The 10-minute mark at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has been the target of every racer in recent years, and breaking the mark at the 86th installment of the race Sunday will feature an added incentive.
Local businesses have joined forces to offer a $25,000 bounty for the driver who breaks the 10-minute mark on the 12.42-mile track that begins at more than 9,200 feet and winds its way to the 14,110-foot peak sometimes called ''America's Mountain.''
The current record holder, Japan's Nobuhiro Tajima, is regarded as the best threat to the time stamp. He completed the course with a record time of 10:01.408 last year, breaking Rod Millen's 13-year record of 10:04.06.
Tajima will be driving a 2008 Suzuki XL7 and made it known after last year's record-setting win that he had one goal in mind for 2008.
''I want to try again for the 10-minute barrier,'' he said.
If more than one driver finishes the course in under 10 minutes, the driver with the fastest time will take home the $25,000. The bonus would come in handy for the professional racers, who are feeling the pinch of rising fuel prices at every turn.
Also known as ''The Race to the Clouds,'' the Hill Climb will feature nearly 18 classes of motorcycles, 4-wheelers, trucks and off-road race cars as more than 180 drivers battle for $50,000 in prize money.
Last year's champions in nearly every class are returning to defend their titles, including 11-time Hill Climb champion Davey Durelle in the 750cc motorcycle class and seven-time 250cc motorcycle class champion Chuck Lee.
The Super Stock Car class could be one of the more tightly contested races, with 14-time Hill Climb champion Clint Vasholtz looking to unseat four-time and defending champion Bobby Regester.
Vasholtz's father, Leonard, competed in 31 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb races, winning a record 18, including last year's Open class. He retired after the victory a year ago and will be on hand to cheer his son on as he challenges the mountain and Regester.
Other featured drivers include defending Open Wheel car class champion Paul Dallenbach, the brother of former NASCAR driver Wally Dallenbach, and reigning Time Attack class champion Rhys Millen, the son of former Hill Climb record holder Rod Millen.
Racers reached speeds up to 130 mph on the dangerous course, which features 156 gravel turns, 2,000-foot cliffs with no guardrails and a finish at 14,110 feet.
The race, founded by Spencer Penrose, has been held since 1916, when Rea Lentz won with a time of 20:55.6. It is the second-oldest motor sports event in the country, behind only the Indianapolis 500.
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