A Historic Drive to the Clouds Pikes Peak 2022 – 100th Running

  • story by Riley Bjerk
  • photos by Riley Bjerk
  • posted on 09/2022
  • posted in: Newswire


The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has earned the nickname “The Race To The Clouds” for a good reason. This historic race takes place on the strikingly beautiful Pikes Peak just outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado where competitors race to its peak which sits at a staggering 14,115 feet in elevation. The trek up to the top of America’s Mountain consists of 156 turns and stretches 12.42 miles. Even though the scenery is beautiful, the mountain lays host to tight bends, steep drop offs and unpredictable weather that has claimed the egos, and sometimes the lives, of the brave individuals who choose to race up to its summit. Despite the danger, a courageous group of drivers still flock to the mountain every year. Some hope to just make it to the top and have a donut to celebrate completing the challenge, while some others seek to get to the top as fast as possible and etch their names into the record books. The harsh conditions and unpredictable weather mean that this is truly a massive challenge for both man and machine. After all, one mistake could spell disaster.


The very first running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb took place during August 1916. The maiden winner of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb was a man named Rea Lentz who posted the winning time of 20 minutes 55.6 seconds. At that time, the entire road leading up to the summit was dirt and the only cars competing were open wheel cars like Lentz’s Romano Demon Special. Lentz won the inaugural event as the youngest driver entered at only 22 years old. After the first event, the race was put on hold during World War I and resumed in 1920. Over the years, the race began to gain popularity with  racers from all corners of the globe, including the legendary Unser family.

The Unser family is well known on the mountain, and for good reason. Bobby Unser won his first Hill Climb in 1926 and his younger brother, Louis Unser, won his first championship in 1934. After many more years of racing, Louis had won the Hill Climb a total of 9 times and has earned the nickname “The King of the Mountain”. Since then, many more generations of Unser kin have raced and a few have even won the hill climb. In total members of the Unser family have raced 114 times and have earned 38 titles. Loni Unser, the latest of the family to brave the mountain, is competing in this year’s Hill Climb in her Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport.

Throughout the years, Pikes Peak has become a tradition for even more families like the Unsers. Leonard, Clint and Codie Vahsholtz have been racing their way up the mountain since 1975 and have 44 combined titles across many different vehicle classes. In addition to these two families, when you think of Pikes Peak, you can’t help but think of Rod and Rhys Millen. The father son duo hails from New Zealand and have been a force to reckon with ever since Rod began racing up the mountain in the 1980s. Rod Millen is a highly decorated rallycross driver, so he immediately made an impact on the dirt track of Pike Peak. He is most known for setting the record on dirt with a blistering 10 minutes 4 second run in 1997 with his Toyota Celica. In addition to holding the fastest time on dirt, Rod dominated the mountain in the late 1990s taking home the fastest overall time in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999. Rod’s all dirt course record will stand forever since shortly after, sections of the mountains were paved. Rod’s wife Shelley has also competed in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, making them the first ever husband and wife team to compete. Their son, Rhys Millen, has also made his presence known on the mountain. Coming from a similar rallycross background as well as winning Formula Drift in 2004 and 2005, he set the rear wheel drive record for the mountain in 2009. Rod and Rhys collectively hold 15 crowns on the Mountain.

As the years drew on, records fell as a new breed of driver and car made their way to the mountain to see just how fast they can get to the top. The dirt track was slowly being replaced with a fully paved road, section by section, until it was finally completed in 2012. 2011 was the first year a car broke the elusive 10 minute barrier. The legendary Japanese Rallycross driver, Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima, became the first man to do this in his Suzuki SX4 Hill Climb Special with a time of 9 minutes 51 seconds after winning outright for the past 6 consecutive seasons. The next year, the times quickly began to tumble some more when Sebastien Loeb stepped onto the mountain. The heavily decorated rallycross driver piloted his Peugeot 206 T16 up the mountain and finished with a time of 8 minutes 14 seconds which is over a minute faster than Tajima’s record the year before. This was Sebastien’s one and only attempt up the mountain. Loeb’s record seemed to be out of reach for many years, until Romain Dumas and the Volkswagen I.D. R came to the mountain just 5 years later in 2017. This all electric speed machine obliterated Sebastien’s record with an official time of 7 minutes 57 seconds which is the current overall record of the Pikes Peaks Hill Climb.

A Century in the Making

June 2022 marked the 100th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. With the event celebrating a century of running, the mountain was host to over 70 drivers seeking to conquer the mountain on this momentous occasion. Some of which were previous winners and record holders who have been racing the mountain for years, while others were rookies who have never stepped foot on the mountain prior to the event. The two drivers grabbing the most attention leading up to the race were previous five-time Pikes Peak winner Rod Millen and Ken Block, the world famous rally driver, founder of Hoonigan and subject of the popular Gymkhana films.

To celebrate the 100th running, 71 year old Pikes Peak legend, Rod Millen, dusted off his famous Toyota Tacoma race truck which won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in back to back years (1998-1999) and prepped it for the harsh trek up the mountain. Prior to this year’s hillclimb, the car had not run in over 20 years and this was Rod’s first race up the mountain in 23 years. The last time the car was on the mountain, the road was vastly different. In the late 1990’s a good part of the track was gravel, meaning that the car was not suited to hop onto the tarmac and set a competitive time. This car is one of the most iconic cars that has ever raced up the mountain. The yellow and white Pennzoil livery is known among motorsports fans around the world. Fans were eager to see it back on the mountain after such a long time and driven by the same legendary man who piloted it over twenty years ago.

