Learn the Fascinating History of the Pikes Peak Hill Club


The Pikes Peak Hill Climb, sometimes referred to as The Race to the Clouds, is an annual motorcycle and car race to the summit of Colorado’s Pikes Peak.

Since 1916, except for a 10-year break during World War II, the event has been open to both professional and amateur racers, and the automobiles range from highly specialized race cars to production-based variants. The race is recognized as one of the hardest and riskiest in the whole world due to its long history of accidents and fatalities.


The Pikes Peak Hill Climb has been an annual event since 1916. To encourage tourist and economic growth in the Pikes Peak region, local businessman and philanthropist Spencer Penrose organized the inaugural race. A combination of cars and motorbikes participated in the event, which was staged on a gravel road that coiled up to Pikes Peak.

Local drivers who were used to the perilous mountain routes dominated the event in its early years. However, as the rivalry heated up, more professional racers started to take part as the race’s popularity expanded. The competition was put on hold during World War II, but it was picked back up in 1946, and it has been contested yearly.

The Pikes Peak Hill Climb changed throughout the years to become one of the toughest and riskiest competitions in the world. In 2012, the track surfaced, enhancing driver safety, and enabling quicker timings. Despite this, the event still carries a high risk due to its long history of fatalities and accidents. The competition continues to draw the best drivers and teams from across the globe despite the dangers, making it one of the most recognizable and prestigious hills climbs in the world.

Racing divisions

There are multiple distinct racing divisions at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, each with its own rules and guidelines. These divisions comprise:

  1. Pikes Peak Open – Any kind of vehicle may compete in this division, including prototypes, heavily modified racing vehicles, and models based on current production.
  2. Pikes Peak Unlimited – No limitations on engine size or horsepower apply to the extensively modified vehicles in this division, which also include prototypes and race cars.
  3. Pikes Peak Electric Production – Electric cars based on production models belong in this division.
  4. Pikes Peak Electric Modified – Electric cars that have been customized for racing fall under this division.
  5. Pikes Peak Vintage – This division is for automobiles that were produced before 1973 and are competing in their original form.
  6. Pikes Peak Exhibition – Vehicles that are meant to display cutting-edge technology or to advertise a certain item or brand fall under this division.
  7. Pikes Peak Quad – All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and side-by-side vehicles (SxS) are included in this division.
  8. Pikes Peak Vintage Motorcycle – Motorcycles that were manufactured before 1973 and are competing in this division must be in their original form.
  9. Pikes Peak Exhibition Motorcycle – This division is for motorbikes that are being utilized to demonstrate cutting-edge technology or to advertise a certain item or service.
  10. Pikes Peak Middleweight Motorcycle – Motorcycles with engines sized between 251cc and 750cc fall under this division.
  11. Pikes Peak Heavyweight Motorcycle – This division is for bikes with engines larger than 750cc.

Rules and Regulations

To promote a fair and competitive competition as well as the safety of racers and spectators, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has rules and regulations in effect. Among the most important rules and regulations are:

  • Before being permitted to participate in the event, all vehicles must undergo a technical examination.
  • Before being able to participate in the event, all drivers and riders must possess a current racing license and pass a physical inspection.
  • Roll cages, fire extinguishers, and emergency shut-off switches must all be standard equipment on all vehicles.
  • Helmets, fire-resistant jackets, gloves, and other safety equipment are required for all drivers and riders.
  • None of the cars may deviate from the prescribed path or take any detours.
  • For hazardous or unsportsmanlike behavior, the race directors maintain the power to disqualify any driver or rider.
  • Additionally, the race’s organizers maintain the right to modify the rules and guidelines whenever they see fit.
  • All participants are disallowed from using drugs or alcohol while racing.
  • All participants are forbidden from using electronics like cameras and mobile phones while racing.
  • Before the race, there is an obligatory drivers’ meeting that all participants must attend to examine the rules and discuss any significant updates or revisions.


The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb takes place on a 12.42-mile (19.99-km) circuit with 156 turns that starts at a height of 9,390 feet (2,862 m) and concludes at the 14,115-foot (4,302 m) summit of Pikes Peak, a mountain in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA.

The racecourse is well-known for its challenging and dangerous terrain, which includes its narrow roads, steep inclines, and unpredictable weather patterns. The thin air at high elevations also affects the performance of engines and drivers.

The event was made safer for drivers and enabled for quicker timings once the circuit was entirely paved in 2012, but the thin air at such a high altitude still impacts how well engines and drivers perform.

One of the most famous and storied hills climbs in the world, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb draws competitors from all over the world to participate in classes for automobiles, motorbikes, trucks, and even electric vehicles.


