Jul 7, 2023
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Ari Vatanen “Pikes Peak” Climb with the Peugeot T16

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Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak is the highest mountain in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, located in the mountainous state of Colorado, United States of America. The mountain has an elevation of 4,302 meters and is part of the Pike National Forest. The peak is only 20 kilometers from the center of the city of Colorado Springs. The mountain is named after General Zebulon Montgomery Pike, a military officer and explorer who unsuccessfully attempted to summit it in 1805. Pikes Peak is the 39th highest mountain in the country and the 19th highest in the state of Colorado. The interesting thing about the mountain is that there is a road that ascends to the summit.


Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Pikes Peak is globally famous thanks to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, an annual timed race held every summer that covers the ascent to Pikes Peak. The race has been held since 1916 and has become a classic in the rally world, especially in the United States. There are countless categories, including cars based on traction, quads, trucks, electric vehicles, motorcycles… but undoubtedly, the premier category is the Unlimited, in which, as the name suggests, there are no limits on the vehicle to be driven. The race has an elevation gain of 1,440 meters, 156 curves, exactly 20 kilometers (12.5 miles), and an average gradient of 7.2%. Since 2013, the road has been completely paved, but in the 1980s, the 20-kilometer uphill stretch was gravel.

Ari Vatanen: Pikes Peak Climb with the Peugeot 405 T16

The ascent has provided moments and images for history, but it is particularly noteworthy the climb of Ari Vatanen in 1988 driving the legendary Peugeot 405 T16. That year, the Finnish driver won the race for the first and only time, setting the best historical time up to that date. The time he set would not be surpassed until 5 years later. That climb left us with one of the best automotive videos seen to date, which can be watched at the beginning of this page.

Pikes Peak 1989. Ari Vatanen, Peugeot 405 T16

Ari Vatenen “Climb Dance”

Ari Vatanen Pikes Peak time10'47'

The video, which is actually a short film called “Climb Dance,” won various awards in the year of its release. It is an absolutely essential audiovisual piece, even for those who are not fans of the motorsport world. It lasts 5 minutes, although we would love for it to last 5 hours because the image and the sound of the engine roaring mercilessly are absolutely exquisite. It is important to note that in the 80s, the resources were not as advanced as we have today; there were no drones or GoPro cameras. The video shows the danger of the ascent, the subtlety of Vatanen’s driving as he deals with the different hairpin turns, the challenge of the gravel and the sun directly in his face, which he has to block with one hand while holding the steering wheel with the other. It is also striking how little safety measures were in place during those years, as there were no guardrails, and Vatanen faces the possibility of falling off the edge numerous times during the climb.

Ari Vatanen and the sun at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

The ascent to Pikes Peak is about 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) long, and the great Ari Vatanen completed it in a time of 10’47”. He won the race, shattering all previous records. He achieved an average speed of 120 km/h, an absolute feat. Time passes, technology advances, and naturally, Ari Vatanen’s time was surpassed in subsequent editions, although it took 5 years until Nobuhiro Tajima from Japan (the record holder for victories in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, with 9 wins) did so, driving a Suzuki and with only a 3-second difference. Nowadays, Sébastian Loeb’s time of 8’13” in 2013, driving a Peugeot 208, still stands as the current record.

It is worth noting that Vatanen participated in this race only 18 months after a serious accident in the Rally of Argentina, where he almost lost his life and went through a severe depression.

After this race, Vatanen continued with a prolific professional career in the motorsport world. He won the WRC once with Peugeot in 1981 and four times the Dakar Rally (1987, 1989, 1990, and 1991), all with Peugeot.

He retired in 2007 after competing in his last Dakar with Volkswagen. Since then, he has not wasted his time. He was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 until 2009, and since 2013, he has been the president of the Estonian Motorsport Federation.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Google Maps

Spanish version: Ari Vatanen y la Subida al Pikes Peak con el Peugeot 450 T16

Colorado · North America · USA

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