At long last, we were down on the bottom section of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race course. Each group that runs the bottom uses it as their qualifying run — fastest time to the flag at Glen Cove is on pole.
The bottom section is distinctly different from the two above it. It is the only section completely in the tree line, so you get some interesting light coming through the pine trees.
I find the bottom to be particularly difficult as a photographer. It offers fewer options and vantage points than the sections above, but it has the advantage of not being so high of altitude, so working and walking there is slightly easier.
At the end of our morning, Lambert Fabrice was on pole on the #38 bike, which isn’t at all surprising considering he has been swinging off his machine like a mountain goat version of Marc Marquez.
Saturday is a well deserved day off for everyone. After four straight mornings of alarm clocks sounding off at 2:20 am, we all need a little rest. Nothing happens on the mountain as far as official race practice goes, but almost everyone will probably do one more sighting run with the public traffic.
They won’t see or run the mountain until Sunday, and when they do, it will be one run — fastest to the top is king of the mountain. It’s a long day. Hopefully free of red flags and clear weather….sadly, I almost guarantee we won’t be free of either.
Back to the summit of Pikes Peak we go. After a warm-up round on Tuesday morning on Pike’s Peak’s highest elevations, we returned for one final high altitude practice on Thursday morning. With breezy and crisp conditions and ambient temperatures cold enough to freeze water, the riders made their way through the winding, high speed, and very bumpy alpine section.
I, however, have never been the biggest fan of the top 3rd of the mountain. It’s more like shooting on the moon. There is lots to do, but you had better bring your “A” game and a ton of energy to hike yourself around in the low-oxygen environment. It’s grueling.
I was much more conformable at altitude today than I was on Tuesday though….but it doesn’t make it any easier. Despite that, at the end of the session I had come to really enjoy the summit section. I shot in places I had never been before, and enjoyed watching the riders really start to push themselves and the bikes to the limit.
Tomorrow, we go qualifying at the bottom! Day off on Saturday, and Sunday is race day!
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a risky proposition, especially for the competitors in the motorcycle classes. A course where instead of run-off, sheer drops and rock-filled inclines abound, the joke is that if you go down at any one of the 156 turns that comprise the race course, it’s likely that you won’t die from the impact…you’ll die from starvation during the drop.
That is certainly hyperbole (except for the turn aptly named “Bottomless Pit”), as the danger is very real. We can give no better example than the footage from yesterday’s motorcycle session, at the top of the mountain.
During the practice days, competitors go full-tilt up the mountain road, are collected, and then as a group descend to the starting point for another run. That day for supermoto rider Tom Specht, in the Pikes Peak Middleweight class, the mountain showed why you can never let your guard down.
Taking a tumblefew miles from the summit, Specht was “lucky” in the sense that he only suffered shoulder injuries from his rapid descent. This could have been way worse.
For Jeff Grace, who “caught” Specht’s Honda CRF450 as it landed in the road in front him — well, at least he only has some scuffs and scrapes, not to mention a great video to show everyone. No crash is ever a good crash, but at Pikes Peak, this might be as “good” as it gets, since everyone involved will ride another day.
The 92nd running of the “Race to the Clouds” goes off Sunday morning. We’ll be bringing you more pictures and report throughout the rest of the week. Stay tuned right here to A&R.
It’s time to throw down times. Recon day is over. It’s now or never. The riders will not see these sections of the mountain again until race day.
Some of the rookie riders seem to still be learning the fastest lines, but the old veterans have it down pat and are hurling the bike around the tight switchbacks on Sector 2 of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, my favorite part of the course.
There are long fast straights, tight hairpin turns, and insane drop-offs in Sector 2, and it is also where the mountain gains the most elevation in the shortest period of time — not to mention the sunrises are the best up there. It is a magical thing to watch the sun come up over the horizon over the course of five minutes.
Pikes Peak is always magical. But when you get an amazing sunrise, combined with bikes pushing hard up the mountain, it makes for a fun morning.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a grueling event to cover, and nothing is worse than walking off a plane, from more or less sea level, and heading to the highest part of the mountain for Practice 1.