Depending on the division they are participating in, the champions of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb change every year. These recent victories deserve special mention:

  • 1916 (Aug 11)

Ralph Mulford (USA)-Hudson (18m24.70s)

  • 1920 (Sep 6)

Otto Loesche (USA)-Lexington (22m25.40s)

  • 1921 (Sep 5)

King Rhiley (USA)-Hudson (19m16.20s)

  • 1922 (Sep 4)

Noel Bullock (USA)-Ford (19m50.90s)

  • 1923 (Sep 3)

Glen Schultz (USA)-Essex (18m47.60s)

  • 1924 (Sep 1)

Otto Loesche (USA)-Lexington (18m15.00s)

  • 1925 (Sep 7)

Charles Myers (USA)-Chandler Special (14m48.40s)

  • 1926 (Sep 6)

Glen Schultz (USA)-Stutz Special (18m19.40s)

  • 1927 (Sep 5)

Glen Schultz (USA)-Stutz Special (18m01.00s)

  • 1928 (Sep 3)

Glen Schultz (USA)-Stutz Special (17m41.60s)

  • 1929 (Sep 2)

Edward Phillips (USA)-Shultz Special (18m22.80s)

  • 1930 (Sep 1)

Glen Schultz (USA)-Stutz Special (18m08.70s)

  • 1931 (Sep 7)

Charles Myers (USA)-Hunt Special (17m10.30s)

  • 1932 (Sep 5)

Glen Schultz (USA)-Schultz Special (16m47.20s)

  • 1933 (Sep 4)

Glen Schultz (USA)-Schultz Special (17m27.50s)

  • 1934 (Sep 3)

Louis Unser (USA)-Stutz Special (16m01.80s)

  • 1935 NO EVENT
  • 1936 (Sep 7)

Louis Unser (USA)-Stutz Special (16m28.10s)

  • 1937 (Sep 6)

Louis Unser (USA)-Perry Special (16m27.80s)

  • 1938 (Sep 5)

Louis Unser (USA)-Loop Cafe Special (15m49.90s)

  • 1939 (Sep 4)

Louis Unser (USA)-Snowberger (15m39.40s)

  • 1940 (Sep 2)

Al Rogers (USA)-Coniff Special (15m59.90s)

  • 1941 (Sep 1)

Louis Unser (USA)-Bowes Seal Fast (15m35.40s)

  • 1946 (Sep 2)

Louis Unser (USA)-Maserati (15m28.70s)

  • 1947 (Sep 1)

Louis Unser (USA)-Maserati (16m34.77s)

  • 1948 (Sep 6)

Al Rogers (USA)-Coniff Special (15m49.75s)

  • 1949 (Sep 5)

Al Rogers (USA)-Coniff Special (15m54.60s)

  • 1950 (Sep 4)

Al Rogers (USA)-Coniff Special (15m39.00s)

  • 1951 (Sep 3)

Al Rogers (USA)-Coniff Special (15m39.70s)

  • 1952 (Sep 1)

George Hammond (USA)-Dobry Offenhauser (15m30.65s)

  • 1953 (Sep 7)

Louis Unser (USA)-Fed Auto Offy (15m15.40s)

  • 1954 (Sep 6)

Keith Andrews (USA)-Joe Hunt Magneto (14m39.70s)

  • 1955 (Sep 5)

Bob Finney (USA)-Dick Frenzel (14m27.20s)

  • 1956 (Jul 4)

Bobby Unser (USA)-Unser Special (14m27.00s)

  • 1957 (Sep 2)

Bob Finney (USA)-Frenzel Special (14m11.70s)

  • 1958 (Sep 1)

Bobby Unser (USA)-Unser Special (13m47.90s)

  • 1959 (Jul 5)

Bobby Unser (USA)-Unser Special (13m36.50s)

  • 1960 (Jul 4)
  • Bobby Unser (USA)-Unser Special (13m28.50s)
  • 1961 (Jul 4)

Bobby Unser (USA)-Unser Special (12m56.70s)

  • 1962 (Jul 4)
  • Bobby Unser (USA)-Unser Special (12m05.60s)
  • 1963 (Jul 4)

Bobby Unser (USA)-Sproul Chevrolet (12m30.60s)

  • 1964 (Jul 4)

Al Unser Sr (USA)-Conze Offenhauser (12m24.50s)

  • 1965 (Jul 4)

Al Unser Sr (USA)-Harrison Ford (12m54.30s)

  • 1966 (Jul 4)

Bobby Unser (USA)-Sproul Chevrolet (12m23.80s)

