Pikes Peaks


The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPHIC) is a competition for racers and their machines held on Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain. The race is held just about every year close to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The mountain was discovered in the early 1700s, and was later named Pikes Peak after an expedition led by explorer Zebulon Pike. In 1916, the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was founded by entrepreneur and philanthropist Spencer Penrose. This “Race to the Clouds” has grown into a huge international event, attracting some of the best drivers from all over the world.

pikes peak international hillclimb view
pikes peak international hillclimb map

A great example of the PPIHC is the area called Double Cut. At about 12,000 feet, you’re driving above the tree line, where there’s nothing to save you from the steep drop offs. A miscalculated entrance or exit of a turn could be your last turn before the Pearly Gates. Now there’s nothing but cold, rocky tundra to race through. It seems as though you have entered another race course without knowing it. You are breathing harder and faster for oxygen, yet your senses are acutely intact from the previous 7.5 miles of racing to the finish in the clouds.

Pikes Peak Testing

Big Red was Road Race configured and ready for Pikes Peak. A full season had passed to get to this premier race, again. Mark Ewing motored up the Big Red rig with what was needed for the next few weeks of testing in Colorado. From a warm, dry desert climate to a damp and cold altitude of 9,300 feet, not to mention setting up on dirt. The beginning of early morning start times, including race day. RJ was one of the first 15 to sign up, so Big Red got to run the lower section during the first day of testing on Pikes Peak. The upper section would be run the following day. There would not be a run from the start line to the summit during any official PPIHC test day. The temp was in the 40s and there was a lot of condensation on the car. The top of the course was shut down due to icy conditions, so the open portion of the hill was limited. In the beginning, Dave had considered running on the wet tires, but a few minutes before the run, he decided to use the slicks that were already wrapped in Chicken Hawk Racing tire warmers. The film crew mounted VR360 cameras and sound equipment to Big Red so it could get footage while RJ got seat time on the course. Brian Macy from the EFI Store and Eric Rhee from Westech Performance Group were both on hand to help with fuel injection and other tuning duties. 

classic car racing events
Big Red Camaro car Drivers

The PPIHC course is broken into 3 sections: 

  • Lower Section: Start Line (9,390 feet) up to Switchback (below Glen Cove, 11,440 feet)
  • Middle Section: Glen Cove to Devil’s Playground (12,780 feet)
  • Upper Section: Devil’s Playground to the Finish Line (14,115 feet) Each of the next three days gave competitors a chance to run one of the three sections to get their qualifying times.

At the end of the third day, the best qualifying times of the three sections were added together to give a qualifying time for the complete course. That time was used to place cars on the race-day starting grid from the fastest to the slowest, although the start time order can change with cancellations, pit problems, and track restarts The next day, testing started just below Glen Cove. The starting area had an incline that required cars to use a norollback tire block, or just make a rolling start from the pit area. Starting from the block is hard on small-diameter racing clutches. Like the other racers, RJ tried the block the first couple of times, then switched to rolling starts. Brian and Eric checked data every time Big Red came back to the pits to see how the car was performing. The Holley EFI did really well with the elevation. The crew performed regular maintenance, and the film crew used every opportunity to get more footage of Big Red running the course

big red racing events
Big Red Camaro car Drivers

Not only was it good for future episodes, it was good as reference for RJ to study and improve his time up the mountain. At the end of the day, RJ pulled the crew together and let them know how happy he was with the car and their support. He was confident Big Red would do everything he needed it to do for the duration of testingand for the race some two weeks later Mark and Big Red stayed in Colorado Springs from the first weekend of testing, and then the entire team assembled a day early to prepare for an invitation-only private Pikes Peak session by Porsche racer Fred Veitch. The mountain is rented out for testing and the Porsche Club of Colorado Springs drive event This photo is of the top of Pikes Peak some 10 miles away from the parking lot where Big Red was staged and worked on after each testing day. The weather can change anytime. Dave, Tim, and Mark already had prepped the car at the shop, so this was a good time for the film crew to get ready for the following day. They placed all the cameras inside the car on new mounts fabricated by Dave at the Precision Welding shop. The film crew doesn’t mess around; it brought extra rigging and a new rig to mount on the rear of the car for VR 360 video. 

