Pikes Peak preview

<pre> 79th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race week packed with events, competition </pre> COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Greetings from the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. There are only 32 days remaining until the green flag...

<pre> 79th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race week packed with events, competition


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Greetings from the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. There are only 32 days remaining until the green flag drops for the 79th running of the Race to the Clouds.

Race week begins June 24th with the Kickoff Celebration and Technical Inspection from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Citadel Mall in Colorado Springs. The race is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., June 30.

Technical inspection has always been a big part of race week and it promises to be even bigger this year. All of the cars and trucks entered in the race must pass through tech inspection. Plus, the top drivers in the race, including five-time Super Stock Car champion Clint Vahsholtz, European rally champion Per Eklund and defending High Performance Showroom Stock champion Rhys Millen will be there to chat and sign autographs.

The event will take on a festival-like atmosphere with entertainment, food, beverages, race tickets and memorabilia available. Plus, the Colorado Springs Corvette Club will display its collection of sleek autos. “The Jock” AM 1240 KRDO will broadcast live from the event.

Cars and trucks will practice from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., June 25-27. Qualifying for Cars and Trucks will be 5:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. June 28th, from the starting line to Glen Cove.

Motorcycles, Super Quads and Sidecars will tech from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 27th at Giuseppe's Depot Restaurant. All motorcycles, quads and sidecars will practice June 28th on the top part of the course and qualify on June 29th.

Bring your hotrod!: Tech Inspection will offer a unique opportunity for motor sports enthuisiasts. If you’ve ever wondered how much horsepower your vehicle can produce, bring it to Tech Inspection on June 24 and test it on the SuperFlow dynomometer. Two-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles are welcome. Cost is $20 per test. A dynomometer measures the amount of horsepower your vehicle can put to the pavement.

Air time: Adelphia Communications will broadcast day-to-day coverage of race-week events at 7 p.m., June 25-29, on Adelphia cable Channel 2. The nightly coverage will include highlights of Tech Inspection, race practice and qualifying, plus interviews with drivers.

Going live: “The Jock” AM 1240 KRDO will again provide the live broadcast for the race. KRDO brings a seasoned team of broadcasters to the event, calling the action from several points along the course. Live coverage begins at 8:30 a.m. on race day.

Tickets: Tickets are available at Front Range King Soopers, Independent Records, the Adelphia stores at the Citadel and Chapel Hills Mall, the Pikes Peak Highway toll booth and store at the Citadel, TCI Tires, Air Force Academy, Fort Carson and at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb offices, 3630 Sinton Rd, Suite 105. Tickets are also for sale on-line at ppihc.com. Call (719) 685-4400 for more information.

Competition heats up for 79th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

The competition in the 79th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 30 will be furious.

Suzuki’s Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima of Japan will bring a new Suzuki Aerio, specially built to break the race record of 10 minutes, 4.06 seconds, set by Rod Millen in a Toyota Celica in 1994.

The futuristic Aerio with its massive wing on the back looks fast, but is it a record-setter? Tajima has the driving skills and experience on Pikes Peak to turn in a quick run. And he is due for a big result. The kindly Japanese gentleman set the overall record in 1993 (10:44.22), then watched it disappear with Millen’s superb run in 1994. Tajima’s best time in 13 attempts on Pikes Peak is a respectable 10:21.88 clocked in 1996, which stands as the seventh-fastest time in the 78-year history of the race. He has three victories and has placed second to Millen four times. Tajima’s last win came in 1995 when he out-sprinted Millen on a course shortened because of snow and ice high on the mountain.

Tajima could use some luck. He has failed to finish in two of the last four races, breaking down in 1997 and wrecking about a mile from the starting line in 2000.

Millen won’t race in the Hill Climb this year. That leaves Tajima and his Suzuki teammate, Yutaka "Genius" Awazuhara, who will drive Tajima’s former ride, a Suzuki Grand Vitara, as the favorites to post a top time. Both are entered in the Unlimited division.

