Rhys Millen claims new Pikes Peak Hill Climb record in a race marred by crashes and delays

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With most of the focus and expectation on Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima’s first ever electric powered run at Pikes Peak, his competitors were left in peace to concentrate on breaking Tajima’s 2011 record time of 9:51.278.

An electric fire knocked out Tajima’s car before the start of the race, filling the cockpit with smoke and it turned out to be a troubled race for several other competitors including six-time winner Paul Dallenbach, who crashed into pine trees on one of the opening sections of the course.

With Tajima and Dallenbach out of the race the, the battle lay between Rhys Millen in his Hyundai Genesis Coupe and 2010 Le Mans-winner Romain Dumas in a specially prepared Porsche 911 GT3 R for the overall win.

Romain Dumas, Audi and Porsche factory driver and 2010 Le Mans winner broke Monster Tajima’s 2011 course record on his first visit to Pikes Peak.

Dumas was angry before the race to find the starting order organised by class rather than practice time. As it was, he drove in wetter conditions than Millen, whereas he would have preferred the top drivers to run in succession, particularly since this was his first attempt at the climb.

The Frenchman set a short-lived fastest time of 9:46.18, more than 5 seconds quicker than Tajima’s 2011 record, but was pipped for the overall win by Millen’s Hyundai who set a new course record of 9:46.164.

Dumas was furious, having set off 10-places earlier than Millen and experienced slightly different weather conditions, “We spend all this money to come for one weekend and it’s not fair,” said Dumas, who said he would not return to contest the event next year.

Dumas’ 911 GT3 R received several modifications in preparation for its race to the clouds, most noticeably in its aerodynamics, but also a new air intake for the engine, purpose built gearbox and shock absorbers.

While Dumas left the event disappointed, Millen was jubilant about his win, “This is just unbelievable,” Millen said. “We just competed against the best in the world and beat them.”

Millen’s Hyundai is virtually the same car that set the Time Attack 2WD record last year with Rhys’ father, Rod Millen, at the wheel. A new aerodynamics package was added for Pikes Peak, providing even greater downforce at speed and the car was fitted with staggered Hankook F200 racing slicks on custom HRE lightweight wheels. A new Garrett GTX3582 Turbocharger was fitted, yielding nearly 700bhp and 700lb-ft of torque from the Hyundai V6 powerplant.

For the first time in 2012 the road surface was all tarmac, making a record time almost inevitable, nevertheless the first three quarters of the course was slippery with the final section thwarted by heavy rain.

Third place went to Carlin Dunne, who became the first competitor to break the 10-minute barrier on a motorcycle. Dunne set a time of of 9:52.819, beating his previous record of 11:11.32 in the 1205 class, while his teammate Greg Tracy was less than six seconds behind with 9:58.262.

Both were riding a Ducati Multistrada 1200 S. Dunne reached speeds above 144mph on the straighter sections of the course, on his way to the top.

The Porsche 911 GT3 R of Romain Dumas testing before the event.

Quotes: Colorado Springs Gazette (website)

Photos: HRE Wheels and Kennol Oils.