Pikes Peak Hill Climb notebook 2000-06-19

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Greetings from the Adelphia Pikes Peak International Hill Climb! Race week for the 78th Race to the Clouds begins in 10 days with the 2000 Kickoff Celebration and Technical Inspection, June 28th at the Citadel Mall.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Greetings from the Adelphia Pikes Peak International Hill Climb! Race week for the 78th Race to the Clouds begins in 10 days with the 2000 Kickoff Celebration and Technical Inspection, June 28th at the Citadel Mall. Practice on the mountain begins June 29 and runs through July 1. Qualifying day is July 2. Motorcycle tech inspection is July 1, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Giuseppe's Depot. Motorcycles practice July 2 and qualify on July 3.

There are some changes in the race format this year beginning with the start time. The green flag will drop for the first car at 9:30 a.m. on July 4th, an hour earlier than previous years. The starting line closes at 8:15 a.m., so race fans should plan to arrive early. The tollgate opens at 4 a.m.

We're going global: "The Jock" AM 1240 KRDO will broadcast the race live on the radio and over the internet. Anyone -- anywhere - with internet capabilities can hear the live broadcast. To get the live broadcast over the internet, simply log on to krdotv.com and click on the icon for "The Jock."

Record hunting: Also new this year, the Unlimited Division, which includes the fastest cars on the mountain, has been moved up in the starting order to 11:30 a.m. on race day. In the past, the Unlimited cars have run at the end of the day when the road sur face has deteriorated and the chance of rain increases.

Rod Millen, the crafty driver from New Zealand who set the overall race record of 10 minutes, 4.06 seconds in 1994, has tried every year since then to break the record and perhaps eclipse the magical 10-minute barrier. But road conditions, with a little help from Mother Nature, have never allowed the perfect run. This year, with the Unlimited Division running earlier, the record may fall.

And no seatbelt: Don't try this at home. John Stallworth of Andover, Kan., will run a super-fast exhibition quad in the Hill Climb. How fast is it? Stallworth predicts that he could run under 10 minutes. It sounds crazy, but it may be possible.

His machine, which is built around a Yamaha Banshee frame, is capable of producing about 125 horsepower and it weighs only about 420 pounds, which means his power-to-weight ratio is comparable to Millen's high-tech Toyota Tacoma. It also means Stallworth will be able to brake quicker and accelerate faster on the course's 156 corners, many of them hairpin turns.

Stallworth's machine is turbo-charged, which means he can force more air into it as he gains altitude. Vehicles without turbo ability lose power in the thin air at higher elevations. The turbo on the Banshee can ram nearly as much air into the two-cylinder engine as that on an Indy car.

Stallworth owns the record for speed on a quad, 117 mph on pavement. But he can't match Millen, whose Toyota has run about 132 mph through the Picnic Grounds, a short stretch of straight road on the racecourse. Stallworth predicts he can hit 100 mph-plus in the same place and then make up time in the corners.

Two engineers have worked off-and-on for two years on the Exhibition Quad, refining it to cut weight. Stallworth said they have worked out a computer simulation of the mountain and calculated all the speeds they think they can run on different parts of the course. The computer says a time of 9:50 is possible.

Of course, a computer simulation is not the real thing, but Stallworth is hopeful. The quads have proven to be great racing machines on the Pikes Peak Highway. Last year, only 11 cars were quicker to the top than the fastest quad. And Stallworth's machine has much more power than the best quad in 1999.

"Right now, we're trying to determine whether we should take away some of the power," he said. "This is like putting a top-fuel dragster motor in a Wells Coyote and expecting it to stay together."

Though he is running in an exhibition class, Hill Climb chief steward Bill Walters said Stallworth is eligible to set the overall course record. And he'll almost certainly earn respect for being the bravest, if not the craziest, competitor on the mountain. There are no seatbelts on quads and the riders are totally exposed.

Kevin Gigot of Kansas, will also drive a Exhibition Quad, less powerful, lighter in weight, but equally as fast as Stallworth's ride.

New Divisions: The Hill Climb has added a new High-Tech Truck and SUV division. It is open to pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, two- or four-wheel drive, produced in the past six years or to be produced in the following model year by recognized for eign and domestic auto manufacturers. Turbo-charged and super-charged engines are not eligible. The vehicles must have original-appearing bodies, hoods, fenders, bumpers and grills. They may use on-board computers for traction control.

Vehicles in the Super Stock Truck Division are essentially the same, except they may not use on-board computers for traction control.

