By this point, it seems almost like privateer racers have harnessed more technology and speed in the race to the top of the mountain than we did in the race to the moon in the late sixties. This year, the battle for overall honors was down to a battle between electric power and fossil fuels. In the Time Attack Class, it was Porsche versus Porsche in a tussle for one of the most hotly contested classes.
Both classes, strangely, center around French Porsche factory driver Romain Dumas. Since his first time on the mountain in 2012, he has been an impressively fast shoe. In his first year, in fact, he broke the official record on the hill in his 997 GT3 R. He held the record for several minutes, before ultimately losing the victory by 17 thousandths of a second, though still won his class. In 2013, Dumas stepped up to a Norma M20FC PP Sports Racer in a bid for the overall, but was thwarted by failed battery only a few corners into his run. Bringing the same car back for 2014, Dumas stood a much better chance at the overall win, as most of the major competition had left.
Porsche's Romain Dumas Rules The Day
Without any Sebastien Loeb or Rhys Millen to contend with, Dumas drove his little Norma prototype to the top of the mountain in a very cautious 9:05.801. He was closely followed by Greg Tracy's electric Mitsubishi at 9:08.188. Dumas was also aided by Paul Dallenbach's open-wheel class failure, as Paul's car was right quick this year. Dumas later said that he drove a bit slower than he normally might have done, because he knew how important it was to reach the summit, and the course was slightly slippery with dirt and gravel kicked onto the racing line. This was Dumas' first overall victory at the mountain, and it only took him three tries to do so.
Romain also had a Porsche GT3 RS, also with Haribo sponsorship, but this time prepared for the Time Attack class going head to head with Porsche fan favorite Jeff Zwart. For this car, Dumas stuck fellow Frenchman Vincent Beltoise in the driver's seat and let him loose. Zwart had been piqued for the victory leading up to the race, as his car is a monster. Zwart drove a bone stock GT2 RS in 2011 (which still holds the record for fastest production car), and since then has been competing in a well prepared GT3 Cup car. For 2014, Mr. Zwart decided that he'd need to step up his game again if he wanted to stay ahead of the competition.
Jeff Zwart Returns To Pikes Peak
BBi Autosport and Jeff built a winning combination, returning with a turbocharged engine in the back of his GT3 Cup. Most sane people would say that the last thing a GT3 Cup needs is more power, but then they've never driven one up to 14,000 feet above sea level. At those altitudes, the air is quite thin, and oxygen is harder to come by. All engines suffer from loss of power at altitude, but naturally aspirated engines most of all. Adding the turbochargers meant that Zwart's GT3 would be able to continue setting a blistering pace, even in the higher altitudes. That car was back at the mountain with a score to settle.
Jeff set the pace in qualifying, nabbing the Time Attack class pole position. On race day, the GT3 Cup still looked much faster than Beltoise's GT3 RS. In the first sector of the course, Beltoise had the advantage with more torque from the naturally aspirated engine, while Zwart's engine took some extra time to spool up out of the slower corners (Sector 1 Time - Beltoise: 1:46.908 Zwart: 1:49.249). In sector 2, Zwart began to gain back some of what he'd lost in the first sector with a wide open section of the course where top speeds are a little more important (Sector 2 Time - Beltoise: 2:23.584 Zwart: 2:22.524). In the third sector, as the altitudes climbed, Zwart's times continued to fall, while Beltoise had a harder time keeping up with an asthmatic engine (Sector 3 Time - Beltoise: 2:56.617 Zwart: 2:51.186). After gaining a lead of almost 5 seconds, Jeff's view of the trophy started to collapse in the fourth and final sector of the race. The LumiNox GT3 Cup Turbo suffered a stumble from the fuel pump, and it couldn't supply enough pressure to feed the hungry flat-six engine. Jeff lost his lead, and lost the race, in that final sector (Sector 4 Time: Beltoise: 2:53.635 Zwart: 2:58.958). In the end, Vincent Beltoise took the Time Attack victory by only 1.17 seconds, marking a two-class victory for Romain Dumas' Haribo team. It was a tight fight, and Jeff is likely disappointed, but knowing his spirit, he'll be back even faster next year.
Other Porsche Blog Posts You Will Enjoy
Jeff Zwart Driving a New Kind of Porsche Hybrid at Pikes Peak This Year
Jeff Zwart, Romain Dumas, Vincent Beltois and Others Explain What It Takes To Conquer Pikes Peak In A Porsche
Watch Jeff Zwart Climb Pikes Peak in a Turbo Charged Porsche GT3 Cup