Unhinged: There Will Be No Motorcycles Racing The 2020 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Unhinged: There Will Be No Motorcycles Racing The 2020 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has prestige, has international appeal, and above all else, has danger…racers blast up the side of Pikes Peak in Colorado, stopping at the summit. It’s a no-joke kind of course filled with switchbacks, radical corners and the kinds of drop-offs that cater more to a mountain goat or a cartoon coyote more than they ever will to a race car. Unfortunately, accidents and incidents happen at the mountain, including this year’s fatality, Carlin Dunne, who was trying for a fifth win in the motorcycle class on a Ducati. Dunne’s death apparently got the PPIHC board of directors into action, and in a statement, said, “…there will be no motorcycle program offered in 2020 so that race organizers can gather data and analytics to review more thoroughly the impact on the overall event in the absence of this program.”

Motorcycles have run on the hill climb for 41 of the 97 years that the event has been held, and the directors won’t issue a final ruling on whether or not they’ll get to return until late 2020. But why are they even considering the ban? Here’s my opinion, for better or worse: it’s motorcycle racing. It’s inherently dangerous…that’s part of the thrill for riders. Racing up the mountain is dangerous, too. Ask anyone who has ever seen footage of cars crashing off of the sides of the mountain…whether it hits the first rock or just keeps on going, there will always be an element of genuine risk at Pikes Peak, same as another legendary race: The Isle of Man TT. If you for one second don’t believe that Dunne wasn’t aware of the risk, or didn’t think about the consequences, just leave the room now. I promise you it was on his mind. I promise you that he knew what he was doing when he straddled that Ducati and dumped the clutch for another blast up the mountain like he had done many times before.

Do not neuter the Pikes Peak hillclimb because the thought of risk is too much to bear. Reconstruct the accident. Learn from what happened, and implement a change if it’s genuinely needed. But if this accident wasn’t due to some freak failure, don’t proceed to neuter the race. Risk and reward go hand-in-hand and many will do whatever it takes to get that reward. There are racers who now have no goal and are worried about ever having one again. Let America have it’s Isle of Man track. Leave the mountain alone.

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22 thoughts on “Unhinged: There Will Be No Motorcycles Racing The 2020 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

  1. Robert Bennett

    The risk is there in every type of motorsports. The risk versus reward should be left up to the riders and drivers. I drag raced fast motorcycles for 16 years and you better believe I had a few butterflies occasionally and was always aware of the risk.

  2. Anxious

    The Isle of Mann TT is the only thing on TV that makes me sweat profusely while watching! I never miss it,

  3. Dick Sappington

    Attempt to cleave the balls off yet another worthwhile endeavor so that pansies don’t have to face actual reality, even on their “reality” screens, even by chance?

    Disneyfying the world is MANkind’s most misguided effort to date.

  4. HotRodPop

    We have to be protected from ourselves, because obviously, as adults, we don’t have the sense to make sane decisions on our own. Thank you, Uncle Sam (both sides) for telling me what’s good for me. I feel so much better! (Don’t bother, keyboard warriors, I know this particular incident isn’t government related; that was just a metaphor. But you know where it started!)

  5. Tracey

    If they are worried about the dangers of Pike’s Peak then they may as well just have all the drivers ride up on the tour bus and draw the winners names from a hat.

    1. Nitromike66

      They ruined that race when they paved the whole road. Next they will be installing guard rails…

  6. jerry z

    What a knee jerk reaction. There is inherent danger in any form of racing, that’s why it’s called racing!

  7. john

    Even a sport as safe as AutoX has been invaded by lawyers. The paperwork demanded by the SCCA is choking…AND the “baloney brains” in Topeka want nothing to do with suggestions as to how to improve it.. We’re doomed!

  8. Rob

    I think its a good move . There are thousands of less dangerous places to race . Familys and Emergency Service People don\’t need to scrape Racers off Trees ,and rocks .Its going to happen . .

  9. Bob

    My god what have we become? It’s a dangerous sport, get over it. If you can’t deal with danger, take up golf or horse shoes. I think we need to let the powers that be look closely at what happened and if there is something that could have prevented it but otherwise, stay out of trying to “improve” a sport.

