Friday, July 17, 2009

Again And Again And Again... Why? Real Racers Know The Reason Why

Dallenbach finds ‘thrill' driving fast up that hill

July 17, 2009


Paul Dallenbach sometimes asks himself why he keeps returning to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Winning, he reminds himself, will fail to make him rich. The course is a confusing mish-mash of dirt and pavement, nearly impossible to predict and often infuriating. Almost every year, he toys with the idea of not coming back.

But then he attacks the mountain at speeds of more than 100 mph. He rips around hairpin turns. He defies death.

He has a blast.

“It’s definitely an adrenalin rush,” Dallenbach said. “It’s a complete adrenalin rush.

“When I get to the top, there’s that rush followed by a migraine headache. The adrenaline just rushes all out, and I’m exhausted. I’ve been in 6-hour races and don’t get as tired.

“I do ask myself, ‘Why am I here?’”

But every year, he encounters the same answer.

“For the thrill,” he said, laughing. “There is nothing else like it.”

He’s right about that. On Sunday, Dallenbach returns to the Hill Climb for the 14th time to compete in the open wheel division.

No matter how many times you attend the Hill Climb, the sheer outrageousness of it all is there, ready to startle you all over again.

Thousands of tourists drive to the top of the Peak and suffer at least a touch of fright.

And they’re driving 20 mph. Dallenbach and his buddies reach speeds that would be scary on flat and open spaces of Interstate 25.

Dallenbach, 42, shook his head. He was relaxing at a local hotel, talking about how much fun it still is to speed to the top of the Peak.

He’s not alone.

“I haven’t found anyone who has come here who didn’t say it was the greatest experience of his life, whether it scared him or not,” Dallenbach said.

He has returned to the Hill Climb for more than the rush of excitement. He hopes, along with 10 other drivers, to beat the seemingly eternal 10-minute mark.

It won’t be easy.

In 1994, Dallenbach beat his own record with a run of 10:27. A few minutes later, Robby Unser dropped the mark to 10:05.

But Rod Millen immediately stunned Dallenbach and Unser with 10:04.06. In one day, the record dropped 39 seconds.

But since then, the record has fallen less than 3 seconds. In 2007, Nobuhiro Tajima came achingly close at 10:01.41.

Dallenbach said conditions were virtually perfect in 1994. He’s sorry to say conditions haven’t been anywhere close to ideal since then.

There’s dozens of reasons not to put up with all the hassles. But there’s also the never-fading happy jolt of racing to the peak.

And there’s the lure of busting, finally, the 10-minute mark.

“That’s what keeps me coming back,” Dallenbach said. “And if I can’t break it, I don’t want anyone else to break it.”

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