Around 6:30 p.m., Fred had a private gathering of invited guess for his Friday test-and-tune session to run up Pikes Peak. Check out that big, red Porsche tractor! RJ also was the proud recipient of a bottle of Pikes Peak Hill Shine moonshine from Fred Fred put together this testing day, so the crew fondly refers to it as “Porsche Testing Day.” It started early at Glen Cove, where the run group raced the upper section of the course. Reports stated that the road was wet at Devil’s Playground and above, so the crew installed the Hoosier Wet treaded tires for the first run to the summit from Glen Cove. It turned out that this was the single run during testing and racing that the “wet” tires were used. The day was perfect for attaching the VR 360 camera for some great course footage After getting seat time up the mountain from Glen Cove, the group headed down to the start line so RJ could make test runs to Glen Cove. The last run of Porsche Testing Day was from the start line to the summit. This run was the only chance RJ and Big Red would get for a full-throttle test run of the entire course prior to the actual race. It proved to be invaluable.

Big Red Camaro car
Big Red Camaro car

This run allowed RJ to establish that the car needed a lower rearend gear to give Big Red more power in the upper section. The need for more gear wasn’t glaringly obvious until the entire course was run at one time. Big Red had 4.30 gears during all the previous test runs, and they decided it needed 4.56 gears. Later, back at the hotel, the crew applied the PPIHC-required Gran Turismo windshield banner. Then, not having a 4.56 gear, Paul, being the local go-to racer, found a place in Denver that did, so Mark was sent on a four-hour round trip to buy the gear. All the while, the team knew it had a set of new 4.56 gears installed in a carrier at the shop in California. They also installed a different set of brake pads that were bedded during one of the Buttonwillow Raceway test sessions.
 Lesson learned: You can never bring too many different sets of gears to a race The lower section was Big Red’s stomping grounds for the day. The temp was in the low 50s in the early hours, and a little warmer by the five a.m. start time. Yesterday’s trip for gears really paid off. RJ shaved 15 seconds off the previous time running the lower section. That’s a big jump for just one section, so the team’s hopes of a great course time was in reach. Team members seek warmth wherever they can find it. The tire warmers are a common place to huddle.

When Big Red pulls to the line, there are always spectators on hand. It’s easy to tell if Big Red is running in the photos.If spectators tanding within five feet are holding ears, you know Big Red is running. The 555 Beast engine is really loud and throaty going through the side exhaust, even at the 9,000-foot elevation. Big Red’s beautiful PPG paint also helps it stand out in the crowd of Porsches and purpose-built open-wheel cars.This would be the second time testing from the Glen Cove section. A beautiful sunrise and 60° at 12,000 feet makes for a good test day on the mountain. RJ quickly is growing familiar with each part of the course. The crew likes this location for its completely paved pit area. Big Red was having an intermittent running problem during this test session. The TPS wire plug retention clip had failed and the connector was popping off the throttle body. Eric diagnosed the problem by checking the acquired data logs, and the plug was wire tied for the rest of the day. 
Dave called Jack and had him make two backup TPS wire harnesses so they’d be ready for the following test session. As a 1969 Camaro — and being Big Red to boot — the car really stood out among the competition. Everyone on this amazing crew had found a way to keep warm, all while doing their self-appointed jobs. It’s the week before race day! The next seven days are what the Big Red team has been working toward for a long time.


Big Red Camaro car
Big Red Camaro car

Time to go into high gear. Life for the team will not be normal until after the big race. The TPS (Throttle Position Sensor) connector gave the team plenty of grief the day before. And a simple wire tie solved the problem. Larry takes his position on the team as the engine builder and service technician seriously; he always was paying attention to the engine. Any work inside the engine falls to Larry. After testing this day, he checked the valve clearances and tightened; everything was good to go. The crew takes a short break from the sun and holds a daily meeting for planning tomorrow’s testing. The upper suspension link and its mounts were not happy from the PPIHC abuse. The standard cushioned link was determined to be too soft after last weekend’s testing, so during the week (back home between testing) Dave built a solid bar for replacement. The mounts were strengthened at Les Wagner’s local shop; he helped out the Big Red crew the previous year when testing was required. The mounts will get a permanent fix when the car returns home after the race.

