Pikes Peak Hill Climb
Prelude to the Race
Broadmoor Hotel founder Spencer Penrose‘s modified 1918 Pierce-Arrow, dubbed The Broadmoor Special Yellow Devil, ran the race several times. It now greets visitors to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Museum at the hotel.
The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is so much more than a car race, which is why it’s survived—and thrived—for a century.
The second-oldest motor race in the Western Hemisphere, after the Indy 500, the event draws spectators and fans from around the world to Colorado Springs for a week’s worth of celebrations leading up to the main event on Sunday, June 26.
Held on “America’s Mountain,” it all started in 1915, when car-enthusiast Spencer Penrose, who built The Broadmoor hotel, forged a highway to the top of Pikes Peak. The next year, 1916, he invited drivers from all over to test their skills in a race to the top. Penrose himself never raced, but his chauffeur, Harry McMillen, raced the modified 1918 Pierce-Arrow, dubbed The Broadmoor Special Yellow Devil, in 1922 and again in 1926. Angelo Cimino, a Broadmoor mechanic, took over racing duties from 1927 through 1932. The car finished every time, but never won.
This year actually marks the 94th running of the race, because it was canceled several times during World War I and World War II. Still, technically the Hill Climb will celebrate its centennial this year – 2016.
Speed Week starts Saturday and Sunday, June 18-19, with the Air Strip Attack at the Colorado Springs Airport. It’s a series of half-mile drag races on tarmac, lasting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, June 20, anyone can watch the technical inspections of race cars at the Broadmoor World Arena. It’s also a chance to meet drivers, and it’s free.
Tuesday through Friday, June 21-24, are practice and qualifying days, when drivers become familiar with the highway, and determine which drivers get to compete in the actual race. Get there early to watch – gates to the Pikes Peak Highway close at 4:45 a.m.
Everyone can join in the Fan Fest on Friday night, June 24, in downtown Colorado Springs. It’s a big, free street party with lots of race-related activities.
And sometime during the week, be sure to visit the Penrose Heritage Museum at The Broadmoor hotel complex. It includes an expanded exhibit specifically on the Hill Climb, including such things as Penrose’s “yellow devil” and other cars and memorabilia from the past 100 years. Admission’s free.
While the mountain is being set up for Sunday’s race, fans can converge on Woodland Park for the Rocky Mountain SuperEnduro motorcycle race. An off-road type obstacle course will be set up at the old Ute Pass Saddle Club Rodeo Grounds for the event.
If you plan to attend the race itself and want to camp out, set up your camp between noon and 6 p.m. on Saturday. Or arrive on the mountain between 3 and 7 a.m. on race day.
The green flag drops at 8 a.m. on Sunday, and races end “whenever the last car crosses the finish line,” says Mitch Snow, Director of Promotion & Legacy for the Hill Climb. Snow, who has been attending himself since he was 4 years old, says it’s better to get up there the day before, unless you want to get up in the middle of the night on race day.
Spectators on the mountain aren’t the only ones who will be following the event. In 2014, it had 73,000 Facebook fans worldwide, about 60 percent from overseas.