The Super Stock Car race should be extremely competitive. Clint Vahsholtz of Woodland Park, Colo., won again in 2000 and is aiming for his sixth-consecutive stock car victory. If Vahsholtz takes the checkered flag this year, he will tie the record for consecutive victories in the same division (six), held by Bobby Unser (Open Wheel, 1958-63) and John Crawford (Production Rally, 1982-87). Vahsholtz owns the record (eight) for most consecutive victories regardless of class. He won three titles in the Open Pro motorcycle division before beginning his streak in Super Stock Cars, giving him eight victories in nine starts. His only loss came in Open Pro motorcycles in 1992, his rookie year.

But the posse, as they say, is hot on his trail. Two-time stock car champion Bobby Regester, five-time runner-up Gay Smith, Steve Geoglein (second in 2000) and Lynn Cowan (third in 2000), are potential winners on any day. Vahsholtz admits that last year’s outcome may have been different if Regester and Smith, who were cut short of the summit by mechanical problems, had finished.

The Open Wheel Division, the traditional class on Pikes Peak, has three former champions in the mix. Gary Lee Kanawyer, who has won the division five times, will try for No. 6. David Donner, the 1991 champion, also returns and Jimmy Olson is back to defend his 2000 championship.

In the Pikes Peak Open Division, Saab’s Per Eklund will try to defend his title against Jean-Pierre Richelmi, the 1999 winner. High Performance Showroom Stock will see the battle between Rhys Millen and Jeff Zwart continue. Driving a Mitsubishi, Millen set the record in HPSS (12:04.61) last year. Leonard Vahsholtz, whose 11 Pikes Peak victories make him the winningest driver in the race this year, is back in the Super Truck and SUV (formerly Super Stock Truck) class. In the Big Rig Division (Class 8 Diesel trucks), Mike Ryan will bring his super-fast Freightliner to try for a fifth-consecutive victory and perhaps a new division record. Ryan set the record for Big Rigs last year, running a 13:39.02.

In the Motorcycle Divisions, Davey Durelle returns to the 750 Pro competition after missing the race last year. Durelle suffered a broken leg when he was struck by a vehicle traveling in the wrong lane on the Pikes Peak Highway on the night before the 2000 race. He’ll battle his friend and rival Brian Anderson, the reigning 750 Pro champion.

In 500 Pro, defending champion Greg Chicoine returns. The 250 Pro class will sadly miss 2000 champion Don Bruner, who died following a motorcyle racing accident on Sept. 10, 2000. Greg Tracy, Long Beach, Calif., who placed second in the 250 class, will race again this year. In the Vintage class, Eddie Mulder of Agua Dulce, Calif., returns to defend his title. In Pro Quads, 2000 champion Bobby Parr of Mt. Pleasant, Texas, will come back to resume his battle with Ray Storm, who finished second last year. Last year’s sidecar champions Anders Nilsson and Tom Grindberg of Sweden plan to return.

Nuts and bolts: Jimmy Keeney, the talented 19-year-old driver from Colorado Springs, will compete in the Open Wheel division. Keeney placed second in the Sprint class in 2000. He purchased and will drive the Open Wheel car formerly driven by John Johnson. . . .The race will have a father and son team waving the green and checkered flags. Art Walsh will handle the finish line flags for the 33rd-consecutive year. His son, Gary Walsh, takes over as starting line flagman in 2001, replacing Skeets Taylor who waved the green for many years. . . . Speaking of fathers and sons: If Leonard Vahsholtz (11 victories) and his son, Clint (eight victories), both win, they will tie the record (21) for father-son combined victories held by Bobby Unser and son, Robby. Bobby is the winningest driver at Pikes Peak with 13 championships. Robby has won eight times. . . .

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Series Hillclimb
Drivers Rhys Millen , Bobby Unser , John Crawford , Clint Vahsholtz , Jeff Zwart , David Donner , Rod Millen , John Johnson , Eddie M , Jimmy Keeney , Mike Ryan , Greg Tracy