  • 1967 (Jun 25)

Wes Vandervoort (USA)-Rocky Mountain Chevrolet (12m46.30s)

  • 1968 (Jun 30)

Bobby Unser (USA)-Rislone Chevrolet Special (11m54.90s)

  • 1969 (Jun 29)

Mario Andretti (USA)-STP Special (12m44.07s)

  • 1970 (Jul 4)

Ted Foltz (USA)-Chevrolet Special (12m41.09s)

  • 1971 (Jul 11)

Ak Miller (USA)-Mustang (14m18.61s)

  • 1972 (Jul 4)

Roger Mears (USA)-VW SS (13m26.83s)

  • 1973 (Jul 4)

Roger Mears (USA)-Sprint Buggy VW (12m59.79s)

  • 1974 (Jul 4)

Errol Kobilan (USA)-Chevy Champ (12m54.77s)

  • 1975 (Jul 4)

Orville Nance (USA)-Young Chevy Sprint (12m36.65s)

  • 1976 (Jul 4)

Rick Mears (USA)-Sauers (12m11.89s)

  • 1977 (Jul 4)

Robert Herring (USA)-Malloy Chevy 500 (12m15.72s)

  • 1978 (Jul 4)

Errol Kobilan (USA)-Chevy Champ (11m55.8s)

  • 1979 (Jul 4)

Dick Dodge Jr (USA)-Wells Coyote (11m54.80s)

  • 1980

Ted Foltz (USA)-Chevrolet (12m15.81s)

  • 1981

Gary Lee Kanawyer (USA)-Newman/Greager-Porsche (12m03.96s)

  • 1982 

Bill Brister (USA)-Wells Coyote (11m44.82s)

  • 1983 (Jul 10)

Al Unser Jr (USA)-Wells Coyote (11m38.30s)

  • 1984 (Jul 8)

Bill Brister (USA)-Wells Coyote (11m44.49s)

  • 1985 (Jul 14)

Michele Mouton (F)-Audi Sport Quattro (11m25.39s)

  • 1986 (Jul 12)

Bobby Unser (USA)-Audi Sport Quattro (11m09.22s)

  • 1987 (Jul 11)

Walter Rohrl (D)-Audi Sport Quattro (10m47.85s)

  • 1988 (Jul 10)

Ari Vatanen (FIN)-Peugeot 405 T16 (10m47.22s)

  • 1989 (Jul 9)

Robby Unser (USA)-Peugeot 405 T16 (10m48.34s)

  • 1990 (Jul 29)

Robby Unser (USA)-Unser-Chevrolet (11m32.90s)

  • 1991 (Jul 4)

David Donner (USA)-Donner-Dykstra-Chevrolet (11m12.40s)

  • 1992 (Jul 4)

Robby Unser (USA)-Unser-Chevrolet (10m53.87s)

  • 1993 (Jul 4)

Paul Dallenbach (USA)-David-Chevrolet (10m43.63s)

  • 1994 (Jul 4)

Rod Millen (NZ)-Toyota Celica (10m04.06s)

  • 1995 (Jul 4)

Nobuhiro Tajima (J)-Suzuki Escudo (7m52.97s)**

  • 1996 (Jul 4)

Rod Millen (NZ)-Toyota Celica (10m13.64s)

  • 1997 (Jul 4)

Rod Millen (NZ)-Toyota Celica (10m04.54s)

  • 1998 (Jul 4)

Rod Millen (NZ)-Toyota Tacoma (10m07.70s)

  • 1999 (Jul 4)

Rod Millen (NZ)-Toyota Tacoma (10m11.15s)

  • 2000 (Jul 4)

Larry Ragland (USA)-GMC Envoy (11m17.66s)

  • 2001 (Jun 30)

Gary Lee Kanawyer (USA)-Wells Coyote (10m39.76s)

  • 2002 (Jun 29)

Per Eklund (S)-Saab 9-3 Viggen (11m13.24s)

  • 2003 (Jun 28)

Paul Dallenbach (USA)-PVA 01 (11m34.70s)

  • 2004 (Jun 26)

Robby Unser (USA)-Subaru Impreza WRX (11m47.28s)

  • 2005 (Jun 25)

David Donner (USA)-Donner-Chevrolet (11m15.68s)

  • 2006 (Jul 1)

Nobuhiro Tajima (J)-Suzuki Grand Vitara (7m38s)**

  • 2007 (Jul 21)

Nobuhiro Tajima (J)-Suzuki XL7 (10m01.408s)

  • 2008 (Jul 20)

