ford fiesta pikes peak 2009 049Enlarge Photo
"We had a few problems this morning, but the car is really nice to drive," said two-time WRC champion Marcus Grönholm on Wednesday. "The handling is perfect, but because of the altitude we were struggling through the hairpins and there wasn't so much power, but when it [power] was coming it was ok. We need to work with our engineer on mapping and things like that. We need a little bit of experience for this race to be competitive and we know that it will be difficult on Sunday."
Backing two separate cars will be Sweden’s Olsberg Motor Sport Evolution, headed by Andreas Eriksson. The two Fiestas will be driven by Eriksson and rally legend Marcus Gronholm in the Unlimited Class, and the duo are hoping to be the first team to break the 10-minute mark over the 12.4-mile, 156-turn pavement and gravel course.
Andreas Eriksson, 35, is a four-time Swedish rally champion, with multiple Rallycross victories, and Marcus Gronholm, 41, is one of World Rallying’s greatest drivers, with two world championships and 30 WRC victories on his resume.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb event itself dates back to 1916, and is the second oldest motorsport event in America, taking its name from the famous mountain peak that towers above Colorado Springs in the Rocky Mountains. Ford has been involved with the event since the very first race in 1916, when four Ford-powered cars competed. In 1922, Ford scored its first victory when Noel Bullock raced a 50hp (37kW) Ford Special, nicknamed “Tin Lizzy”, to a surprise victory in the time of 19m 50.9s.
Expected to cost less than $15,000 when it arrives early next year, the North American-spec Fiesta will differ slightly from its European counterpart. First and foremost will be the introduction of a sedan variant, although the hatchback will also be offered. Production will be handled at Ford's assembly plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico.