The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), also known as The Race to the Clouds, is an annual automobile and motorcycle hillclimb to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado, USA.
Aside from the fact this race has been around since 1916, what makes the event notable are the challenges faced by competitors. The track measures 12.42 miles over 156 turns, climbing 4,720 ft from the start at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway, to the finish at 14,110 ft, on grades averaging 7.2%.
This year, those competitors include riders using Victory Motorcycles, powered by both gas and electric motors. Victory Racing is using an electric Empulse RR ridden by Cycle World’s Road Test Editor Don Canet and a gas-powered Project 156 piloted by Jeremy Toye.
Victory Motorcycles was the only brand at this year’s PPIHC to race both electric and gas-powered race vehicles.
Regardless if readers are fans of motorcycle racing, the exciting consequences of the news and the victories captured by these bikes comes from how close they are to what can be bought today. Hopefully the differences can be enoyed by everyday riders soon.
While the base frame and overall design of the Empulse RR are essentially the same as the production Empulse TT, a more aerodynamic and lighter monocoque carbon-fiber subframe is used and the battery, controller, and Parker Hannifin-sourced motor have been upgraded with repackaged battery cells offering more capacity, new motor windings and an updated control system and wire harness. Visual differences from the version raced last year in the SES TT include an upright riding position, reduction of bodywork and the addition of hand guards.
Project 156 is a custom race bike built by Roland Sands Designs to serve as a test bed for a prototype engine Victory race technicians developed to analyze the limits of the powerplant that now propels the new Victory Octane production motorcycle.
Garnering what was learned from Project 156, the production version of the 1200cc Octane engine was born. Canet placed well in qualifying aboard Project 156 in 2015 but was unable to finish the run only a few miles from the top of the mountain due to a fueling issue. This year, the bike’s engine cooling, lubrication system and fuel system had been massaged to better deal with the dramatic changes in the elevation of the course, particularly at lower RPM to further help Toye squirt out of the tight switchbacks.
“Victory Motorcycles made history at Pikes Peak this past weekend, proving its Modern American Muscle with both electric and gas-powered motorcycles on what’s often referred to as America’s mountain,” says Rod Krois, General Manager of Victory Motorcycles. “The Empulse RR and Project 156 have proven to be important test platforms for Victory engineering and, as their results on the mountain show, are sure to pay dividends in future products.”
In the overall PPIHC motorcycle competition, Canet and the Empulse RR placed 2nd while Toye and Project 156 placed 3rd, both closely following veteran racer Corsican Bruno Langlois and his Kawasaki Z 1000 who benefitted from a dryer and warmer course later in the morning due to a series of red flags.
“The hair-raising moment of my run came in a fast 100-mph sweeper approaching Upper Gravel Pit, which is well up the course. I slithered across an oil stain at the apex, then again crossing over the double yellow centerline. In a heart-stopping moment I ran out of road and was off on the dirt shoulder at high speed. Luck was on my side as I stood the bike upright and coasted along looking for the best spot to cut back onto the stepped pavement edge. The excursion completely killed my drive through the following flat-out right and straight that follows,” Canet says about his winning run on the Empulse RR in the PPC-Electric Motorcycle Class. “My hope for a King of the Mountain top time evaporated, however, as the downtime allowed the road to dry prior to the Heavyweight class contenders making their run, there's almost no way to fully prepare for the track conditions you'll see in the early morning runs.”
Canet and his Empulse RR clocked a time of 10:17.813 with an average speed of 69.9 mph through the 156-turn course that takes racers from 9,390 feet above sea level to the mountain’s summit of 14,115 feet above sea level. The 12.42-mile course is split into four sections. Canet zipped through the flowing section #1 in 1:50.531, steep section #2 in 2:26.924, technical section #3 in 2:53.568 and longer, high elevation section #4 in 3:06.790.
“I think it’s a great month for Victory Motorcycles and a great month for America!” says Brian Wismann, Victory Racing Team Manager. “Imagine our brand first taking on the world’s best at the Isle of Man and achieving a podium there, then a couple of weeks later taking on the other epic race on the planet here at Pikes Peak and putting two bikes on the podium – one gas and one electric. I’d just like to really thank all of our sponsors in helping us race these bikes to the clouds in such a stellar way. Victory Motorcycles puts out a great team. I just want to let everyone know that everything we do at Isle of Man and everything we do at Pikes Peak makes it into our production bikes and that that is why we race.”
Toye rode Project 156 to the Pikes Peak summit in a time of 10.19.777 with an average speed of 69.7 mph. He and his Project 156 bellowed through section #1 in 1:52.520, section #2 in 2:27.213, section #3 in 2:53.375 and section #4 in 3:06.669.
Not only racing against time and competitors, the two Victory Racing motorcycles competed against each other in an epic gas vs. electric battle dubbed “Thunder vs. Lightning.”
“Two years ago we didn’t have anything to compete with at the hill here,” says Nate Secor, Marketing Manager for Victory Motorcycles. “Now, having two of the three spots in the overall, all of our owners and all of the fans of American motorcycling should be proud. As a brand, we’re extremely proud of all of the work the guys have done on the engineering side and with the riders for putting us in this position. It is a long way to come in two years, and I don’t think anyone else in the world has a podium at the Isle of Man and at Pikes Peak in the same month. So we’re extremely proud of that and will be excited to get back here and make it happen again.”