Colorado Springs, April 29..........With safety the prime concern for competitors, fans, volunteers and officials, the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has adopted a proactive stance to ensure protection and enjoyment for the thousands of spectators as well as others on America's Mountain.
New spectator regulations will begin with this year's 92nd running of the world's most famous hill climb and America's second-oldest motor sports race.
Spectators will have viewing areas of the Race to the Clouds along the course at Devil's Playground, Cove Creek, Glen Cove, Ski Area, Halfway Picnic Grounds, and the Start Line. These areas have been established to provide outstanding views of the race and most importantly to enhance spectator safety and control.
Each of these areas will be patrolled to ensure a safe viewing area and spectators that venture outside of these areas will be subject to law enforcement action. Over the coming years we will continue to enhance the spectator atmosphere on the mountain with additional vendors, merchandise sales and electronic displays of the results in each of the viewing areas.
A general ticket will give spectators early morning access to any of the aforementioned six viewing locations - the Start Line, Halfway Picnic Grounds, Ski Area, Glen Cove, Cove Creek and Devil's Playground. Once fans settle into those locations they cannot leave for the duration of the race.
Since the inaugural race in 1916 spectators have been mostly unrestricted as they made their way to sites that would provide better viewing.
A crowd estimated at 8,093 race fans, officials, accredited news media, driver and racer crews lined the course to watch the excitement last year.
The new regulations may slightly alter parts of the race that has made it a unique American motor sports event, a one-of-a-kind experience that draws spectators, competitors and media from around the world.
The 12.42 mile course, with 156 turns and fully-paved in 2012, has dramatically increased the speed of the autos and motorcycles, and the accompanying danger factor has spiked accordingly. Many of the turns are dangerous areas for fans to view the race. In the past there has been nine miles of unrestricted viewing access, which will be reduced to 1.5 miles starting this year under the new regulations.
Last summer, nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb of France set the racing world ablaze Sunday when he obliterated the overall race record in the 91st running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. In his first appearance in the "Race to the Clouds," Loeb maneuvered through the 156 turns on the 12.42-mile course in 8:13.878, more than a minute-and-a-half faster than the previous race record of 9:46.181 set by Rhys Millen last year.
Driving a Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak in the Unlimited class, Loeb averaged 90.69 Miles Per Hour while setting the record.
Speeds on the mountain reached 150 MPH on the famous course, and there were instances where fans leaned out on the course to get a better view, sometimes at one of the dangerous high-speed turns.
"No logical person is ever going to stand on I-25 and look at the cars coming and lean out onto the road," said Megan Leatham, the race's executive director in an article in The Gazette. "Yet, on Pikes Peak, those rules and common sense go away because it's such a chaotic event. We've been noticing that some common sense was lacking, so it was our job as event organizers to put rules into place to provide safety for everyone. We worked long and hard on a plan that would allow for the new higher speeds and still give our loyal fans and enjoyment they are used to but there was no simple answer to the issues."
Last year alone, eight competitors broke the ten-minute mark, which was considered impossible for decades. Now. It's open-season on these records on the Peak, and race organizers want to make sure nothing happens with this ultra-proactive stance.
The hope was to have rolled out these changes over a three-year window, but they will instead all be in place for the June 29, 2014 race. Law enforcement from El Paso and Teller counties will be on hand to issue trespassing citations for those not following the new rules.
"We anticipate some pushback from people who have gone up there for many years and have their favorite spot," said Tom Osborne, the race's chairman of the board told The Gazette. "Quite honestly, if we had a major incident and 20 people were killed by a car going 150 miles per hour, the race would be in jeopardy."
Losing the 98-year-old race, Leatham and Osborne said, would be a large blow to the community.
An economic study after last year's Hill Climb found that the race generated 20,800 out-of-town visitor nights in Colorado Springs, $6.6 million in direct sales by local businesses and more than $500,000 in sales and lodging taxes, as well as the income tax from the equivalent of 111 full-time jobs that are created as a result of the race.
"It's up to the organizers of the race, the board of directors, to make sure of the safety of the race for the riders and drivers," Osborne said. "If it's a little inconvenience to the spectators we apologize, but if we don't do this it's shame on us.