PPIHC: Rookie Carlin Dunne Surprises with Pole Position

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The 89th Annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is well underway this weekend, as the three days of practices sessions have now concluded, and teams are preparing for the race on Sunday. With the paddock abuzz that 2011 will be the last year that the hill climb will have a dirt section, things were shook up even further in the 1200cc motorcycle class as PPIHC rookie rider Carlin Dunne from the Santa Barbara Ducati team took the pole position with a qualifying time of 5:35.937 (each classes qualifies on only a single section of the race course, with motorcycles qualifying on the lower section this year). Vying for the top spot on the time sheet, Dunne had stiff competition in the 1200c race class, namely from Spider Grips Ducati riders Gregg Tracy, who crashed during the qualifying session.

Battling with Dunne, Tracy’s off occurred due to the cold tarmac conditions, thus losing valuable time. Tracy’s practice times from earlier in the day were favorable though, posting a 5:48.798 in traffic earlier in the morning. Dunne’s rookie pole debut is a rarity on The Peak, though traditionally it predicts a top-step finish for the rider (no pressure, right?). In order for that to happen, the Santa Barbara native will have to keep Tracy and his teammate Alexander Smith at bay, along with a very fast Mark Cernicky (who writes about motorcycle occasionally). Also in the hunt is Glenn Cox on his KTM SuperDuke R, though Joe Kopp’s Triumph Speed Triple has been relegated to an exhibition class, as it falls outside the 1200cc & 7500cc class rules (the 1200cc class is for v-twins only…draw your conclusions on that as you will).

“It’s pretty overwhelming at first — there’s a lot of information to process,” said Dunne while explaining his first time racing Pikes Peak to Asphalt & Rubber. “Your first ride you really question why, for me at least, what am I doing? Why am I here? There’s 156 turns and each one is different. Some are decreasing radius, some are increasing radius, and a lot of them are blind.”

“I actually had to take a step-back, slowdown, quit trying to go fast, and start going slower and learning,” continued Dunne who will ride a modestly modified Ducati Multistrada 1200. “When I started doing that, things started really to come together, but it was pretty overwhelming at first.”

An accomplished road and dirt bike racer, Dunne was quick to point out the obvious challenge that Pikes Peak presents to riders. “There’s literally no guardrails on some of these big sweepers, and going over 100 mph we’re get loose, real loose, and as soon as you start to think about that, you’re definitely slowing down.”

“But, it’s a calculated risk,” Dunne immediately added. “You know you could go faster, but you also know that you’re on your limit of adhesion, so you’ve got to walk the line, much more so than any closed-circuit race track. There’s no second chance, there’s no run-off, so you have to respect it, and that’s the most important part.”

When asked about how felt about his pole-position qualifying, Dunne simply stated: “I can definitely feel the target on my back getting bigger, but really I’m not letting it get to me. No one expected me to do much, and for me it’s just about riding my race. I’m not worried about racing anyone else, I’m just focused on putting 156 turns together as flawlessly as possible…and keeping it on two wheels while I’m at it.”

Select Qualifying Results for the 89th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb:

Pos. No. Name Bike Qualifying Time
1 34 Carlin Dunne Ducati Multistrada 1200 5:35.937
2 50 Mark Cernicky Ducati Multistrada 1200 5:44.131
3 55 Alexander Smith Ducati Multistrada 1200 6:00.252
4 13 Glenn Cox KTM SuperDuke R 6:01.912
5 555 Greg Tracy Ducati Multistrada 1200 6:12.082
Other Times of Note
1* 357 Gary Trachy TM 660 SMX 5:22.310
2* 508 Stuart Sinclair Aprilla SXV 5:32.130
2** 3 Joe Kopp Triumph Speed Triple 5:43.758
489 Chip Yates Electric Superbike Prototype 6:50.275
*Qualifying Position from the 750cc Motorcycle Class
**Qualifying Position if Included in the 1200cc Motorcycle Class

Source: PPIHC; Photo: © 2011 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0