Nobuhiro Tajima (J)-Suzuki XL7 (10m18.250s)

  • 2009 (Jul 19)

Nobuhiro Tajima (J)-Suzuki SX4 (10m15.368s)

  • 2010 (Jun 27)

Nobuhiro Tajima (J)-Suzuki SX4 (10m11.50s)

  • 2011 (Jun 26)

Nobuhiro Tajima (J)-Suzuki SX4 (9m51.278s)

  • 2012 (Aug 13)

Rhys Millen (NZ)-Hyundai Genesis Coupé #67 (9m46.164s)

  • 2013 (Jun 30)

Sebastien Loeb (F)-Peugeot 208 T16 (8m13.878s)*

  • 2014 (Jun 29)

Romain Dumas (F)-Norma M20 RD (9m05.801s)

  • 2015 (Jun 28)

Dominic Dobson (D)-Radical SR8 (10m15.289s)

Winning Nationalities

  • Finland – 1 driver (Vatanen)
  • France – 3 drivers (Dumas, Loeb, Mouton)
  • Germany – 2 drivers (Dobson, Rohrl)
  • Japan – 1 driver (Tajima)
  • New Zealand – 3 drivers (Rh Millen, Ro Millen)
  • Sweden – 1 driver (Eklund)
  • United States – 1 driver (Andretti, Andrews, Brister, Bullock, Dallenbach, Dodge Jr, Donner, Finney, Foltz, Hammond, Herring, Kanawyer, Kobilan, Loesche, Rick Mears, Roger Mears, Miller, Mulford, Myers, Nance, Phillips, Ragland, Rhiley, Rogers, Schultz, Al Unser Jr, Al Unser Sr, B Unser, L Unser, R Unser, Vandervoort)

Notable Moments

The most notable moments include:

  • In a Hyundai PM58OT electric car, Rhys Millen established the overall record time in 2018 at 9:05.672 becoming the first driver to do so in an electric vehicle.
  • Ari Vatanen’s previous record of 8:13.878 was broken by Sébastien Loeb in 2013 on a Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, beating it by more than a minute.
  • For the first time in its history, the race was run on a fully paved circuit in 2012, making it safer for drivers and enabling quicker timings.
  • Rod Millen’s 1994 record was broken by nearly 20 seconds in 2001 when Paul Dallenbach established the overall record time in a PVA Special at 10:04.06.
  • In a Toyota Celica Turbo, Rod Millen established the overall record time in 1994 in 10:04.060; this time beat Bobby Unser’s previous mark from 1987 by more than 20 seconds.
  • In a March-Chevy, Bobby Unser established the overall record time in 1987 in 10:25.390, surpassing Parnelli Jones’ earlier mark from 1970 by more than 30 seconds.
  • In a Ford Mustang, Parnelli Jones established the all-time benchmark time in 1970 at 10:55.69; it remained unsurpassed for 17 years.

Race Dates

Every year on the final Sunday in June, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb takes place. The competition begins at Pikes Peak’s base, close to Colorado Springs, and ends at the mountain’s 14,115-foot peak. Except for the 1942–1945 war years, the event has been run each year since 1916. The race typically lasts for a week and begins at approximately 7 am and ends at around 1 pm.

Due to bad weather or other unforeseen situations, the race date may need to be modified.

Interesting Facts

  • One of the nation’s oldest racing competitions, the race was first conducted in 1916.
  • The event is held atop Pikes Peak, the tallest peak in Colorado’s southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, which are home to the Rocky Mountains.
  • Starting at an elevation of 9,390 feet (2,862 m), the race travels over 12.42 miles (19.99 km), has 156 twists, and ends at the 14,115-foot (4,302 m) summit of Pikes Peak.
  • The performance of engines and drivers is impacted by the thin air at high altitudes, making the race considerably than difficult.
  • Spencer Penrose, the man behind the event, was the first to ascend Pikes Peak by car in 1916.
  • In 2012, the race’s whole circuit was paved, making it safer for drivers and enabling quicker timings.
  • Rhys Millen now holds the record, clocking in at 9:05.672 in a Hyundai PM58OT electric car in 2018.
  • Films, television series, and video games including “Cannonball Run,” “Forza Motorsport 4,” “Gran Turismo 5”, and “Need for Speed: The Run” have all included the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
  • One of the most famous and illustrious hills climbs in the world is the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.


Understanding the Pikes Peak Hill Climb is interesting for several reasons. The unique and challenging course, the fierce competition, the stunning scenery, the test of human endurance, being a significant tourist attraction, and being a historic racing event are a few of the reasons to be aware of this kind of yearly event.