In an unprecedented move, race Director Phil Layton announced that two drivers, Robby Unser and Paul Dallenbach, would share the title of Co-Overall Champions of the 2004 Falken Tire Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Normally, one driver...
In an unprecedented move, race Director Phil Layton announced that two drivers, Robby Unser and Paul Dallenbach, would share the title of Co-Overall Champions of the 2004 Falken Tire Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Normally, one driver earns the title of Overall Champion of the event. That driver wins the championship by having the fastest time of all racers in all divisions that race up the mountain.
Weather and technical issues at Saturday's Hill Climb made the job of determining an overall winner difficult for race officials. Unser's Pikes Peak Open division was one of only three car classes that ran the full course to the summit. Unser had the quickest time of those three classes. An afternoon storm that dropped snow and hail on the summit made it too unsafe to run the full course. The remaining classes at that point, including Dallenbach's Open Wheel division, could only run the normal qualification course from the Start Line to Glen Cove, about half of the full course length.
Layton originally said after the race that an overall winner would be awarded to the driver that had the fastest time from the Start Line to Glen Cove, since that was the only portion that all drivers rivers ran. Unser ran that distance in 4:27.80, compared with Dallenbach's 5:06.23. However, problems with the scoring system made Unser's time unreliable.
"Basically, I wasn't convinced by my Director of Timing that the times for the first group to run were accurate, based on equipment malfunction," Layton said. "We had technical problems with the equipment at Glen Cove during the first runs. So we went to the backup system, which is a hand-held system. As opposed to having two or three people with hand-helds at Glen Cove, we only had one person. I wasn't going to base a critical decision like that one individual's ability to start and stop a time-tech machine. The electronic (system) was down at the time."
If Unser's race time were correct, it would have beaten the old PPO division qualifying record by nearly 26 seconds.
"This was my decision and I'll take whatever grief comes from this," Layton said.
Unser believed his time was accurate. "I had a great car, I had a fast run," Unser said. "They're not sure about the time on the bottom, so I can understand that. I know what I did in my heart. That was more like what I thought we were going to run in qualifying." Unser qualified at 5:06.40, which he called "an off run."
Although he won his division, Unser loudly and profanely complained to reporters at the summit about a decision by race inspectors at the Start Line prohibiting him to use tires more suited for the muddy road on race day. The rulebook states that a car must have the same make, model and size tire during the race as it had during qualifying. Unser qualified with a tire made for a dry road. He reported to the Start Line with mud tires and officials made him change to the same tires he used for qualification.
For his outburst, Layton fined Gunnar Heuberger, owner of Heuberger Motors and an authorized agent of Unser's team, $2,500.
"Obviously I got heated and I shouldn't have done that, so that's my bad," Unser said. "Also, I probably should have had some help separating me from the press at the top of the mountain too, so that's their bad."
"I think at the end of the day, I'm ok with Phil's decisions most of the time when it's all settled down. You got to understand, I'm passionate about running up here. I have a lot of my heart into it. Sometimes I get a little bit excited," Unser said.
For his part, Dallenbach thought the decision on co-champions was fair. "It's what they had to do," Dallenbach said. "It was the best thing. What else can you do? I think it's good. Robby, I talked to him and I think he seems to be ok with it. I think it worked out for everybody."