Tough track conditions kept the 10-minute mark, but not all racers, safe at the 86th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Sunday. Slick asphalt and dry, unforgiving dirt gave racers all they could handle as drivers' skills were tested on the hot and windy day on ''America's Mountain.''
The race was red-flagged a record nine times due to crashes or cars with mechanical issues, delaying action for nearly two hours. Two cars ran off the 12.42-mile course during the day, at least two more had flat tires and times were slower than in years past because of the difficult conditions.
No racer was able to come close to breaking the 10-minute mark, a goal that carried with it a $25,000 bounty this year. The fastest time and the race's overall winner was Japan's Nobuhiro Tajima, who finished the course in 10 minutes, 18.25 seconds. That mark was well off his record of 10:01.408 set a year ago.
''This year's conditions were more difficult, and it was hard for me,'' said Tajima, who drove a 2008 Suzuki XL7. ''The middle part (of the course) was OK, but the bottom asphalt was slippery and the top part was bumpy. My time was almost equal this year and last year, so I'm very happy. The car and my tires were fantastic.''
Motorcycle riders fared better than the car drivers, setting a trio of records in the afternoon. Mark Miller of Highlands Ranch, Colo., began by topping the previous 250cc class record. His 12:40.479 time was faster than the previous record of 12:42.736 set by Chuck Lee during his winning ride a year ago.
''The road was really slick, and so I'm happy to set the record with the condition the road was in,'' Miller said. ''Chuck and I had a great fight all the way. We got together five or six times, and it was a dogfight all the way to the top.''
Defending champion Steven Tutt set a record in the Quad 450cc class, crossing the finish line in 12:46.133. Gary Trachy, who won the 1200cc title last year, set a record in winning the Super Moto 450cc class with a time of 11:51.865.
Rhys Millen, the son of former PPIHC record-holder Rod Millen, bested his own record in the two-wheel drive Time Attack class. Millen lowered his record time of 12:45.153 from his win in 2007 by nearly 14 seconds with his winning time of 12:31.610 in this year's event.
''That's pretty good for my first run up the hill all week,'' said Millen, of Huntington Beach, Calif. ''I crashed my car last Saturday, and we didn't start it up again until 10:30 last night. This event has been quite special for us, and to come back here to Colorado Springs and continue the Millen legacy is exciting.''
Paul Dallenbach, the brother of former NASCAR driver Wally Dallenbach, successfully defended his title in the Open Wheel car class, taking first place in 11:00.944. The Basalt, Colo., resident felt he got all he could out of the race, considering the track conditions.
''It was pretty slow, but I went as fast as I could go,'' Dallenbach said. ''The bottom was good, but as soon as I hit Devil's Playground, I was all over the place.''
Clint Vasholtz won the Super Stock Car class with a time of 11:45.499 for his 15th career Pikes Peak International Hill Climb victory. He also had hoped for a record-setting day, but left the 14,110-foot peak happy with his win.
''I never made any mistakes, but I left a lot on the table,'' said Vasholtz, of Woodland Park, Colo. ''I feel really good about today. Today was just about getting to the summit, and I'll take a win over a record any day.''
Davey Durelle won his 12th career 750cc motorcycle class championship after fishing in 11:42.991.
Also known as ''The Race to the Clouds,'' the Hill Climb featured 17 classes of motorcycles, 4-wheelers, trucks and off-road race cars as more than 180 drivers battled for $50,000 in prize money.
Other class winners were: Doug Mockett and Angelica Garcia, Vintage car, 14:26.034; Jason Voss and James East, Pro Truck, 14:08.096; David and Allison Kern, Time Attack 4wd, 11:48.434; David Carapetyan, Pikes Peak Open, 12:32.176; Joe Prussiano, 450cc motorcycle, 12:32.299; Greg Tracy, 1200cc motorcycle, 12:06.602; Eddie Mulder, Vintage motorcycle, 13:27.949; John Stallworth, Quad 500cc, 12:19.204; Bryan and Allen Wenzel, sidecar motorcycle, 15:40.466; and Marlin Bruno and Jeandemange Sylvie, sidecar motorcycle unlimited, 13:19.194.
Racers reached speeds up to 130 miles per hour 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.