Yesterday the all-new Range Rover Sport established the record for a production-standard Sport Utility Vehicle and broke the long standing record for any kind of production-standard vehicle on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb course, venue of the spectacular annual competition known as ‘The Race To the Clouds’.
The Range Rover Sport rose to the challenge of the 12.42-mile asphalt course, powering its way from a standing start, in just 12 minutes 35.61 seconds – an average speed of 59.17 mph (95.23 km/h) on a snaking road that clings to the edge of the mountain with precipitous drops on one side and unyielding rock faces on the other. The record was independently timed and sanctioned by PPIHC (Pikes Peak International Hill Climb), organisers of the annual competition at the Colorado venue.
The Pikes Peak course goes through 156 corners as it ascends beyond the treeline from 9,390 feet (2,860m) above sea level to 14,110 feet (4,300m). At that altitude the air contains only 58% of the oxygen it does at sea level, diminishing engine performance and blunting human physical and mental performance.
The new record was set by a Range Rover Sport with a 510PS 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8 engine, the vehicle altered from production specification only in the fitment of a roll cage and harness seatbelts to meet racing safety requirements.
The Range Rover Sport was driven on the record run, by American competition and stunt driver Paul Dallenbach. Best known as a Pikes Peak specialist, Dallenbach, 45 years old, from Basalt in Colorado, has won his division at the Hill Climb six times and won the event outright three times.
First run in 1916, Pikes Peak is the USA’s second-oldest motorsport event. Some of America’s most famous racing drivers – Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Rick Mears, and Al Unser – have won the competition, as have internationally acclaimed rally drivers such as Michele Mouton, Ari Vatanen, Per Eklund and Stig Blomqvist. The current outright course record is 9 minutes 46.164 seconds, set by Rhys Millen last year in the Time Attack division in a production-based but radically modified Hyundai Genesis Coupe.