The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, also known as the Race to the Clouds, is celebrating its centenary this year. Jeff Zwart has driven a
Jeff, when did you enter the Race to the Clouds for the first time?
The first time I ran Pikes Peak was in 1994 in a
I was running the U.S. ProRally Championship in a 3.8-powered 964
What is special about this hill climb?
After a week of practice, there is only one chance to race up the mountain. It all boils down to one run. You push everything to the limits: the engine temperature, the tire wear, and your own body with the thin air. The mountain is one big living organism. It can be warm and sunny at the bottom, but snowing up at 4,000 meters. You never know what that one run will be like.
What would you say are the make—or—break parts of the race?
The top section is superfast, and it has three blind left-hand curves. There are no trees at that altitude so your turning points are against the sky. It takes a lot of commitment up there, and it really separates the people who can drive like that from those who can’t. The top section pretty much tests everything.
Why is a
When I get into a
How do you prepare yourself mentally for the race?
I have a little ritual. I make one last drive up the mountain. I can’t go to bed the night before without taking my rental car up to the summit for one quick look.
Hill climbing or circuit racing: Which one do you think is harder?
Pikes Peak is particularly difficult. I don’t want to take anything away from circuit racing, but I have done enough road racing to make that call. With 156 turns, there is always more to learn. And at the speed we do now—235 km/h on a two-lane road with hardly any guardrails—the risk is high. And then there’s the pressure to perform. You have only one run. It’s 10 minutes and 20 kilometers of insanity.
By Bastian Fuhrmann
First run: July 4, 1916
Starting altitude: 2,862 m
Finishing altitude: 4,301 m
Track length: 19.99 km