The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 2013 was held June 24-30 at Pikes Peak Mountain in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 91st annual “Race to the Clouds” is the second oldest motorsports race in America.
An international field of 146 competitors, 63 automobiles and 83 motorcycles challenged the 12.42 mile, fully-paved course with 156 turns that begins at 9,390 feet and ends at the 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak, where the air is rare. As the drivers climb toward the summit, the thin air slows reflexes, saps muscle strength and robs engines of roughly 30% of their power.
The Pikes Peak Hill Climb was launched in 1916 by Spencer Penrose, the founder of the famous Broadmoor Hotel, to help publicize his home town of Colorado Springs and the new highway he had constructed to the summit of Pikes Peak. During the 90 previous editions of the hill climb, the list of champions include the greats of American motorsport – Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Roger Mears, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., Louis Unser, Bobby Unser, Rick Mears and scores of others, including generations of racing families with names like Dallenbach, Unser, Donner and Vahsholtz.
The 2013 running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb saw 9-time World Rally Championship winner Sebastien Loeb shatter the record with a breath-taking time of 8m13.878s in his 2013 Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak. The Frenchman negotiated the 12.42 miles and 156 corners of the mountain at an average speed of 87.47 mph.
Loeb’s time blitzed the previous best of 9m46.164s, set by Rhys Millen last year, with the top three finishers all beating the 2012 record. “For me, this was the race of the year,” said Loeb at the finish, 14,110 feet high in the Rocky Mountains. “At the beginning of my run there was a bit of pressure for sure because I knew there was so much work and investment from Peugeot and all the partners. Now, after all the practice, it was just down to me and I had to perform.”
As the top qualifier, Loeb started first of the Unlimited class cars, unleashing his 875-horsepower race car onto the mountain after all the motorcycle competitors had passed through. However there were a number of delays before he started, which meant that the team began to worry about bad weather: a common feature of Pikes Peak at high altitude. “When I was on the start line waiting to go, I could actually see the clouds closing in at the top of the mountain,” said Loeb. “I remember thinking that if we didn’t get going soon, it would be really difficult.”
As it was, Loeb blasted his 208 T16 Pikes Peak through the clouds in a time that was even quicker than Peugeot Sport’s computer had thought was possible. The ideal theoretical time – calculated using data from Loeb’s practice runs up the Colorado mountain – was 8m15s. The nine-time world rally champion somehow managed to shave two seconds off that.
“I’m really happy as that was a very good run in the end,” said Loeb. “I really didn’t expect anything better than 8m15s, so to do 8m13s was fantastic. Before the start I didn’t really know if I should push absolutely to the maximum or if I should just push to a comfortable pace, in order to make sure of the victory. In the end, I decided to push to the limit.”
The scenes of success at Peugeot were reminiscent of 1988, when former world rally champion Ari Vatanen broke the Pikes Peak record for the French manufacturer exactly 25 years ago, with the 405 T16 Pikes Peak. Back then the benchmark was 10m47.220s on gravel roads – a sign of just how rapidly technology has evolved.
In second place on the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was former record-holder Rhys Millen in his all-new Hyundai RMR PM580-T, 49 seconds behind Loeb with a time of 9m02.192s. Nonetheless, the New Zealander beat his own record – and he says that he’s determined to break the nine-minute barrier next year.
“I think it’s fair to say that we were racing for second place today,” said Millen. “Myself and Romain Dumas had been really close throughout practice, but then I heard that his engine had unfortunately broken at the start. I knew I wasn’t going to beat Sebastien’s time, so I just decided to take no risks. You have to hand it to Loeb and Peugeot Sport: they were unbeatable. That time they set was simply incredible. When will it be beaten? It might never be…”
Photographer Nathan Leach-Proffer documented the 2013 running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb with a stunning picture gallery of the entrants defying logic and sometimes treacherous conditions on the arduous climb to Pikes Peak. The 225 pictures Nathan captured were split into two galleries. The first gallery starting below features our top 100 images, all displayed in the full-width view of our website, while the complete gallery and race results can be found on the last page of the article and gives a comprehensive view of all the photographs. To see more from Nathan, visit www.speed-photos.net.