  10. ratty

    While I basically agree with you Bryan as far as that motorsports in general are of course risky, but I do have my reservations about how Pikes Peak has evolved and where it is today, and I can’t just completely disagree with the race officials’ decision, even though it may be a case of a knee jerk reaction instead of fixing what is actually broken, if it is even possible to fix.

    Feel free to correct my info, but amazingly from what I’ve read there have only been 4 fatalities at Pikes Peak for an 89 year stretch starting with the first death in 1921 until the 4th in 2005 (only one of them being a motorcycle fatality). In the past 5 years alone, there have been 3 deaths, all motorcycle deaths… Bobby Goodwin in 2014, Carl Sorenson in 2015, and now Carlin Dunne in 2019. Of note, two of those, Goodwin and Dunne, both crashed right at the finish line. It wasn’t until 2011 that Pikes Peak was completely paved to the top (which in my opinion completely ruined it, I’ve dreamt of racing Pikes Peak myself and as soon as they paved it I had no interest in doing it anymore). With the course now completely paved, of course most (if not all) previous records have been shattered due to it basically just being a big road course, no longer a fight for traction dirt track rally style course. With the change from a poor traction dirt course that required racers to be extra careful not to push the envelope too much or risk certain death, to a paved course where the racers could just let it all hang out, the speeds increased, the risks (mostly) are less, and yet the danger increased due to the increased speeds and the mentality that because they have a lot of traction there’s little risk compared to the sliding sideways technique from before.

    I’m sure the Pikes Peak organizers, I think they’re the Pikes Peak Auto Hill Climb Educational Museum, probably struggles to keep the event going every year, being regularly attacked by external foes and I’m sure, insurance costs, that make it hard to put the event on. It isn’t a dedicated private race track, and it isn’t a self-governing island in the U.K. like the Isle of Man. It’s in the United States, under ongoing public relations scrutiny and litigious threats that I’m sure the Isle of Man doesn’t have to worry about.

    It would be terribly irresponsible for the organizers to not react in some way to these very recent deaths, though like other race organizations like the NHRA and their decision to shorten the 1/4 mile to 1000′ following Scott Kalitta’s death, knee jerk reactions may appease some but are usually terribly flawed.

    In my opinion, paving the event was the beginning of the end of Pikes Peak. Note that 2 out of the 3 recent motorcycle deaths occurred at the finish line, where the pavement quickly ends and turns into gravel (at least it was in 2014 when Goodwin crashed after the finish line), at a spot where being a timed event, every racer is pushing it the hardest to cut those last few thousandths of a second from their time. Imagine a drag strip that right after the finish line it turns into a sand trap with no paved shut down area? If the Pikes Peak organizers can’t pave the area after the finish line for whatever reasons, or if it is paved now (?) and it’s just too short to stop safely, it would probably be smarter to move the finish line farther down the mountain, say an 1/8th mile farther down. They could even possibly move the start an equal distance sooner to at least keep the length of the course the same. Either way, something has to change, when you have a repetition of fatalities, you have to take notice and make some quick changes or you’re just being irresponsible. Just look at almost every race track in every form of motorsport, whenever they had too many crashes or fatalities in a particular section of the track, they changed the track. Pikes Peak was fine, albeit crazy absurd at the top (which is what makes it so fantastic and insane from a racer’s perspective), but once it got paved, it changed the course.. and the risks.

    I think the race organizers had to put the brakes on the bikes, but they shouldn’t make it permanent, they should analyse in depth why there have been so many motorcycle fatalities, and respond correctly… Don’t react like the NHRA, it’ll only ruin the sport or the race.

    1. ratty

      Excuse my typos, I’m sure I have more than just, ‘analyze’ (duh)… wish your comments section had an edit function.

  11. Ed Stringer

    They should seek ways to improve the safety of all concerned. The comment about a shutdown area is right on the money. If nothing else, place the finish line 200 yards down the mountain. The Committee needs to realize you can\’t bubble-wrap the world.

  12. Ed Stringer

    They should seek ways to improve the safety of all concerned. The comment about a shutdown area is right on the money. If nothing else, place the finish line 200 yards down the mountain. The Committee needs to realize you can’t bubble-wrap the world.

  13. Curtis

    Agree one hundred percent! Let them race, trying to protect us from ourselves takes the excitement out of life. Life without risk would be a very boring and unimaginative world.

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