It’s Saturday on the eve of the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and a lot has happened over the past week. From the moment we arrived in Colorado Springs on Monday for registration and technical inspection, there’s been excitement in the air because both car and motorcycle divisions are poised to set new course records.
While the majority of attention has centered around nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastian Loeb and the possibility he could smash the record and go under nine minutes in his Peugeot 208 T16, the motorcycle division isn’t lacking for headliners, either.
First and foremost, current course record holder Carlin Dunne is back. This time he’ on the Lightning electric superbike, leading all motorcycles — gas and electric — in qualifying by almost five seconds. So far it’s looking like he’ll crush his own record, which clearly will be a historic moment should it happen.
But Dunne isn’t the only competitor on electric bikes. There is a class exclusively for Zero Motorcycles, which yours truly is competing in. We have a total of six bikes in our class; three S and three FX models. I’m on the latter. Read my full story on the event in the weeks to come, but for now, here’s a quick update.
Tuesday/Wednesday: The course is broken down into three sections for practice (top, middle, bottom) and the bikes occupied the middle section these two days. Of the three sections, this is the most technical, with plenty of blind hairpins and the sun directly in your eyes on the approach to some of them. I clicked with this section quickly, and after making some adjustments to the bike, posted the second quickest lap time in our class.
Thursday: We did the top section today, which is completely opposite from the middle section. The top is fast and flowing to start, tightening up towards the end with blind hairpins, deceiving turns, poor asphalt changes and plenty of bumps. The motard-style of the FX is perfect for this section, but I didn’t learn the course as well as I wanted to. I still managed the second fastest time in our class, but could have gone faster with more track knowledge.
Friday: Today meant the bottom section, which held extra importance as times set here would be used for qualifying. This section is also fast at first, but is tricky because of the sudden mix of slow bends with tricky radius’ towards the end. Only one of the six in our class had practiced in this section before, so the extreme lack of track knowledge added an extra layer of difficulty.
Unfortunately, not knowing where I was going bit me hard, as on my first timed run I overshot a turn, misjudged the radius, and tucked the front. Bike and rider flew off the road and into a ditch. Surprisingly, the Zero FX was still running when I found it! The entire front end was bent, but the crew was able to replace all of it. As for me, I injured my foot to the point I can’t walk, but I was still able to ride and set a time, mandatory to take part in the race.
Racing starts at 8am MST tomorrow, Sunday, with motorcycles being the first group to head up the mountain. If you can’t watch the race in person, be sure to catch the live streaming on Red Bull TV or on the Pikes Peak website.