The Pikes Peak hillclimb is one of the world’s greatest driving challenges.
That challenge has attracted some of the world’s greatest drivers, driving unbelievably fast machinery thanks to the open rulebook.
1987 Audi Sport Quattro S1 Pikes Peak
Everyone sat up and took notice when WRC legend Walter Rohrl fronted the Unlimited Class at the PPIHC in 1987 with the specially prepared Sport Quattro S1 Pikes Peak – a 447kW monster modified to run at Pikes.
Not only did it pack 100 kilowatts more than the ultimate Group B Audi WRC cars, but it was lighter and featured dramatic aero that included a double front wing. His time of 10min 47.850sec meant he was the first driver to break the 11minute barrier.
The Sport Quattro S1 Pikes Peak was a catalyst for some of the craziest rally-inspired machinery to head to PPIHC over the next 30 years.
1988 Peugeot Sport 405 T16
Peugeot unsuccessfully tried its hand at Pikes Peak in the mid 1980s with their 205 T16 rally car. Things got serious in 1988 when they designed the 405 T16 GR.
While it’s called a 405 there’s not much related to Peugeot’s family car except the headlights – you couldn’t get a mid-mount 447kW turbo motor, lightweight coupe shell, huge aero, all-wheel drive or all-wheel steer at the dealership!
Ari Vatanen’s 10min 47.47sec record-setting run is a favourite among gearheads; it even overshadowed Robby Unser’s 1989 win in the Unlimited Class.
Peugeot’s 1988 effort was the last big manufacturer entry until its reappearance this year.
1994 Millen-Toyota Celica
Turbocharged all-wheel drive cars made headlines in 1994 when Kiwi ex-pat and rallying guru Rod Millen (Rhys’s father) pedalled his tube-frame Toyota Celica to an amazing time of 10min 04.04sec.
Powered by a 2.1-litre version of Toyota’s 3S-GTE four-cylinder engine, it makes over 745kW and signalled the start of an era dominated by ever-wilder machinery. His record, set on a predominantly dirt road, stood until the course was almost totally paved in 2007 and is one of five wins Rod has taken in the Unlimited Class.
Rhys Millen even admits he reckons the wild yellow Celica is still faster than his PM580T!
Suzuki Escudo Pikes Peak
Nobuhiro Tajima is a Japanese man known as “Monster”. Monster’s Escudo and Cultus race cars have showcased seriously interesting engineering, from running twin-engines to even taking on Pikes Peak using electric power!
But it was his late-’90s red Escudo (Vitara to us Aussies) that really fires up the imagination of anyone who grew up in the 1990s – thanks to it being the fastest car you could buy in the mega-popular PlayStation driving simulator, Gran Turismo.
Packing over 750kW and the biggest wings motorsport has ever seen, Monster’s car was one of the first to really drive the aero game forward and his nine PPIHC Unlimited Class wins mark him as one of the climb’s all-time legends.
2013 Peugeot Sport 208 T16
Built using left-over bits of their Le Mans 24-hour 908 race car, the 208 T16 can accelerate to 100km/h faster than an F1 car, taking only 1.8 seconds. All-wheel drive and with a twin-turbo 3.2-litre V6 making 652kW, it only weighs 875kg and has reset the benchmark for what is considered to be an “Unlimited Class” car at PPIHC.
The aero alone could fill a book with the work involved in getting the 208 to not fly off the side of the mountain at its 250km/h top speed. There are serious questions as to whether Sebastian Loeb’s time of 8min 13sec will ever be bettered, given the car has now been removed from competition by Peugeot.