turns, boasts an elevation gain of 4,725 feet, and reaches a finish line at 14,115 feet above sea level. The PPIHC’s automobile categories feature a wide variety of vehicles representing multiple forms of motorsport; everything from production-based Time Attack challengers to purpose-built Open Wheel racers and state-of-the-art Unlimited vehicles take on America’s Mountain pursuing victory. The 100th Running of this iconic motorsports event will take place on June 26, 2022.
Photo Credit: Larry Chen, Jason Zindroski, Leif Bergerson, Jim Voige, Nick Cress, Kurt Bachman, Mike Rastas – Jacobson Rost
Event Coordinator / Media / Historian