Tim installed some Delrin plastic squares under the corners of the front splitter to touch the road before the splitter does. This is so Tim and Dave can tell how much Big Red rolls in the corners, and for protection of the splitter. There are plenty of dips and cambered turns on Pikes Peak’s asphalt that otherwise would destroy the splitter. RJ and other drivers were invited to the Penrose Heritage Museum for PPIHC Media Day. The Museum houses completely restored race cars (new and old), carriages, tools, racing memorabilia, and one wrecked race car. It’s located across the street from The Broadmoor Hotel and is open daily, free to the public. The Penrose trophy is massive, at about five feet tall. Every year, the new overall winner’s name is added to the trophy. KKTV, the local TV channel 11, was interviewing competitors for its event coverage.
 There were some high-profile drivers at the event. Romain Dumas and Rhys Millen, two previous overall winners of PPIHC, were on hand and mingling with media and other competitors.RJ talks with Robin Shute, who’s raced Formula Car Challenge for Mazda and was at Pikes Peak to perform vehicle dynamics development on a Faraday Future FF91 electric vehicle.The “Broadmoor Special” is on display at the Penrose Heritage Museum. It’s a 1918 Pierce-Arrow originally modified under the direction of Spencer Penrose, founder of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and Broadmoor Hotel. It first ran the Pikes Peak in 1922, and has a long racing legacy The team is fully aware and probably on edge more than most other teams coming into the PPIHC tech inspections.

gotilleb Big red camaro driver
Big Red Camaro car

Safety cannot be understated for this hill climb, where a small mistake can lead to a catastrophic disaster. At the PPIHC tech inspection day, the safety personnel totaled about 12 people, with each person specializing in their field, and mutual inspectors on hand for questionable situations. With race inspection comes stickers on the car. These stickers are all for the safety crews so they can quickly identify where equipment is located if there is an emergency situation. The “G” is where the fuel (gas) is located. Oxygen is extremely flammable, so an O2 sticker is required. The “E” designates there’s an extinguisher system onboard. Big Red always has the master shut-off switch on the rear labeled, but it received a “Master” sticker on the bumper. One more was attached to the front top of the driver door, where the driver kill switch is located on the driver-side rollcage.
The front and rear tow hooks also were identified with stickers on the bumpers. The current date status of the helmet, driving suit, gloves, shoes, tires, pits, fire extinguisher, and everything else passed, so RJ received the signed PPIHC tech-inspection sticker for the side of the car.

After all of the safety systems were inspected and labeled by tech, the car was weighed at 3,550 pounds (with driver inside), which is actually close to a stock 1969 Camaro’s weight—no food for the driver that night! RJ, Big Red, and the crew officially are ready to race This is the 1918 Pierce-Arrow Broadmoor Special. In 1922, Spencer Penrose sent this car to the Broadmoor Hotel mechanics who removed about 24 inches from the heavy chassis and made it race car. It ran the PPIHC race eight times, finishing all times, but it never won a place on the trophy The testing this day was in the Alpine range, which encompasses all of Pikes Peak above 11,500 feet. Today’s pit area is aptly named Devil’s Playground, due to severe weather and lightning strikes. It’s on the west side of the top of Pikes Peak. The team arrives at 4:00 a.m. It’s windy and a cold 36° at 12,780 feet. Today is the last day of testing. If a racing team didn’t sign up for any of the prior test days, this would be the only day to test prior to qualifying.
The stars are out, but nobody is sleeping. The guys prewarmed the oil in  the testing this day was in the Alpine range, which encompasses all of Pikes Peak above 11,500 feet. Today’s pit area is aptly named Devil’s Playground, due to severe weather and lightning strikes. It’s on the west side of the top of Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peaks International hill
Big Red Camaro car

The team arrives at 4:00 a.m. It’s windy and a cold 36° at 12,780 feet. Today is the last day of testing. If a racing team didn’t sign up for any of the prior test days, this would be the only day to test prior to qualifying. The stars are out, but nobody is sleeping. The guys prewarmed the oil in the trunk-mounted sump tank, then used a drill-mounted pulley and belt looped around the oil pump to circulate the warm oil through the whole system. RJ and Mark took a moment to remember that this is serious, but it’s a blessing to be on the mountain with an incredible team. When sunrise started, it was time to get suited and mount the wheels on the car. Driving up the mountain to the finish line, RJ will encounter bright sunlight, so sunglasses were added to his required safety gear. It’s time to get staged in line with the competition and ready to race to the Summit. The sun was up enough for the first run, and there was plenty of light to see dust from a tire spin at the starting line. 
After a morning on the hill, it’s an afternoon at the hotel servicing Big Red. Mark is loving his Race Ramps Racer Mat while he cleans gear oil residue off the differential. Eric checks continuity on a wiring harness.