Larry Ragland, who drives for the Herzog Motorsports Team, and who holds the Super Stock Truck record (11 minutes, 24.36 seconds) will race in the High-Tech Truck and SUV division this year.

There will also be new divisions for the Luxury Touring Class and American Speed Association Stock Cars. The Luxury Touring Class is open to production luxury vehicles with safety upgrades only. The race vehicle may use technologies employed on the production vehicle.

The ASA division will be governed by the existing ASA rules. ASA officials will conduct tech inspection under the direction of Hill Climb tech personnel. The ASA utilizes a silhouetted body and spec tube frame. The body is an ASA approved spec body and it is powered by a sealed LS1 engine. The cars are rear wheel drive with a solid rear axle and a 2,800 lb. Minimum weight.

Anybody's race: The Super Stock Truck race is wide open with no clear favorite. Ragland and Leonard Vahsholtz placed first and second respectively in 1998. Ragland won in 1999 and Vahsholtz won in 1997, '94 and '93. They were clearly the top competitors in the division. This year, Ragland will run in the High-Tech Truck and SUV class and Vahsholtz will try to repeat as champion in the Sprint Division.

Who can win in Super Stock Trucks? None of the five drivers entered in the division have won on Pikes Peak. Chad DeVries drove his 1997 Ford Ranger to a fifth-pace finish last year, the top spot among all returning drivers in the class.

Taj enters Pikes Peak Open: Nobuhiro "Taj" Tajima, the giant, but gentle man from Japan who in 1995 won the Unlimited Division and has provided the best competition for Millen, will race in the Pikes Peak Open Division this year. He damaged his super-fast Suzuki Sidekick during a victorious run in the Queenstown Gold Rush in New Zealand in April and won't have it ready in time for Pikes Peak.

He finished second to Millen in the Unlimited Division in 1999 with a time of 10 minutes, 37.35 seconds. He was also second in '98 and '96. This year, Tajima will bring a four-wheel-drive, twin-engine Suzuki Cultus (Esteem) Sedan to the race. Tajima won the Unlimited Division in 1995 while driving a twin-engine Suzuki.

The Pikes Peak Open is shaping up to be one of the best divisions on race day. SAAB's Per Eklund, the 1999 European Rally Cross Champion, and Jean-Pierre Richelmi, who won the class as a rookie last year, will challenge Tajima and Pikes Peak veterans Paul Choiniere and Steve Beddor. Richelmi missed the division record (11:42.95, set by Akira Kameyama, 1993, driving a '91 Nissan GT-R) by two seconds.

The lowdown: Practice begins for cars and trucks June 29 and continues through July 1. The tollgate opens at 4:30 a.m. to media personnel with credentials and race fans with tickets. The course closes to all traffic at 5:10 a.m. These times apply on all practice days. The first practice runs will begin at about 6 a.m. each morning. Practice ends at 9 a.m.

On July 2, cars and trucks qualify with one run each from the starting line to Glen Cove. The tollgate opens at 4:30 a.m. to media and spectators. The course closes at 5:30 a.m.

Motorcycle tech inspection will be held at Giuseppe's Depot, 10 S. Sierra Madre (behind the Antlers Adam's Mark Hotel,) 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 1. The motorcycles, including the 250 Pro, 500 Pro, 750 Pro, Sidecar, Vintage and Super Quad divisions, will practice on the top part of the mountain, from Cove Creek to the Summit on July 2. Motorcycle qualifying is July 3. The tollgate opens at 4:30 a.m. to media and spectators. The course, from the Starting Line to Glen Cove, closes at 5:30 a.m.

And don't forget: The 2000 Kickoff Celebration and Technical Inspection is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 28th at the Citadel Mall. All vehicles in the race must pass through tech inspection. Most of the drivers will be there to sign autographs and chat. Tech inspection will take on a festival-like atmosphere with tents, food and drink vendors, race memorabilia for sale, music and a pinewood derby contested by the Colorado Springs Boy Scouts.

Here's to you, Nick: The late Nick Sanborn, a five-time race winner and former Hill Climb CEO, will be inducted into the Hill Climb Hall of Fame during the Gala Dinner and Induction Ceremonies beginning at 5:30 p.m., July 2 at the Cheyenne Mountain Confere nce Resort. The evening begins with the ADT silent auction. Dinner and the induction ceremony follows at 6:30 p.m.

For tickets to all Hill Climb events, including the race, the Gala Dinner and Induction Ceremony, please call (719) 685-4400 or visit the Hill Climb web site at http://www.ppihc.com.

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Series Hillclimb
Drivers Rod Millen , Larry Ragland