Pikes Peak is unique. The organizers split the mountain into three sections — cars run two-thirds of the course , while bikes, ATVs and sidecars run the other third.
The bikes started at Devil’s Playground for our first practice, which puts us immediately at high altitude. It tests the bikes and our bodies to the limit. But thankfully, first practice is just about getting the bikes dialed in, and less about making fast times.
To finish first, first you have to finish. Reliability on this mountain will put cracks in even the most well laid out plans. Some riders were already pushing hard, and it was evident. Others were just getting the lay of the land.
Tomorrow we run the middle sector of the mountain. As a photographer, it is my personal favorite spot to shoot. But I’m not looking forward to another 2:15am alarm.
Normally our “Trackside Tuesday” series features something from the MotoGP paddock, since that is where the A&R photographers spend most of their time swinging lenses. But, I thought we would change it up a bit today, especially since the marketing machine for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is well underway for next month’s race.
I have a love-hate relationship with Pikes Peak. The racing is unlike anything else you will see in America, and it survives by what seems like tradition alone. Set on one of Colorado’s famous 14er peaks, Pikes Peak is 14,115 feet of undulating road, which starts fast and sweeping, tightens to slow and technical, and then finally relents to some degree near the summit.
It is not a race for the timid, as many of the turns feature an extreme of terrain: granite walls or sheer drops. At one turn, called The Bottomless Pit, the joke is that if you crash there (and don’t break every bone in your body on the two foot tall wall at the tarmac’s end), you will starve to death before you reach terra firma. It’s a bit of hyperbole for sure, but it still isn’t a turn where I would want to go down, if I was a racer.
It amazes me then that the hill climb is in its 92nd season, as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is really just one good lawsuit away from being sacked; and to be frank, it’s not like the race has done much in the past to mitigate its exposure. So, it is refreshing to see some professionalism being brought to this iconic race, and 2014 will see some spectator guidelines being imposed on the PPIHC.
There will of course be a few misinformed people that will call this the death of Pikes Peak, but the honest truth is that the race, if left unchanged, would have been the death of itself — and it’s not like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb isn’t still without its dangers.
That might be the reason that Guy Martin has finally decided to make the journey over from across the pond, and give the local teams and riders a run for their money. The Isle of Man TT star will be riding on a custom turbocharged cafe racer, which with the added boost of nitrous, is said to put down near 500hp.
The whole thing is a ridiculous entry, which has its sights squarely on the outright motorcycle record at Pikes Peak, much like Sebastien Loeb’s run last year was an assault on the four-wheeled record.
It seems Guy Martin, the barely understandable, though immediately lovable road racer of Isle of Man TT fame will compete in the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. One of the stars of the Isle of Man TT, and perhaps the fastest man on the Mountain Course who has never won an IOMTT race, Martin’s involvement with “The Race to the Clouds” has been a long time coming.
The organizers at the PPIHC have long been trying to get riders and teams from the Isle of Man TT onto the Pikes Peak road course, in an effort to bolster the race’s international appeal and reputation, as well as breathe new life and interest into the historic American race.
Our sources say a special effort was made to lure Guy Martin, who was the centerpiece personality in the Isle of Man’s Closer to the Edge film, and it seems those efforts have finally paid off with this latest news.
I got a bit fired up yesterday while I was talking about the spectator zones that will be put into place for the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and I got a bit of flak for calling it “the world’s most unprofessionally run international motorsport event.” It is, full stop.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is about to host its 92nd running, and in the almost hundred years of competition, the Race to Clouds has failed to move beyond its folksy roots.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this race. It’s a great historic event, which actually gets more coverage abroad than it does in the United States. But, it has some serious growing to do from a safety, media, coverage, and promotional point-of-view.
Implementing new rules for the 2014, as to where spectators can view the race, is a huge step forward for Pikes Peak, and the following video is a great example why some modicum of professional organization needs to be brought to this race.
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.