Well it is upon us. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is at its 100th anniversary and the action has begun. Teams have had their first taste of the mountain and
are tweeting pictures. The road is clear but there is still some melting snow at altitude. The field has been thinned in an attempt to avoid late afternoon showers on race day and the red flags it causes. While the outright record is probably safely in Sebastian Loeb’s back pocket (he has not returned since he smashed the record in his first attempt), many class records are open and the motorcycle outright record is tantalizingly close for several riders to grab.
Electric bikes are proving to be much more capable of matching their reciprocating brethren than the cars, and there is a very serious effort by Polaris Industries in the form of their Victory Empulse TT electric bike. They are also fielding their beautiful Project 156 machine again to keep things interesting. Obviously Honda needs to pull a Mick Doohan NSR500 out of the museum and prep it for next year. Are you listening Honda? I nominate Nicky Hayden for the job, but if you need me, I’m available.
And of course I cannot pass on an opportunity to talk about sidecars. I am returning for the first time since 2013 when I spectacularly spun backwards into the trees. I am bringing my new bike, a Shelbourne chassis prepped by Superlite Cars and powered by the same GSX-R1000 engine that was in my old bike. With my new co-pilot Matt Blank driving the chair and a switch to Avon tires we have ready broken my personal lap records at the two tracks we have raced at so far, winning three of four races and taking second in the final race. Matt is still learning the trade but his instincts are spot on. Still, current record holder Wade Boyd and co-pilot Christine Blunk have no plans to step aside. They were plagued with mechanical issues at the events we have both attended this year.
A challenge also exists in the form of Rising Sun Racing, the Japanese team with a long wheelbase F1 sidecar and an effort that rivals the European pro teams. They won in the wet last year and go so far as to train in a hyperbaric chamber to get used to the altitudes Pikes Peak thrusts us into. All three teams deserve the victory, but there can only be one.
Only a few people are using the hashtag #ppihc2016 so I invite my fellow racers and photographers to jump in on this. It will be less full than the more popular hashtags #pikespeak and #ppihc which will see a lot of promotional material. I am hoping the #ppihc2016 tag will grow and provide inside information that teams want to share directly with other team, fans, family, and other insiders. And as always I will continue to use my own hashtag #sidecar187 to keep my fans and friends connected.
Don’t expect time sheets and class breakdowns from me though. I am running my own race and have a lot to focus on, so I will share what I see in a daily post and also do my best to keep my social media feeds full, though I will most often use my Instagram, Twitter, and personal Facebook page since they are all linked.
On the top section today we got to see the worst patches of pavement and they do not appear as bad as I expected, though we never set out beyond 50% race pace so Matt could study the course. I was very happy to see the tires providing superb traction but I am still looking forward to upping the pace and testing our suspension settings. In due time…
The Squadra Alpina guys were on hand and it was especially great to get actual time to talk to My Life At Speed’s own Greg Tracy and brother Gary Tracy. While they are definitely staying busy, they don’t have to go over bike set up with team bosses and such; their main focus is offering insight to other riders. The program is a smart way for Ducati to stay connected with the historic Hill Climb and highlight the continued focus on rider safety and quality. Racecraft is not about pinning the throttle and closing your eyes, and the Squadra Alpina guys know it. I hope Ducati continues the concept.
And officials for the event are focused on safety and then some, cutting the field to avoid bad weather and allowing the Exhibition Powersports class to run in the morning with the motorcycles instead of after the cars go (and sometimes track gravel onto the race line). The cars benefit from this as well since the motorcycle division should likely be clear of the track quickly and there is no delay to pull down air fence, then re-deploy it for the Exhibition Powersports class at the end.
One last thing: get the app. I not tell you where to get it… if you have read this far you care enough about this event to find it. It’s free. It is only sitting at 100 downloads right now. What the hell people? Get involved! As for me, I have gearing changes to make and frame welds to check for cracks.
P.S. if you think Greg Tracy should do a practice run with me as passenger, post a comment. He is on the fence about it. Muahahaha!