Bad weather and a myriad of crashes may have marred the 2012 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, but that didn’t deter motorsports pro Rhys Millen from setting a new world record at the annual 12.42-mile 'Race to the Clouds' in Colorado. His final time was 9:46.164, an impressive 5.0 seconds faster than the previous record set by Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima, though this year challengers were faced with a completely paved surface for the first time in the event’s history.
Millen set his record time in the Time Attack class behind the wheel of a specially-prepped 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe, the same car he pilots for Hyundai in the Formula DRIFT series. The car Millen used for his latest feat was in fact the very same car that set the Time Attack 2WD record last year with Rhys' father, Rod Millen, at the wheel.
Developed together by Hyundai and Millen's own race team, Rhys Millen Racing, the special Pikes Peak Genesis Coupe featured a custom aero package, ultra-wide and staggered Hankook F200 racing slicks on custom HRE lightweight wheels and a V-6 engine tuned to deliver 700 horsepower and 700 pound-feet of torque. In addition to all the extra hardware, the car was also scrutinized for weight reduction potential and suspension settings were further optimized for Millen's unique style of driving, which combines elements from rallying and drifting.
“I drove as hard as I could, the course was so slippery on the first three-quarters, and I just pushed that little Hyundai Genesis as hard as we could,” Millen said after his attempt. Those slippery conditions were caused partially by bad weather, which included snow flurries and rain at the 14,100-foot summit of Pikes Peak. Because of this the finish line eventually had to be moved down to Glen Cove, where the altitude is 11,440 feet.
Sadly, last year’s winner and previous record holder Nobuhiro Tajima was forced to retire this year. After showing promising results in the lead up to the race, including qualifying first in the Electric class with his Monster Sport E-RUNNER, Tajima pulled out just one mile in near the Horseshoe section when he saw smoke coming out of the rear.
Although disappointed, Tajima promised he would be back for next year’s event. "Thank you so much for your support. I will be back next year. Watch out for me," he proclaimed.
As for the rest of the standings, the second fastest time of the day went to endurance racer Romain Dumas in the Pikes Peak Open class using a 997 Porsche 911 GT3 R race car, while Carlin Dunne clinched the third fastest time on a Ducati motorcycle. The fastest electric car, meanwhile, was the EV P002 developed by Toyota Motorsport and piloted by Fumio Nutahara. His time was a brisk 10:15.380, which was the sixth fastest overall and a new record for an electric car at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.