A Brief History of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb
Ask any racing fan and they’ll tell you that Colorado’s Pikes Peak has a bit more to offer than just picturesque views. Every summer, the mountain sees all sorts of vehicles imaginable carving their way up the range’s 12.42 mile road course, bending through 156 turns, sprinting next to sheer cliffs, and ascending nearly 5,000 feet into the sky. But it hasn’t always been that way. Back in the early 1900s, the only way to get up to the summit was to take a carriage path. The first automobile to make the climb was a two-cylinder Locomobile Steamer driven by two men from Denver. Unsurprisingly, the trip took over nine hours and required more than a little pushing.
RELATED: Check out our preview of the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
In 1915, Spencer Penrose, a major player from Colorado Springs, had realized the tourist potential of the mountain and finished converting the constricted carriage road into the Pikes Peak Highway. The first official event was held the following year on August 10-12, 1916.
Rea Lentz, a 22-year old hailing from Washington won the inaugural race in his Romano Demon Special (pictured above) with a winning time of 20 minutes 55.6 seconds. The entry fee was between $25 and $50, and overall winner in each class could take home up to $2000. However, the event would not be held again until 1920 due to the advent of World War I.
In the early days, mechanics frequently rode along with drivers due to the many breakdowns that occurred on the sprint up the mountain. These days, the course is fully paved (since 2012) and drivers go-it-alone, but the challenges of the mountain remain ever-present. Thunderstorms, fog, hail, you name it – it could be happening at the summit.
Nearly a century has passed since the first race and over the years quite a few notable names have been scribbled on the timesheets, including Eddie Rickenbacker (WWI flying ace), Bobby Unser (three-time Indy 500 winner), Mario Andretti (Formula 1 champion), as well as Rod and Rhys Millen.
Sebastien Loeb achieved the course record – a staggering 8:13.878 – last year in a specially-built Peugeot 208 T16. You can tune-in this weekend via our live stream of the event on BoldRide.com to see who becomes the 2014 King of the Mountain.
RELATED: See more photos of Sebastien Loeb's 2013 Peugeot 208 T16