The world’s most unprofessionally run international motorsport event is growing up a little bit for 2014, as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will finally have spectator restrictions on its mountain-side race course starting with this year’s event.
Instead of having spectators sitting right on the tarmac, in a sort of 12.42 mile free-for-all, event organizers for “The Race to the Clouds” will have severe spectating restrictions, with six designated spectating zones located throughout the race course.
In total, the six spectating zones will account for roughly 1.5 miles of course length, so roughly 1/10 the original area available to PPIHC fans. As such for 2014, a general admission ticket will give a spectator access to the starting line, Halfway Picnic Grounds, Ski Area, Glen Cove, Cove Creek, and the Devil’s Playground.
However, once the race begins, fans will be stuck at whichever location they choose, and law enforcement officers will issue trespassing tickets to those fans found outside those areas, i.e. hiking the interconnecting trails along the race course.
From a safety point-of-view, this move has been a long-time coming. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has had a surprisingly good safety record when compared to similar events, with only a handful fatalities occurring during the race’s 98-year history. Any veteran to motorsport racing though can see the accidents waiting to happen on the mountain.
With the Pikes Peak course now fully paved, speeds up the mountain are increasing at a rapid rate, in both the bike and car categories. With Sebastien Loeb setting a blazing outright record last year of 8’13.878 up the mountain, serious lap times are coming to Pikes Peak, which is really a race that is just one good lawsuit away from being shutdown.
As a professional in the motorcycle industry, who has photographed his fair share of races, I have always been appalled at where fans chose to situate themselves on the course, clearly not understanding the dangers around them (I have seen some questionable decisions by professionals too).
As a journalists though, we accept certain risks to get a story or a photo, and when at Pikes Peak a professional worth his/her salt always plans their shooting location with an idea of what to do and where to go during the unthinkable. One cannot assume the same for spectators though, which usually consists of a whole family in-tow.
At the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb though, I have seen fans setup folding chairs for their whole family, two feet off the asphalt, right in the impact zone for a fast turn.
While a great viewing spot, to be certain, those kind of decisions should never have been tolerated at any event (it was debatable that myself and another photographer should have even been working in that same spot because of the safety issue). It is honestly a miracle the PPIHC has survived this long without major incident, and fans should embrace the new spectating rules.
It is worth noting, that the business side of things PPIHC also has a vested interest in making more money through this spectating scheme, as fans will be corralled into areas for what will effectively be dawn-until-dusk hours.
PPIHC organizers plan on having concessions and shuttle services to its six viewing areas, which we can only imagine will greatly increase on-course revenue streams, which is at least a convenient side-effect.