Pikes Peak is plainly the world’s craziest hillclimb.
Hyundai's mad 550kW Pikes racer
The legendary ‘run to the clouds’ follows a delicate strip of dirt and asphalt for 20km, climbing nearly 1.5km to a finish line at 4.3km above sealevel. Drop-offs along the route are suicidal and the altitude saps power alarmingly.
The Holy Grail for those competing is to dip under the 10 minute barrier.
Current record holder and Pikes veteran, Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima, has clocked a personal best of 10 minutes and 1 second on the course in a very trick Suzuki.
A Millen family tradition
Beyond Tajima, the other hallowed name mentioned by Colorado residents when they congregate at the bottom of the Pikes Peak is Rod Millen. The New Zealander, who is an institution amongst Californian aftermarket tuners, held the outright Pikes Peak record from 1994-2007.
After Tajima bested Millen’s record in 2008, Rod’s son Rhys promised to get the family name restored in honour.
Last year Rhys, who is well known in drift circles (excuse the pun), drove brilliantly in a two-wheel drive Hyundai Genesis coupe at Pikes, only to be denied by a puncture towards the end of his timed run.
This year Rhys will be back, with a radical Hyundai funded vehicle specially constructed with the sole aim of dipping under the magical 10 minute barrier.
Millen's PM580 features RMR custom carbon-fibre surfacing over a tubular frame. Fore and rear diffusers ensure epic airflow management.
Le Mans meets Pikes Peak?
Although Rhys Millen’s 2010 Pikes Peak challenger looks like a Le Mans prototype, the Hyundai Genesis PM580 is engineered to cover ground (asphalt and dirt) very, very swiftly.
The PM580 is powered by a stoked version of the Hyundai Lamba 3.8l V6 engine.
Millen’s technicians have increased capacity to 4.1l and added a massive HKS T04Z turbocharger which boosts power output to 550kW, which is quite average for Pikes Peak unlimited class vehicles - regularly running around 1 000 units of imperial rated hp.
Traction is a huge issue on the predominantly loose Pikes Peak surface. To ensure as much of the RM580’s 550kW are converted to forward momentum Millen has a Weismann semi-automatic all-wheel drive transmission and dual Quaife active differentials managing traction at each axle.
These trick diffs can allow for 10- to 100% toque split to the front wheels and due to their active status, provide the best compromise on both the dirt and asphalt portions of the hillclimb. This is something which should benefit Millen as most Pikes Peak specials are tuned primarily for dirt ability.
Running 17-inch HRE wheels shod with 275/40 Toyo tyres - grip will not be an issue. A punture stopped Millen's record attempt last year - preciously close to the finish line.
One of the most vexing challenges for designers has been to manage the need for extreme downforce in corners (Pikes Peak has 156 of them, most of the very tight variety) yet lower drag to facilitate high-speed ability on the straights.
Millen’s downforce management regime is courtesy of Aeromotions and features active trimming. This means he’ll be running very low down force on the straight(ish) bits and plenty of axle pressure airflow in the corners.
Scrubbing off speed in the RM580 will be a set of Brembo carbon-fibre racing rotors and pads.
So, if you're in the States around midyear, why not roll on over to Pikes Peak in Colorado on Sunday 27 June to see if Rhys Millen can dip under the magical sub-10 minute barrier in his 'race to the clouds'.
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