FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2023
BEHIND THE WHEEL
CLINCHES DIESEL FUEL RECORD
Colorado Springs, CO – The 101st Running of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, brought to you by Gran Turismo, welcomed 66 competitors from around the world and across the USA on June 25.
Frenchman, Gregoire Blachon, had long hoped to capture the diesel-powered vehicle record on Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, and on June 25, 2023 he crossed the finish in 10:25.071 in his 2023 Radical SR Diesel. When asked about his 2023 achievement, Blachon shared, “Nothing could compare to the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line after that perfect run, knowing that my hard work and persistence had paid off and that the diesel record was in my name.”
The former diesel record, 11:24.065, set in 2020 by Scott Birdsall in his smoke-belching 1949 Ford F1, was eclipsed by nearly one minute.
From his earliest days on America’s Mountain, Blachon championed diesel-powered machines. In 2013, driving his 1996 Subaru Impreza Boxeer Diesel in the Pikes Peak Open division, he clocked a time of 14:50.304.
“I’ve had this dream since 2013 during my rookie run in a Subaru Impreza 22B replica that I converted to diesel and drove myself,” explained Blachon, “but I didn’t know anything about engineering for the mountain yet, and I had only 92hp at the Peak! I knew I had the engineering skills to make it happen, so I got a rally champion driver, Manfred Stohl, to bring the driving skills to match.
Crowd-Pleasing VW Bug
The 1972 Volkswagen Bug 2.0 TDI CR Boxeer, first raced by Manfred Stohl in 2018, proved to be popular with race fans. Forced to run a weather-shortened course, the little beetle didn’t get a chance to go for the record.
In 2020, Stohl planned to return, but the pandemic nixed overseas travel. Nashville, Tennessee-based Blachon piloted the 2020 Boxeer TDI Bug to a finish time of 11:25.107 in the Exhibition division.
Still hopeful, Blachon returned for a repeat attempt at a diesel record in the 2021 VW Bug Proto TRI-TDI Diesel the following year, but was foiled by adverse weather.
A Radical Attempt
By 2022, Blachon was ready to reveal a new entry, the 2022 Radical SR Triple Turbo PDK Diesel. All competitors in the milestone 100th Running faced a cold, fog-shrouded course on Race Day. Blachon finished the 12.42 miles in 12:33.647.
Focused on a Record
Facing near perfect weather in 2023, Blachon and his 2023 Radical SR Diesel blazed to the 14,115′ summit in 10:25.071, not only a new personal best but a new diesel-powered record.
Asked what kept him coming back to Pikes Peak, Blachon provided a thoughtful answer, “I set my sights on the diesel record in 2013, and I’m not one to give up once I decide to do something. My dad was the famous French rally driver, Jean Ragnotti’s, first co-pilot. He died when I was 10, and knowing that the name Blachon is back on the racing scene is part of what keeps me wrenching and taking the wheel. Plus, I love the challenges that the Peak brings to my install – it keeps me thinking creatively about how to maximize power in any conditions, from sea level to 14000+ feet!”
“I told myself that the diesel record was the finish line, but now that I’ve made it, I’m ready to think about my next goal,” said Blachon. “With the new sponsorship opportunities rolling in, I’m confident that I’ll create and drive a diesel to the summit in under 10 minutes.”
“This record is especially amazing for me because the three different energy records are now held by the French. Romain Dumas—electric, Sébastien Loeb—gasoline, Grégoire Blachon—diesel. But I’m the only one who works out of my own little garage at home.”
Get to Know Gregoire Blachon
Three Things for Fans to Know:
“I put the same diesel engine in a VW Vanagon that my wife and I drove from Nashville to Argentina and back over two years. Other than race week, we live in it over the summer with our three kids and a pitbull…last year we went straight from Pikes Peak to Baja, and by the time you read this in 2023, we’ll be somewhere off the grid in Wyoming.”
“My only other trophy was a slow race tractor trophy that I won with my son riding on my lap in a 1970s John Deere 850.”
“This year I raced to the top with a Nutella crepe in my pocket – my favorite treat!”
Pikes Peak Hero:
“Circuit de Lédenon in the south of France (Provence), where I’m from.”
Photo credits: Rob Miskowitch, Larry Chen, Luis Garcia, Louis Yio
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 (20 km) course consists of 156 turns, boasts an elevation gain of 4,725 feet (1,440 m), and reaches a finish line at 14,115 feet (4,302 m) above sea level. The PPIHC’s six race divisions feature a wide variety of vehicles – from production-based Time Attack challengers to purpose-built Open Wheel racers and state-of-the-art Unlimited vehicles. The current race record was set in 2018 by Romain Dumas and Volkswagen in the all-electric I.D. R Pikes Peak – 07:57.148.
Communications Manager / Historian