Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Open Wheel preview

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Donner hopes history repeats itself in PPIHC Open Wheel Division COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - David Donner is looking back to the future for the 79th running of the Pike Peak International Hill Climb on June 30. For the past three years, Donner...

Donner hopes history repeats itself in PPIHC Open Wheel Division

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - David Donner is looking back to the future for the 79th running of the Pike Peak International Hill Climb on June 30.

For the past three years, Donner has driven someone else's car, running a Subaru in the High Performance Showroom Stock class. At Sunday's Tech Inspection for the Race to the Clouds, Donner brought his own ride: the traditional "Donner Red" bullet that carried him to the Open Wheel Class title in 1991 and five other top-three finishes.

"This isn't a lot different than the car we won with in 1991,'' Donner said, pointing to his 1997 Donner Dykstra DD-3. "We went through it, updating mostly the suspension and some things with the engine. We went back to what we knew worked.''

And working is the key when it comes to race day.

"R&D (research and development) is a big part of putting a race car together,'' Donner said. "But you have to have a lot of things happen on race day for you to get it to the top.''

And while Donner, of Colorado Springs, hasn't missed a trip up the mountain in more than a decade, he's still in a learning curve with his car.

"This a totally different car to drive than the Subaru,'' he said. "This is a lot lighter and has a lot more horsepower. I think you have to be a better driver in this car. There is a smaller window to do everything right in this car, and it takes a better driver to hit that window.''

When Tech Inspection opened at 9 a.m. Sunday, open-wheeler Dave Regester was the first in line. "I've been here since about 7:30,'' he said. "That's how ready we are to go racing."

Clint Vahsholtz, who is chasing his ninth straight title (five in the Stock Car Class, 1996-200, and three in motorcycles '93-'95), wasn't far back in the Tech Inspection line in his 2000 Ford Mustang that changes colors as the sun sweeps across the car.

"We've done some testing and we're still making some adjustments with the car,'' Vahsholtz said. "But it should be fast one race day. It's just about the same car that we won with last year, but we've gone through the whole thing.''

Nuts and bolts:

"Rocket" Ron Kirkman of New Zealand has set a record, and he hasn't made a run up Pikes Peak yet. Kirkman, 65, is the oldest "rookie" ever to enter the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Kirkman will ride a 130-horsepower Honda-powered quad in the exhibition class. "I've dreamed of coming and racing on this mountain for 50 years, and I'm finally here," Kirkman said. Practice for cars and trucks begins tomorrow. It will be a big day for Suzuki's Nobuhiro Tajima who will test his 1,000 horsepower Suzuki Aerio on Pikes Peak's twisting gravel road for the first time. Tajima has come to Pikes Peak to set a new race record and perhaps eclipse the magical 10-minute barrier. The overall race record is 10:04.06 set in 1994 by Rod Millen (Toyota Celica).

-PPIHC-

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Series HILLCLIMB , OPENWHEEL

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