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.

Source: The GazettePhoto: © 2013 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0

  • TheSeaward

    I went to PPIHC for the first time last year and was flabbergasted at where some people chose to stand and when they choose to run across the road. I think it might have something to do with the three different camps of spectators in attendance. There were the hardcore race fans with radios and more intelligent seating choices due to a working knowledge of motorsports, casual family outings with an ironically much lower regard to safety, and finally the “party on The Mountain” crew which was hammered drunk/high for the entire race and running around willynilly even putting the racers at risk. (Sorry for the run on.) Last year there were a few no standing areas, but by no means were all the dangerous areas covered. People were still crowding the outside of Engineers even after the second life flight if the day

  • TheSeaward

    . This is probably for the best as I don’t want idiots to get this amazing race shut down. Play stupid games and win stupid prizes.

    Sorry for the double post. My phone screwed me.

  • numb nuts

    Get rid of the paved sections.

    Get rid of the morons that get too close.

    Get back to the old PPIHC that used to entertain people instead of some boring run up a hill against a stop watch. (Not even a stop watch now, it’s a computer).

    It’s hardly entertaining anymore unless you’re on the mountain trying to dodge the ticket inspectors.

  • Saw the race the first year it was all paved. There were an amazing amount of spectators running across the road when a car/truck/bike was coming up towards us in Devil’s Playground. When the electric bikes and cars were super close, the peds acted like they had plenty of time to still meander across. Just because you can’t hear it, doesn’t mean it’s not gonna run you over any less.

    Protect the riders and drivers from the idiocy, I say.

  • I totally forgot that fans cross the course while the track is hot. Uggh! The last few years I have gone to this race, I have done so immediately after coming back from the Isle of Man TT.

    Let me tell you, these two very similar races, are handled in completely different manners.

    The TT employs hundreds of marshals through its 37-mile course, a vast majority of whom have visual sight with the next marshal. This means that someone with a radio has eyes on everything that happens on the course. When a rider goes down, or when a fan gets out of line, it can be immediately responded to. This is a professional operation.

    At Pikes Peak, there are a handful of marshals on the course. When someone goes missing on the beacon, the VAST majority of the time no one knows what is going on, and the incident could literally take place in a miles-long segment of the course. Did the riders have a mechanical and is on the side of the road OK? Or did he crash and is bleeding out. It takes what seems like an eternity to find out what is essentially a life or death situation. This is simply terrifying to watch.

  • L2C

    Ever watch old clips of WRC?

  • Yeah, WRC is a nightmare for drivers. It doesn’t take a whole lot of oops to clear out 20 people on the outside of a curve.

  • crshnbrn

    The Group B cars were banned in part because of spectators lacking the self-preservation instinct. Nothing like survival of the wittest.

  • smiler

    Has anyone ever been injured of killed?

    Can then not put up fencing instead.

    If they tried this at the TT, it would close.

  • allen

    race ruined. safety police an self appointed do gooders just ruined it. thanks for messing up one of the few fun races left. people like myself will quit going an it will end. i wish these safety nazis would mind their own biz. if you support this, you are part of what is wrong with this country. go buy a Volvo an move to Kansas. i truly hate you people.

  • TheSeaward

    Either you’re pretty good at satire or have jumped in front of a few too many racecars.

  • Grey Matter

    People are stupid as a majority. Those who are smart are now pissed off that they have to be regulated in with the village idiots. Who in their right mind walks across a hot track? Idiots. Who has ruined it for the sensable fan? Idiots. Be sure to thank an idiot when you attend the race. They’re easy to spot. I will be attaneding the “Climb to the Clouds ” in New Hampshire which is automobile only. A much more down to earth event and much more sensability for safety and respect for the land.

  • TommyBoy

    So long to such an awesome race. I work in the pits every year, and once our class leaves the start, I would hike up the road a mile or two to watch the rest of the race. Sure there are a few stupid people where they shouldn’t be, but other people are always quick to give them a heads up.

    The people I feel sorry for are the vendors in town. We’ve stayed at the same motel in Manitou Springs for years. Eaten at the same 2 or 3 small restaurants as well. With the new restrictions and the fewer people coming, those businesses are the ones who suffer.

    Fans near the road is part of any rally or hill climb. Fast cars and no fences. Sure there is a risk, that is why you sign a release before you go. Now that the safety nazis are puffing up their chests, I think it is time that I call it quits on Pikes Peak. It is a sad day, but the excitement went down when they started paving the road, and with these new restrictions, I don’t think there is any wind left over in the sails.

    It seems a few big names aren’t running this year either. It looks like Davey Durelle hasn’t registered yet, neither have any Unsers, David Donner, or Rhys & Rod Millen. Clint Vahsholtz is forced into the open wheel category with last year’s rule changes, and Mike Ryan is forced to run his big rig in Pikes Peak Open against Porsches and other sports cars.

    I’ve been going every year since I was a kid, but it is time for me to say so long Pikes Peak. It was a good run. Sorry the Sierra Club and now the safety nazis had to ruin you.