The Questionable Future for Motorcycles at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

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The future for motorcycles racing at Pikes Peak is under question, according to local reports about the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

The news comes from the Colorado Springs Gazette, which says that Executive Director Megan Leatham told the city and US Forest Service in an email after the crash that she thought the race would be the last for motorcycles on the mountain.

As one would expect, the discussion about the future for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and whether motorcycles would continue at the event, is far from a definitive conclusion, but the possibility of the motorcycle race ending is very real.

Of course, the impetus for this conversation is the recent death of racer Carlin Dunne, who was just within range of the finish line when he crashed and flew off the mountain’s road course.

A multiple record-holder at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Dunne’s death has shocked the American road racing community, and it comes at a precarious time for the iconic “Race to the Clouds”.

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has already made massive changes to the race in order to corral spectators, who had increasingly been acting dangerously – like crossing the track while it was hot, just in front of racing vehicles.

Always a legal liability, the race has reportedly been clear to its racers that one serious accident or fatality could spell the end of racing at Pikes Peak, which would be a huge blow to the nearly 100-year-old event.

The truth though is that paving the once all-dirt road has drastically changed the nature of the event, and massively increased the vehicle speeds, and thus the potential for deadly crashes.

Carlin’s death, along with the other safety challenges that have constantly plagued the event, might be what ends motorcycle racing at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which is surely also facing its own existential issues.

Speaking about wanting to see the race continue with motorcycles, Carlin’s mother Romie Gallardo released a statement on Facebook talking about the great lengths that Pikes Peak went through for her and her family during a difficult time, and that her son would have liked to see motorcycle racing continue at the historic event.

That might be a challenge for Pikes Peak though, especially in the eyes of the local politicians. The city’s local paper (again, the Colorado Springs Gazette), released an incendiary article right after this year’s event about Pikes Peak’s handling of media and on-course censorship.

The race has always had a contentious relationship with media outlets, Asphalt & Rubber included, and has often been heavy-handed with journalists (or racers) who have publicly criticized the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, that the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb makes after losing one of its biggest and most loyal stars. It is very possible too that the 2019 race could be the last ever held for motorcycles, and a serious car accident could put the entire race in jeopardy as well.

Source: The Gazette via Roadracing World; Photo: © 2013 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: In terms of future coverage, Asphalt & Rubber will no longer be publishing stories about the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, nor will it attend the event with staff or freelance journalists. We have also made the decision not to cover products or events tied to the hill climb.

This decision is made not because of the loss of our friend and contributor Carlin Dunne – though the circumstances that surround his death do weigh on our minds – but instead because of the pattern of actions and treatment made to to racers and media by the Pikes Peak staff and teams, which we find deeply troubling. -JB