This Sunday the 99th running of the most interesting race in the world was committed to the history books, and Porsche competitors had a totally great day at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The mountain doesn’t owe anyone anything, and everyone coming to this race only has one attempt to make it to the top as quickly as they can. No matter how prepared you are to race well, any number of weird things can happen to prevent you from getting there. At the end of the day, it’s your time against the mountain that tells the world what you’ve got. Nobody ever actually beats the mountain, but they can come to an agreement, and make a good time manifest.
Eleven different Porsches were entered in three different classes this year at Pikes Peak, and Porsche entries won all three of them. OK, admittedly one of those classes was the Porsche GT4 Clubsport Yokohama Trophy class which could only be won by a Porsche, but the awesomeness stands. Champion Porsche won the Pikes Peak Time Attack 1 class with its modified GT2 RS Clubsport, while BBi Autosport took the Pikes Peak Open class with its turbocharged 2015 GT America. It was a knockdown drag-out fight for the honors of fastest runner actually based on a car, but ultimately it was Champion (above) that came out on top, with Romain Dumas setting the second-best time overall behind Robin Shute’s wild Unlimited-class prototype racer. BBi Autosport (as well as Rhys Millen and the Bentley factory racing team) put up a strong effort, with Raph Astier taking the Open class victory in fifth overall and David Donohue coming home third in TA1 and eighth overall.
The overall times from this year’s event are unfortunately irrelevant as the race did not run all the way to the 14,115 foot summit. Thanks to ice on the road in the early morning, the organizers decided to shorten the course to just about 3/4ths of the overall distance to avoid the possibility of weather-induced crashes. Because the early competitors were not allowed to run the full course, the whole event was shortened for everyone, to allow for a level playing field. Or as level as the mountain would allow. It’s a shame, because we didn’t get to see Tanner Foust break Travis Pastrana’s GT4 Clubsport class record, or any new TA or Open class records, but it was still a good race, despite all that.
2021 Pikes Peak Time Attack 1 Class
This was always going to be the most exciting class of the event, as there were three competitors with top-shelf talent in the driver seat and top-shelf cars underneath them. Obviously it was always going to be difficult to deny overall Pikes Peak record holder Romain Dumas would be in the hunt with Le Mans winning Champion Motorsports backing him in a GT2 RS Clubsport. The factory Bentley effort running a highly modified Continental GT3 with two-time PPIHC class winner Rhys Millen was going to be tough as well. Personally, having seen the impressive car that BBi Autosport had built for him, I had my money on David Donohue in the second GT2 RS Clubsport.
When it came time to run the mountain, Dumas was the first of the TA1 class competitors off the line. He managed to set a 6:31.914 time, which gave all of the other class runners a rabbit to chase. Give chase they did, as a matter of fact, as Millen’s Bentley managed to beat Dumas in the first two sectors up the mountain. By the end of sector two, Millen was almost 12 seconds up on Dumas’ time, but his entire run fell apart in the third sector as he lost a massive 16 seconds to Dumas in just that top third of the mountain, finishing in 6:31.914. There is no word yet as to what might have happened to Millen to make him slow so dramatically in the top sector. Donohue’s run, however, was the exact opposite. He set off from the line trepidatiously, losing five seconds to Dumas in the first sector, and a massive 10 seconds in the second sector. That last sector, however, he turned up the wick and managed to run a time faster than anyone in the competition, bar Shute’s outlier time. Donohue finished his run in 6:45.893.
2021 Pikes Peak Open Class
After issues with his car held Raph Astier back in 2019, he returned in 2021 with an aim at setting a much faster time. The BBi Autosport crew built him a better car with more downforce, more power, more tire, and improved, well, everything. While still based on a turbocharged GT3 Cup car, this machine has had pretty much every component upgraded over the years, and now it’s about as good as good can get. With a rules change disallowing the car from competing in Time Attack classes for 2021, BBi set about making it the best Open class car they could. There really wasn’t anything in the Open class that BBi had to worry about, so it set its sights on beating everything with fenders.
In 2021 bad luck struck again, as Astier was on track for a top honors run in the first two sectors, but like Millen his run fell apart at the top of the mountain. While I’d certainly give Romain Dumas the edge on talent over Astier, I would wager Astier had the better car for this head-to-head competition of Frenchmen in turbocharged Porsches. In sector one Astier was up on Dumas’ time by about one second. In sector two things were a little closer, but Astier still had the edge with a six tenths advantage. Sector three Astier ran a time that was six and a half seconds slower than Dumas, and a massive eight seconds slower than teammate Donohue in a similarly-prepared car.
Astier won the Pikes Peak Open class by a wide margin, nearly 10 seconds clear of second placed Layne Schrantz in a highly modified 2016 Chevrolet NASCAR machine. While he might have had his sights set a little higher, and he fell short of them, he still gets to go home with a trophy and class win honors.
2021 Pikes Peak GT4 Clubsport Yokohama Trophy Class
Like Pikes Peak Open, the GT4 Clubsport class was pretty much guaranteed to be BBi Autosport’s victory from the outset. Because this class is based on a pretty exact spec of car, the playing field should be fairly level. That means driver skill is much more important in GT4 Clubsport than in any other class. With returning runners in the class Chas Wirken and Kathryn Mead, we knew what they were capable of, which is to say they are talented, but not on the level of drift and rallycross champion Tanner Foust. I will say that PPIHC rookie Cameron Ingram surprised me with a second-placed class finish just about 21 seconds behind Foust. Tanner managed to run a 7:28.269, as compared to Ingram’s 7:49.515, Mead’s 7:59.457, and Wirken’s 8:40.976. I’d call that a pretty convincing victory.
So there you have it. Porsche drivers managed to win all three classes they were entered in. The legendary marque continues its incredible history of motor sport at one of the most important and long-standing races of the year. It’s still a pretty safe bet to root for the brand from Stuttgart.