Suzuki's Monster tames the Peak
MOUNTAIN RUNNER: With more than 700kW and awfully trick all-wheel drive, Tajima’s SX4 Special is the ultimate hillclimb machine.
PIKES PEAK - Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima beat his own record in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Sunday, becoming the first driver to dip below the magic 10 minute barrier, whilst winning the race for a sixth consecutive time.
The 61-year-old Japanese driver covered the 20km course in 9min 51.28sec in the Unlimited Division. The time to beat was 10min 01.41sec which he set on July 21, 2007.
Pikes Peak remains the greatest hillclimb race in the world. America's second oldest motorsport event, it's affectionately called the "race to the clouds" as competitors ascend to a finish line 4300m above sea level, etched against the Colorado skyline.
Tajima overcame an overheated engine in his 2011 Monster Sport SX4 Hill Climb Special and wind gusts of more than 60km/h as he drifted through 156 turns from the start at 2862m to the 4300m summit.
MORE TARMAC - STILL A CHALLENGE?
The affable Japanese hillclimb specialist sixth’s victory in the event came after the disappointed of 2010 – when most predicted he would break the 10 minute barrier – thanks to a few crucial engineering changes and a greater volume of tarred road on the climb.
Pikes Peak remains an extraordinarily challenging race to prepare for as (traditionally) sections of the 20km route remain unpaved, necessitating a drivetrain solution that fuses dirt road traction and high friction asphalt dynamics.
By 2011, gravel remains on less than 5km of the course. Race officials said the road would be completely paved for the 2012 race. This is the first year that pavement replaced gravel from Devil's Playground to Boulder Park, giving Tajima an edge on previous record bids.
A full 20km asphalt course should see times tumble in future, but, traditionalists will always hanker after the old dirt/asphalt combination and see future times (well) below 10 minutes having more to do with the surface change than driver skill...
Californian Rhys Millen (who's father, Rod, held the outright record from 1994-2007) was second in 10min 09.24 sec and Jean Philippe Dayraut from France third in 10min17.71.
Millen had predicted that two or three cars would finish in less than 10 minutes. He also set his sights on ending Tajima's run, but was hampered by brake problems.
Now read how fast a bike did the run!