Pike’s Peak


By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine

We’ve been observing the emergence of electric vehicles into competition venues for a while, and the movement continues. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was held last weekend and provided a class dedicated to EVs. The results again show that EVs can compete at a professional level under trying conditions.

For an a quick overview, the Climb to the Clouds course starts at an altitude of almost 9,400 ft., then climbs a 12.4-mile road to finish above 14,000 feet. The thin air puts an internal combustion engine at an immediate disadvantage, and many liquid fueled cars run turbo or superchargers. The maximum grade is about ten percent – pretty steep,  which puts additional loads on any powerplant – and the 156 turns provide all the challenge any driver needs. The event allows 16 classes from mild to wild, including a variety of cars, bikes, and ATV-based vehicles including the all-electric class.

The road to the top was originally all dirt and gravel, but each year the course has received more paved sections; this year marked completion of the project and the race was run on 100 percent blacktop.  It’s only been a few years since the course could be run in under 10 minutes, and with the new surface many class records were expected to fall.

Last year’s overall record of 9:51.27 fell early when 24 Hours of Le Mans champion driver Romain Dumas took a Porsche GT3 RS up the hill in 9:46.18. (That’s an average speed of over 76 mph, and  the car reached nearly twice that speed in places.) The Porsche was in the “Open” class, which is a virtual anything-goes category for fully prepped race cars.

But a bigger shock came ten runs later when Formula  Drift competitor and rally driver Rhys Millen pushed a Hyundai Genesis Coupe up the hill two tenths quicker, turning a 9:46.16. You read that right–the Hyundai beat the Porsche. What’s more, the Genesis was running in a different class with more restrictive prep rules. In fairness, Millen is a Pike’s Peak veteran with many appearances on the hill while Dumas was a first-timer, but still, anything can happen in racing.

More to our original point, who’s that in 6th place overall? Fumio Nutahara in Toyota Motorsport’s TMG EVP002. The purpose built E-racer turned a 10:15:38 (beating more than 60 other cars), averaged over 72 mph for the trip and took first in class.  Second in class and eighth overall was Hiroshi Masuoka in a Mitsubishi i-MiEV Evolution Electric at 10:30.850.

 Credit:  Nutahara.com

So, two of the Top Ten cars in a 70 car field were all-electric and their times were at least competitive if not stellar. Yes, they were highly engineered and purpose built to win the bragging rights. And yes, they were heavily supported and funded by their corporations. But make no mistake—the factories see electric vehicles as worthwhile and are willing to invest in and test EV technology under racing conditions to improve the product and components.  What went up the hill this year may be in showrooms within a few more years.

Credit: John McGuckin

Accidents were frequent and not everyone set records at Pikes Peak. Both occupants walked away from this one.

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Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Founded in 1981, MACS is the leading non-profit trade association for the mobile air conditioning, heating and engine cooling system segment of the automotive aftermarket. Since 1991, MACS has assisted more than 600,000 technicians to comply with the 1990 U.S. EPA Clean Air Act requirements for certification in refrigerant recovery and recycling to protect the environment. The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide’s mission is clear and focused--as the recognized global authority on mobile air conditioning and heat transfer industry issues. www.macsw.org
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