With the glow of Porsche’s Le Man's win slipping into the sunset, it’s time to focus on the next major racing challenge for the fabled marque. The 2015 Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is just over a week away. Among the 145 cars and motorcycles racing the 156 corners and 12.42 miles to an altitude of 14,114’ above sea level are several Porsches with very strong opportunities for class wins. Recent testing times suggest a very good year for Porsche, but not without some stiff competition.
On Mountain Testing Has Started
On mountain testing started a couple of weeks ago, with the most recent testing taking place on June 13 and 14. Because the road opens for regular tourism at 9am, testers start their runs at first light, which is just a little before 5am. Testing times for both days were lead by Porsches.
Saturdays runs on the lower portion of the course showed Jeff Zwart, driving his Time Attack 1 (TA1) division GT3/2 “hybrid”, heading the time sheets with a 3:07.86. Remarkably, David Donner had second best overall times in his Time Attack 2 (TA2) division 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S with a 3:15.88. Both Porsches topped cars with considerably more horsepower and downforce, including some of the high-winged, 1000hp Pikes Peak open-wheel cars. Often-time Porsche racer Randy Pobst was having a difficult day with his TA2-class Nissan GTR, setting a best time of 3:22.84
Of course many people are watching Zwart closely this year. This will be the third year for Zwart with this Porsche, which is probably the only GT3 Cup with a race-prepped GT2 turbo engine developing close to 800hp. Driving this same 911, Zwart was thwarted from class honors in 2013 by weather and in 2014 by a faulty fuel pump. The 2014 loss was to Porsche driving Frenchman Vincent Beltoise. Particularly frustrating: Zwart lost by only one second. He’s hoping the third time is the charm.
Time Attack 2
Donner’s effort in Time Attack 2 is remarkably different in that his entry is a virtually stock 2014 911 Turbo S. TA2 rules stipulate internal engine workings may not be modified in any way, though engines may be remapped for performance at altitude. Suspension components must be stock, though camber, caster and toe may be adjusted for optimum handling. Brakes are open for modification or replacement, though Donner’s team feel that the stock 991 brakes are more than adequate.
Sunday was a more telling session, as the cars ran to the top of the snow-covered mountain for the first time this year. Zwart and Donner again bested the time sheets, this time with Pobst close behind Donner. Zwart ran a 5:31.18, Donner a 5:40.83 and Pobst a 5:41.73. While it’s still only testing, experts felt this a close approximation of each car's performance capabilities. Needless to say, all the teams are working around the clock to find any increase in performance and to ensure reliability on race-day.
Common wisdom suggests that TA1 is Zwart’s to win, assuming the car runs properly and the weather cooperates. TA2 will be more hotly contested. Pobst is a many time national road-racing champion with over 80 professional victories and is driving a very fast car. But Donner comes from a family of Pikes Peak winners starting with his dad Bob Donner Jr. winning three times on the mountain with a Porsche RSK in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Donner’s brother Bobby Donner III won overall in 1989 and David Donner has won the race overall three times in open-wheel cars and won the Unlimited Division in 2012 with a Palatov special. A Colorado Springs native, if anyone knows the mountain, it’s Donner. And he’s driving a Porsche.
Qualifying starts Tuesday, June 23 with the race to the clouds on Sunday June 28. Watch here for more updates.
All photos ©Sean Cridland/FLATSIXES.com