Pikes Peak is one of the fiercest challenges in motorsport. Autocar takes a look back at the historic event
18 August 2012

This week, one of the most famous names in the history of the Pikes Peak hillclimb smashed the course record. Rhys Millen, driving a Hyundai Genesis, shaved 5.0sec off the record on the newly-tarmaced track.

Rhys Millen is the son of Rod Millen, a driver who dominated the event throughout much of the 1990s. He set the course record in 1994 with a time that stood until 1997.

Millen junior narrowly edged former Le Mans winner Romain Dumas’ Porsche 911 GT3 R by less than two hundredths of a second over the 12.42-mile course.

This year’s event is the first time the entire course has been paved, although the winding route to the 4303m summit has been largely unchanged since the original route was laid. The Pikes Peak hillclimb now features classes for vintage, electric, open-wheel and production-based cars, as well as motorcycles and sidecars.

Pikes Peak's story began in the early 1800s, when American President Thomas Jefferson ordered the exploration of the Great Plains and beyond. A few years later, Lt. Zebulon Pike saw the mountain which bears his name. He never reached the summit, and declared it unconquerable by man. 

On August 12, 1901 C.A Yont and W.B Felker drove (and occasionally pushed) their 2-cylinder Locomobile Steamer to the top in nine hours. A few years later a man named Spencer Penrose finished converting the carriage way into Pikes Peak highway. In a publicity stunt to show off his town and the scenic road, he organised a race to the summit. 

The first Pike’s Peak Auto Hill Climb took place in August 1916. Rae Lentz took first place in his aero-engined Romano Demon special in 20 minutes 55.6secs, significantly improving on the Locomobile Steamer’s time. 

Rhys Millen’s record of 9min 41.164sec is less than half of that time, but the appetite for these drivers to push the limits of what’s possible is one of the few constants in motorsport.

Click on the image above to view the choice cuts from this year's Pikes Peak hillclimb, and some highlights from past events.

Bryan Campbell

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK