The race is more than three months away but it is never too early to talk about the annual Pikes Peak hillclimb.
Silodrome, one of my favorite sites for the octane-afflicted, recently posted an appreciation of rally ace Walter Röhrl, who broke the seemingly unbreakable 11-minute barrier while racing up Pikes Peak in 1987. To accomplish the feat he used the Audi Sport Quattro S1, a turbocharged all-wheel-drive rally special with about 600 horsepower.
A decade ago I even had the pleasure of riding with Röhrl as he gracefully drifted the then-new Porsche Carrera GT around the Mosport Park track in Bowmanville, Ontario. Still, when it comes to Pikes Peak moments I think first of Michele Mouton, another Audi driver who shook up the Pikes regulars in 1985.
Pikes Peak was a particularly masculine, North American sort of place 30 years ago, so a French woman with crazy hair driving a German car made an impression. When she trashed the competition, including America’s first family of racing, the Unsers, well, people got downright upset. Is there some way we can disqualify her?
Of course Mouton had been winning international rallies for years and the Peak is just a short rally up a hill. So when she won the race and set a new record it was no big surprise. But dang — did she have to make it look so easy? The following year Bobby Unser strapped on a similar Audi and set another record, which Röhrl would break in ’87. It was a golden period in motorsport.
Here’s Mouton getting it done in ’85: