Five of the Best: Pikes Peak cars

As Seb Loeb prepares for the ‘Race to the Clouds’, we look back at the event’s most iconic cars.

Pikes Peak Five of the Best Colorado Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Peugeot 405 T16 Pikes Peak Ari Vatanen
© Peugeot

Sebastien Loeb is poised to write his name into the Pikes Peak record books with the outrageous Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak. But here are five more cars that have entered Colorado folklore in the ‘Race to the Clouds’.

Audi Quattro Pikes Peak: 1985-1987

Pikes Peak Five of the Best Colorado Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Audi Quattro Walter Rohrl
Walter Rohrl braves the hill in the Audi Quattro© DPPI/Gilles Levent

This was the car that got European manufacturers talking about Pikes Peak, putting out more than 600 horsepower via four-wheel drive. That’s still an impressive figure now, so you can imagine what it was like in the mid-1980s. Michele Mouton used the Quattro to win Pikes Peak in 1985, reportedly upsetting Bobby Unser, who didn’t take kindly to being beaten by a girl. Michele’s response? “If you’ve really got balls, you can race me back down again...”

Peugeot 205 T16 Pikes Peak: 1987

Pikes Peak Five of the Best Colorado Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Peugeot 205 T16 Pikes Peak Ari Vatanen
The Peugeot 205 T16 Pikes Peak. Wingy© Peugeot

This is the great-grandfather of the 208 T16 Pikes Peak, but unlike the 208 – which is based on a Le Mans racer – the 205 T16 started off as a Group B rally car. Just as well, because back then Pikes Peak also contained plenty of gravel. Peugeot’s engineers lengthened the 205’s wheelbase to give it better stability and also introduced engine modifications to give it more power. Despite employing Ari Vatanen, they still couldn’t quite beat Audi. For the moment…

Peugeot 405 T16 Pikes Peak: 1988-1989

Pikes Peak Five of the Best Colorado Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Peugeot 405 T16 Pikes Peak Ari Vatanen
Ari Vatanen in the Peugeot 405 T16 Pikes Peak© Peugeot

The Peugeot 205’s failure to beat the Quattro brought about the arrival of the archetypal Pikes Peak car: the 405 T16 Pikes Peak, which won both years it competed. It also became the star of the film Climb Dance, one of the most epic pieces of motorsport cinematography ever produced. The 405 was a beast, built uncompromisingly for the ‘Race to the Clouds’ with a power output of around 600 horsepower and cutting-edge technology such as four-wheel steering. The record Vatanen established in 1988 wouldn’t be beaten until 1994.

Suzuki Grand Vitara: 2006-2008

Pikes Peak Five of the Best Colorado Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Suzuki Sport Grand Vitara
The Monster Sport Suzuki Grand Vitara in action© Monster Sport

So you thought the Vitara was a 4x4 for hairdressers? Think again. The appropriately named Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima took this car to three straight wins between 2006 and 2008 before winning the next three races with a Suzuki SX4 and becoming the first man to beat the fabled 10-minute barrier. The four-wheel drive Vitara (which then donated most of its running gear to the SX4) was reputed to put out a whopping 900 horsepower. So who’s the hairdresser now?

Hyundai Genesis Coupe: 2012

Pikes Peak Five of the Best Colorado Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Hyundai Genesis Rhys Millen
The Porsche-baiting Hyundai Genesis© Hyundai

Yes it’s a Hyundai, and yes it looks (comparatively) like an ordinary road car – despite its 700 horsepower. But this is the reigning champion, driven by Rhys Millen to two records last year. Firstly, the quickest time to date up the hill: 9m46.164s. Secondly, the smallest-ever winning margin. The Hyundai defeated the Porsche (how often do you see that sentence written down?) of Romain Dumas by less than two-hundredths of a second.

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb takes place from June 27th – June 30th in Colorado, USA.

Head over to redbull.tv for details on how to watch the event live.