The solid sway bar end-link is bright and shiny because Tim found a small fracture in one rod end, so he replaced both. Larry didn’t let a car on jack stands get in his way, he had work to do so they can get put away BIG RED and get some rest for tomorrow’s qualifying Qualifying started! Everyone was on their game today. The crew never slacks, but today marked the beginning of qualifying. The more runs made, the better. So it was important that Big Red make as many qualifying runs as possible. It’s 4:00 a.m and about 58°. Only a few clouds in the sky. This day they were in their designated spot for race day. It was on a narrow dirt shoulder, so this will be a good test run for the crew. Even though Big Red’s hidden headlights were removed for the Pikes Peak setup for space, those valance-mounted Fesler headlights might come in handy.

Big Red Camaro car

Big Red’s tires were in the trailer being incubated with the Chicken Hawk Racing Tire Warmers. At 5:00 a.m., the colorful sun rose behind Big Red as RJ was staged and waiting for the officials to start running cars. The crew had been idling the car in the staging lanes, but in order to conserve fuel and cool the engine, they were going to push it closer to the line before starting the car again. Between runs, Tim sneaked in a suspension adjustment. He went more “compliant,” not stiffer. After a morning of good runs, the team started working on Big Red. They performed a full inspection of the clutch and the oil system PPIHC (BRC’s best time of the day): 4:42.073 • Separate runs: First: 4:52.796; Second: 4:52.987; Third: 4:42.073 It’s the second day of qualifying. RJ and thecompetitors that ran with him a day earlier at the lower section will qualify from Glen Cove (elevation 11,440 feet) to Devil’s Playground (12,780 feet). It’s 53° at 4:00 a.m., a little cooler than it was the morning before. Another beautiful sunrise.
 What an amazing backdrop for Glen Cove. There was a good snowfall not too long ago, and there was still a little bit left. Such a peaceful mountain was about to get a big dose of horsepower. The pits are bustling with activity as racers warmed up their cars and headed to the starting line to make more test runs to the Devil’s Playground. While the crew got Big Red ready to make another qualifying run, RJ was mentally going over where on the course he can improve his time during his next attempt. After making every qualifying run, RJ pulled Big Red into the pits for more safety checks before he staged for another run. RJ talked with New Zealander David Rowe about his turbocharged Audi Quattro S1 racer. They swapped stories about how their cars came to be. RJ was really digging David’s car.
The little Allen screw was a gift from one of the manufacturers. It was found stuck to a magnetic drain plug during service and inspection. The crew called the manufacturer, and it confirmed that it couldn’t have come out of anything. Good thing for magnets; they rule! During this repair/maintenance, the guys pulled the differential apart to replace the leaking center section gasket, as well as made an inspection, and they also pulled the transmission to do a fluid change and inspection The team arrived at Devil’s Playground at 4:30 a.m. From this location, RJ will race Big Red in the upper section to the finish line at the summit, some 14,400-feet high. The day started with a clear sky and at a cool, damp 32°. It was the coldest day of the week, but everyone was in good spirits, and they all had their routines dow .This was a big day for everyone on the team, as it was the last qualifying session before running the race. 

RJ’s qualifying time is not super critical at this point. A good time will improve placement in the starting order. The critical part is that everything needed to go smoothly with Big Red. If anything went wrong, it had to be fixed by race day morning at 2:00 a.m. RJ stands proudly next to Big Red. Check out that hot work light t 6:00 a.m., the clouds were coming up from the valley floor. RJ and Big Red pulled up to the line to make his first qualifying run. RJ made one good run with Big Red, but the clouds encased the starting area and put a damper on qualifying. At least he fulfilled the requirement and earned good placement on the starting grid.  The bonus was there were no big repairs or big chassis adjustments required before running the actual race on Sunday. More runs  would have been better, but the crew was happy to put a race-ready Big Red in the trailer and go back to the hotel to prepare for the PPIHC Fan Fest later in the afternoon .under the rear of the car. This wasn’t only so the crew could see what they were doing; it also helped warm the oil in the dry sump tank. Engine and drivetrain operating temperatures are important so parts don’t break.