From humble beginnings in 1916 to rally ace Sebastian Loeb setting the course record in 2013, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the second oldest motorsport event in the United States. What started out as a delicate balance on dirt and tarmac turned into a fully paved, downforce sprint. One man keen to challenge the mountain again this year is filmmaker and Porsche enthusiast, Jeff Zwart.
With a few special racing cars in the past, its 2020 Porsche 935 Pikes Peak challenger is no exception. Sponsored by Mobil 1, its all-new vehicle offers many technological advantages, but also its share of challenges. Since he’s been used to driving modified Coupe cars in previous years, the 935’s ABS and traction control systems will be another mountain to climb.
“For me, the biggest challenge is using these things to my advantage at the highest level, rather than just relying on them for a little more traction or stopping power,” Zwart said.
One of the big things that sets Pikes Peak apart from the competition is the length of the event. Besides the mechanical challenge on the car, the drivers are also subjected to the wringer. With over 150 turns to remember while covering a 12 mile stretch and 14,000 feet of total elevation at the top, reaching the summit without incident is no easy task. To make matters worse, riders can’t complete the entire course before race day – practice sessions only allow them to navigate one section at a time.
In their race for the clouds, competitors do more than keep him on the tarmac. As well as having few or no barriers on the course to keep the challengers from collapsing to certain death, vehicles begin to behave differently as the race progresses. With large changes in temperature, the behavior of the tires and the engine can vary considerably from turn to turn. The thinner air at the top can also affect the driver’s induction levels, downforce and even oxygen saturation.
Besides the treacherous nature of the Pikes Peak racing course, the competition is just as fierce. In the Time Attack class that Zwart will race, there will be two more Porsche GT2RS Clubsports, driven by David Donohue (son of 917-30 Can-Am Champ Mark Donohue) and David Donner, the last American mountain winner.