Into Thin Air
Look off to your right and there is a sheer drop of almost a thousand feet with no guard rail. To your left, jagged rocks that have pieces of car and bike still littering the ground around them, almost serving as a warning to those that thunder past. The air is thin and you can feel every move your body makes because it’s 100 times more difficult to perform even simple tasks with the lack of oxygen this high in the sky. This race and this track separates drivers from heroes, and heroes from legends. There is zero room for error. One mistake, and the mountain will bite you hard.
I was given the incredible opportunity to be Ducati’s official photographer for the 90th running of the “Race to the Clouds.” A hill climb up the 12.42 mile, 159 turn Pikes Peak public access road that brings drivers and teams from all over the world to challenge this famous mountain. With vehicles of all shapes and sizes, these men, who many might regard as stupid….or fearless, challenge themselves to go faster up the steep slopes in search of glory. There is almost no money involved. It is all for the glory of challenging the mountain and it’s road.
Pikes Peak has changed a lot in recent years. Originally a dirt road, environmentalists demanded that the road be paved to lessen the effect of run off killing local streams and rivers. But as a consequence, Pike Peak as an international car/bike race has changed too. No longer will you see photos of classic mustangs and prototype cars spitting dirt and gravel around the sharp switchback turns. It’s not the same race it used to be. And this year was the first year that every millimeter of the track was paved from bottom to top. It’s fast. Very fast. “Scary fast” as many of the drivers and riders now describe it.
Ducati joined the other teams running in the hill climb for the first practice bright and early around 3:30am on Wednesday, August 8. This is not your typical race. The organizers split the mountain into thirds with cars and bikes running a different section each of the three practice mornings. Day one, the cars would run the top and bottom thirds, while the bikes would run the middle third. Day two, the bikes would run the top third, while the cars would run the bottom and middle. Likewise, day three, the bikes would run the bottom and the cars would run the top and middle. It’s complicated, time consuming and always dangerous for everyone on the mountain, photographers included.
Race day came around on Sunday, and it was another early morning and a long day for everyone on the mountain. Greg Tracy and Carlin Dunne, Ducati’s 2012 factory riders, suited up and headed up the mountain for their one and only run (the race is the only time anyone will run the ENTIRE 12 mile mountain course) at 9:20am. Carlin reached the top shortly before 9:30, obliterating the previous hill climb record for bikes in 9 min 52 sec. Greg, not far behind him was 9:58.
Though my job from last Friday through the following Sunday evening, was to document the Ducati team and rider’s 2012 Pikes Peak experience, I certainly had time to shoot some of the cars on Sunday during the race. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Due to long red flag sessions and inclement weather that included snow, sleet, hail and rain, the riders and media (including myself) were stuck at the summit for almost 14 hours. It was a grueling physical experience just surviving up at that altitude. Many (also including me) fell ill to altitude sickness due to the lack of oxygen. It was a memorable experience for sure.
After 10 days in Colorado Springs, I can say I am genuinely proud, happy and humbled to have been part of this amazing event and to have been working for this hard working and dedicated team of people, and a company that is world renowned for it’s motorcycles and motorcycle racing.
So now, enjoy this barrage of images from the 2012 running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb!
Special thanks to Ducati USA, Spider Grips team, Arrick, Greg, Carlin, Becca, Gabe, Matt, Ryan, Petra, Colorado springs, and PPIHC for their hospitality and friendliness.
Behind the scenes of Audi and Ducati’s social media campaign video shoot. (view the video HERE)
Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 2012
All images © Jamey Price/Ducati. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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