In Sunday afternoon's 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), the Toyota TMG EV P002 electric race car and driver Rod Millen registered a time just under ten-and-a half-minutes (10:24.301) on the 12.42-mile, 156-turn course. The New Zealand-native finished fourth in the Electric Class and was 16th overall among 144 competitors on the 14,110-foot mountain. On a course that was made more challenging by heavy rain, clouds and sleet -- which delayed the Electric Class from running up the mountain -- Millen's time was slightly slower than last year's record-setting Electric Class run by driver Fumio Nutahara (10:15.380) in the Toyota TMG EV P002 on a dry course.
Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima finished first in the Electric Class (9:46.530), establishing a new division record. Teammates Hiroshi Masuka (10:21.866) and Greg Tracy (10:23.649) finished second and third in the class, respectively.
TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development) oversaw competition efforts for the Toyota TMG EV P002, which was significantly upgraded by the organization in Salisbury, N.C. in about a month. TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG) made enhancements to the electric powertrain in Germany before the car arrived in North Carolina. TRD outfitted the electric race car with upgraded carbon ceramic brakes, revised brake and powertrain cooling packages, a central driving position, a new steering rack and additional instrumentation, as well as significant aerodynamic changes for the famous hill climb in Colorado.
ROD MILLEN, Toyota TMG EV P002, TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development)
"I was real excited about it. Let's face it, there was a chance that if weather had not played a role like it did -- we would have seen an electric car in the top-three overall results. And that would have been really impressive. We were lined up -- or certainly one of the electric cars was lined up -- to do that. This technology is moving very quickly, and for me to be part of all that, and working the Toyota folks on all that -- was a real thrill. Of course I would love to do that again."
Did you enjoy working with the Toyota TMG EV P002 team?
"To me it was a group of people that we're very passionate and enthusiastic working with this new EV technology and I thoroughly enjoyed working with them. This technology is moving very fast and improving very fast and these guys are certainly on the pace."
How did weather impact your run?
"I guess you could say it was disappointing that rain became such a factor in our result today. We thought we made the best decision given where we were at and we were starting and maybe we didn't make the best choice of tire and so on. But, you know, that's the unique thing about the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb -- you get one shot a year and you have to adapt to those conditions that are dealt to you. The car ran just fine. It was just -- it was slipperier than we anticipated and we couldn't get quite the traction with our two-wheel drive. Our competitors had four-wheel drive systems and certainly used that to the best of their ability.
STEVE WICKHAM, project manager, TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development)
How do you feel about the performance of the Toyota TMG EV P002 electric race car?
"I'm pretty disappointed. We came here to win, but it was a combination of the bad weather conditions and not quite having the car for Rod (Millen) that he needed to win. It was a great effort from the team. We squeezed everything we could out of the car. Hopefully next year we'll be back with a better car and a chance to reclaim our title."
Did the weather conditions impact performance?
"The road was wet and drying when we went out, so we had to make a choice to go to our intermediate tire. Ultimately, it just didn't have enough grip for Rod (Millen) to get to the top in front. We brought a two-wheel drive car -- compared to our class competitors who are running four-wheel drive vehicles. If it was dry, I think we would have been a lot closer, but four- wheel drives have a big advantage in the wet conditions. The conditions throughout the mountain were very difficult -- we had rain, sleet, snow, hail and then a wet track -- so it was a very challenging for Rod. That definitely played out in the race. Rod and our team from TRD and TMG gave it 110 percent."
Was this a good project for your team?
"Absolutely, it was a fantastic project for us. We did a lot in a very short amount of time. It was a massive amount of commitment from the guys on the program. I'm very proud of them. The effort they put in was just absolutely amazing -- day after day of thrashing on the car to get it as quick as it could be on the mountain. In the end, we just didn't have enough car for Rod (Millen) to make it to the top in front of all our competitors."