Ken Block is known around the world for pushing the limits of every car he steps into. This is evident given his rich rallycross experience and documenting various stunts to broadcast on the internet. Ken is no stranger to the mountain. In 2017, Ken Block released a film called “Climbkhana” which featured him drifting his 1,400 horsepower 1965 Ford Mustang RTR V2 known as the “Hoonicorn” up the mountain through each of its 156 turns, while performing various stunts along the way. To celebrate the 100th running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, he decided to return to the mountain with a bang. Ken and his team created an off the wall car for this special occasion. In conjunction with BBi Autosport, they created a 1,400 horsepower, mid-engined, twin-turbo, all wheel drive Porsche 911 with a wing big enough to use as a table. BBi has helped previous competitors reach the summit and this year set out with Hoonigan to create a car that could compete for an outright win. The livery of the car is also widely talked about. Hoonigan sought the help of street artist Trevor Andrew or “Guccighost”. The car rocks a pink livery that resembles the 1971 Porsche 917/20 “Pink Pig” that raced at the 24 hours of Le Mans. The pink livery along with one of Ken’s biggest sponsors, Mobil One, the car was affectionately named, the “Hoonipegasus”.

However, the car never got a chance to get comfortable on the mountain. Ken struggled with the car on the first day of practice and at the end of day two, the engine dropped a valve and was unrepairable. Because of this, the California based team was not able to complete a qualifying run on day three, thus disqualifying them from the Hill Climb on Sunday. Ken took to Instagram to break the news to fans and announce that he will bring the car back next year to finally see what the bespoke machine can do.

Leading Up to the Race

The atmosphere leading up to the week of the race was one of excitement. All of the drivers and teams were excited to get on the mountain and get prepped for the race on Sunday. Pikes Peak is known for dramatic changes in the weather, which has plagued the race in the past. Luckily, the week of practice provided the drivers with amazingly calm weather, allowing them to dial in their machines and set blistering qualifying times. There were some drivers that were feeling confident about the possibility of breaking records. Specifically, David Donner who was in the driver’s seat of the Champion Porsche/000 Magazine Porsche 911 Turbo S. The goal for David and the team was to break the production car record of 10 minutes 18 seconds. During the practice sessions, it looked like this could be the year that the record could be changing hands.

Another driver that was taking advantage of the good weather conditions was 2021 King of the mountain, Robin Shute. Shute had his 2018 Wolf TSC-FS dialed in and ultimately clocked the fastest qualifying time ever for a car with an internal combustion engine. Robin’s 3 minute 24.5 second qualifying run bested previous record holder, Sébastien Loeb, who has held that record since 2013. Needless to say, Robin was competing at an extremely high level and was ready to see how much he can improve on last year’s stellar performance.

Although, the nice weather did not mean that everything was going to go perfect for the drivers during practice. The mountain is still perilous and can catch even the most seasoned drivers off guard. There were a handful of drivers that lost control and crashed due to the demanding nature of the track. Gustav Lundah lost control of his 911 Turbo R on the top section during practice and lodged it on one of the steep mountain slopes. Sead Causevic went off in the first section of the track and collided with a tree in his Audi S3 LMS. Descendant of Pikes Peak royalty, and a rookie for 2022, Loni Unser had an unfortunate crash on the last day of practice. When she was driving on the top section of the mountain, the bumpy road caused the ABS to malfunction on her Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport. Luckily, her team and the technicians at Porsche Colorado Springs were able to fix her car just in time for the race on Sunday morning.

Race Day

The drivers were truly blessed with good weather during the practice sessions, but their good luck had to run out at some point, and unfortunately, it had to be on race day. The mountain on the morning of the 100th running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, brought to you by Gran Turismo was sprinkled with snow and blanketed with dense fog. A storm moved through the area the day before which dropped a considerable amount of rain on the mountain. Without any heat to dissipate the moisture, the drivers had to contend with racing up the mountain in foggy conditions so bad, visibility was only a hundred feet at best. The thick fog would test the knowledge and courage of each driver preparing to go up the mountain on this momentous occasion.

With thousands of fans in attendance, the drivers pressed on up the mountain, into the fog and the rain. With the limited visibility, the drivers were just happy to get up the mountain in one piece. Unfortunately, no records were broken on race day, but the class winners were as follows:

Place Overall Name Division Place Division Time
1 Robin Shute 1 Unlimited 10:09.525
2 David Donner 1 Exhibition 10:34.053
3 David Donohue 1 Time Attack 1 10:35.830
4 Codie Vahsholtz  1 Open Wheel 10:38.259
6 Rhys Millen 1 Pikes Peak Open 10:52.664
17 Cam Ingram 1 Porsche Pikes Peak Trophy By Yokohama 11:22.691


For the second year in a row, Robin Shute took home the crown on the 100th running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, brought to you by Gran Turismo by finishing nearly 25 seconds quicker than his closest competitor. This makes three overall Pikes Peak Hill Climb wins for Shute. One can only wonder how much better his time would be if the conditions of the race were different.

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has and will continue to be a totem of American motorsport. Its rich history combined with the perils and unforgiving nature of the mountain has convinced drivers to come back yearly. In the decades to come, drivers will continue to heed the call of the mountain to experience all of the danger and thrill the race has to offer.