A beginner's guide to hillclimbing.
Hillclimb racing is one of the oldest forms of motorsport in the world and can trace its roots back to 19th century Europe. Also known as speed hillclimbing, it's as simple as it sounds: start at the bottom of a hill or small mountain and set the quickest time possible getting to the top. The first-ever hill climb race took place in 1897 at La Turbie near Nice, France, and the oldest continuous race is held at Shelsey Walsh in Worcestershire, England. The US also has a long history in 4-wheel hill climb events, with the most well-known event being the Pikes Peak Hill Climb finishing at the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado. Unlike traditional motorsport events that occur on a purpose-built track, hill climbs take place on closed-down public roads. Due to the lack of conventional track safety measures, added safety gear is required to compete in hill climb racing.
Hill climb racing became a massively popular form of motor racing in the early 20th century before dedicated race tracks were being built, but the sport can find its roots in late 19th century France. Hill climbing in the US is a niche form of racing, but the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) still hosts around ten hill climb events every year, and groups such as the Northwest Hillclimb Association host popular hill climb events including the Cope-Myers Memorial, the Freeze-Out Hillclimb, and the Hoopa Hillclimb.
Possibly the most famous hill climb event around (other than Chasing The Dragon in Robbinsville, NC) is the Pikes Peak race. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), otherwise known as The Race to the Clouds, has been going since 1916. The first championship trophy was awarded to Rea Lentz in 1916, who completed the course in 20:55.60 in a Romano Demon Special. The current record stands at 7:57.148 min and was set by Romain Dumas in a Volkswagen ID. R during the 2018 event, but it should be noted that the surface of this course has been vastly upgraded over the years from all gravel to now all asphalt, making the race faster. The oldest hill climb event in the US is the Eagle Rock hill climb, first held in New Jersey in 1901.
Hill climb racing is still active in the USA, and the SCCA regularly hosts events. Below are some of the more popular hillclimbing events.
The Pikes Peak race is known for hosting some of the most insane-looking, hardcore racecars on the face of the Earth. Here are some of our favorite specially designed cars to have graced the Peak.
Due to the dangerous nature of hill climb racing, the SCCA recommends that all drivers and cars adhere to these stringent safety rules:
Driver safety equipment
Vehicle safety equipment
Hill climbing is one of the oldest forms of racing in America and continues to thrive, sharing popularity with drag racing among other forms of motorsport - these types of races are mostly open to the public. Hill climbs are a great way to get into more formal track-based motor sporting events like NASCAR and rally racing, and since you're driving on closed public roads, the feeling is all the more exciting.
No, you don't. As long as your vehicle meets the safety standards and regulations set out by the organizer of your chosen event, you should be able to race your daily car up the hill climb event of your choosing.
Some hill climb events have been traditionally held on dirt roads, necessitating the use of off-road rally tires, but most significant events, such as the Pikes Peak event, have switched over to full tarmac, although this change came about as a result of a lobbying group claiming that the dust was causing environmental damage.
Technically you can, but it's not easy. Entrants have to request an invitation. Once you receive an invitation, an entry fee of $2,250 is payable. The Director of Competition has the right to remove you from the race if he believes you do not possess the skill necessary to drive competitively.