Car Life Nation

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A green 2024 Rivian R1T is shown parked off-road.

Cruising Altitude at the 2024 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

For over 100 years, racers have been flocking to Colorado’s Front Range to participate in one of motorsport’s most unique competitions. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), also known as The Race to the Clouds, might only cover 12.5 miles, but it’s a decidedly vertical 12.5 miles where racers gain almost 5,000 feet of elevation in as little as eight minutes to reach the finish line 14,115 feet above sea level.

Hill climbs are often grueling tests of a driver’s reflexes, instincts, and nerves, and the PPIHC is no different. Participants must navigate 156 corners bearing names like the Devil’s Playground, Bottomless Pit, and Ragged Edge to complete what is often cited as the second-oldest car race in the United States after only the Indianapolis 500. With the 102nd PPIHC set to take place on June 23, we thought it would be the perfect time to check in on this year’s competitors and get a peek at some of the one-of-a-kind models that will be making the climb. From a pair of electric trucks and a months-old French supercar to a $1,100 project car and a peculiar Subaru that looks to shut up the competition, read on as we get our head in the cloud.

2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Demonstrator

Driver: Romain Dumas
Division: Pikes Peak Open

French driver and Pikes Peak course record holder Romain Dumas turned heads in 2023 when he piloted a souped-up, all-electric van dubbed the SuperVan 4.2 up the famed peak. Based on Ford’s best-selling E-Transit van, this EV was certainly a departure from the model’s normal role as a reliable, if dull, delivery vehicle. Ford Performance gave the E-Transit a thorough makeover, packing in three electric motors to give the unlikely racer some 1,400 hp. New bodywork and aerodynamic elements set the E-Transit apart from the garden-variety model while allowing it to produce 4,400 lbs of downforce.

This year, Duman swaps out the SuperVan for a slightly more traditional choice in the 2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Demonstrator. Details are still hard to come by — the only photo that’s been released by Ford Performance has the all-electric supertruck disguised under a white sheet — but we do have some pretty solid clues. The truck’s low stance and wide body have led many experts to assume that the Demonstrator might be a remixed version of the Lightning Switchgear, a one-off prototype that’s been described as an electric Raptor. Designed to showcase the Lightning’s on- and off-road credentials, the Switchgear can be morphed from a road-hugging street racer to a mud-throwing adventure vehicle simply by tweaking the suspension and switching out the tires. Again, there’s no confirmation that this is the model we’ll see ascending Pikes Peak in late June, but when debuting the off-road version Switchgear earlier this year, Ford did say it would be tweaked to illustrate its off-road chops in the near future.

2024 Quarkus P3

Driver: Bruce Jouanny
Division: Unlimited

Pikes Peak provides a great opportunity for fledgling automakers to put themselves on the map. Founded in late 2020, French supercar startup Quarkus certainly fits the description. The brand will enter its mid-engine P3 sports car in the 2024 race, taking to one of motorsport’s biggest stages to cut its teeth against some of the toughest competition around. Said to be developed entirely in-house, the P3 boasts all the credentials one would expect from a supercar: a tubular carbon, Kevlar and titanium chassis, carbon fiber body, hybrid engine, and Quarkus’ proprietary suspension and running gear. The P3’s 1.0L I-4 hybrid engine might only produce 300 hp, but that should be more than enough, considering the supercar tips the scales at just 1,323 lbs.

Specs aside, the P3’s accelerated development schedule really sets the supercar apart. Quarkus unveiled the prototype late last year and is primarily looking at the Pikes Peak race as part of the P3’s continuing development. It’s an ambitious timeline, to be sure, but it’s all part of the startup’s journey to produce a road-legal supercar.

“Taking on the Pikes Peak challenge when the first development prototype has just been presented is clearly unreasonable. No manufacturer does that! But that’s our philosophy, to believe in our dreams, to set no limits, and to share this adventure with our customers and partners, who are just as passionate as we are,” says Quarkus founder Damien Alfano.

The P3 will be driven by Bruce Jouanny, a Frenchman who enters the race with a rather unique resume. While Jouanny is an experienced driver with an eighth-place 24 Hours of Le Mans finish under his belt, he’s perhaps best known for being a presenter on the French version of Top Gear. Quarkus’ Pikes Peak bid will benefit from the operational and technical support of RD Limited, which happens to be owned by four-time winner, record-holder, and fellow 2024 driver Romain Dumas.

2016 Subaru BRZ Gobstopper 3

Driver: Olly Clark
Division: Unlimited

The 2016 Subaru BRZ Gobstopper 3 is the latest iteration of Roger Clark Motorsport’s (RCM) Gobstopper series. Based on a 1999 Impreza STI Version 6 Type-R, the first model hit the track in 2006 with an EJ20 engine and 850 hp to its name. RCM continued to perfect the formula in 2009 when it modified a 2008 Impreza STI Version 10 with a host of high-performance parts, allowing it to produce 915 hp and become a power player in the UK Time Attack scene. The Gobstopper 2 would set a new record at the Goodwood Hill Climb in 2015 with a blistering time of 44.91, but it was all just a prelude for the latest iteration in the Gobstopper 3.

This time, RMC would ditch the Impreza for a BRZ body, though very little of the original chassis remains thanks to the addition of a space frame chassis and full carbon fiber body. A host of aero upgrades like rear venturis, a massive rear wing, and an aggressive front splitter allow the Gobstopper 3 to make the most of Pike Peak’s relatively thin air, but it’s the BRZ’s 2.0L flat-four nitrous-infused engine that caught our attention. With the ability to churn out almost 950 hp, the Gobstopper 3 boasts a power-to-weight ratio that should be tough to beat. Oh, and about that name? It’s not a nod to any sort of candy-colored paint job, but rather RMC’s goal to “stop all the talking” by stopping up the competition’s gob with its unrivaled performance.

1972 Datsun 240Z

Driver: Shawn Bassett
Division: Unlimited

While it might lack some of its competitors’ supercar specs and cutting-edge credentials, Shawn Bassett’s 1972 Datsun 240Z makes the list on its vintage alone. Lovingly known as Judy, the 240Z is a full 11 years older than any other 2024 entrant. It even predates Datsun’s 1981 rebranding as Nissan by almost a decade.

The Datsun began as an ambitious project car, with Bassett purchasing the coupe at a Miami racetrack for just $1,100. The rock-bottom price point started making much more sense as Bassett dove into the Datsun. The 240Z was lousy with rust and rot, requiring Bassett to strip down nearly everything aside from the bulkhead and a few other metal pieces. Over the course of four years, Bassett thoroughly rehabbed the Datsun in his 750-square-foot shop, fabricating almost every component to build a one-of-a-kind vehicle designed with Pikes Peak glory in mind.

“I had always wanted to run [the] Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Being a longtime professional motorcycle racer, I thought it would happen on two wheels, not four,” said Bassett in 2020. The event banning motorcycles after Carlin Dunne’s fatal crash in 2019 put an end to that. “But I realized it was time to finally put to use all the fabrication and composite skills I’d learned over the years to give this beat-up car a purpose and make that dream a reality for me at the same time.”

A re-ported and polished $300 5.3L L33 engine provides 415 hp while a Brian Tooley Racing camshaft, reinforced T56 six-speed transmission, and Kaaz 1.5-way limited-slip differential help transfer all that power to the wheels. 2024 marks Bassett’s third run at Pikes Peak. While the Datsun is hardly recognizable as a 240Z outside of its basic shape, it should be more than up for any challenges the mountain has to offer.

2024 Rivian R1T

Driver: Gardner Nichols
Division: Exhibition

Hailing from nearby Basalt, Colorado, Gardner Nichols had long dreamed of conquering the iconic Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Nichols interned for some of the race’s biggest names, including Pikes legend Paul Dallenbach, but it was his engineering career that would bring his dreams to fruition. The Colorado native joined Rivian in 2021 as a senior performance test engineer, allowing him to get up close and personal with Rivian’s flagship model in the all-electric R1T pickup.

Two years later, Nichols piloted the R1T to a new production truck record at the 101st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. But this was no factory-backed effort. Nichols purchased his own R1T, which also serves as his daily driver, and performed all the necessary upgrades to help tackle the famous hill climb. These include a new roll cage, racing brake pads, and Pirelli P Zero Trofeo tires, though the pickup remains in stock condition. The R1T was a true family affair, with Gardner’s wife Darby helping to design a livery that reflected both the truck’s original color pallet and accent that reflected Nichols’ work on previous racing teams.

Weighing in at 7,100 lbs, the R1T is easily one of the heaviest vehicles in the 2024 race. The EV powertrain also provides some unique challenges, but Nichols has proven adept at handling such quirks in his 2023 run. When the battery in an EV like the R1T reaches its maximum temperature, motor torque output is reduced to zero to prevent long-term damage. As a result, Gardner had to keep an eye on the temperature gauge and be slightly more gentle than he otherwise might have. The approach worked, barely, with Gardener crossing the finish line with a 0.2-degree temperature margin. Still, it was good enough to earn Nichols a production truck record with a final time of 11:28. Nichols looks to repeat this success in his second run but is probably still a shoo-in for Rivian Employee of the Year.

Since 1916, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has enabled drivers and manufacturers to test their mettle against the country’s 39th-largest mountain. Over the last 100-plus years, drivers have managed to more than halve the original record of 20:55.60, and the race only gets more exciting with every passing year. The 2024 event already looks to be for the books, but fans don’t have to flock to Colorado and risk altitude sickness to enjoy this year’s race. In addition to radio and social media coverage, the 102nd PPIHC will also be live-streamed on YouTube thanks to a partnership with Mobile. Simply visit the PPIHC website on June 23 and get ready to enjoy a full day of mountain-climbing, rubber-burning, edge-of-your seat action. Those who do plan to make the trek, beware. While the race might occur in late June, the elevation of Pikes Peak means a unique dress code of winter weather gear for the cold, plus plenty of sunscreen as it’s easy to burn in the thin air.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *