Once a year, there are people who compete for who gets fastest up a mountain. The mountain is Pike’s Peak, and the occasion is the International Hill Climb. It will happen on July 3-8, as it did every year since 1916, only interrupted by the occasional world war. This year, one of the most interesting races could take place on battery power.
In a way, Pike’s Peak is made for electrics. The race is short, a little over 12 miles, no range anxiety there. Gasoline-powered cars gasp for air en route to the 14,000 feet top. Electric cars don’t even feel it. Their torque advantage comes in handy in the hair needle turns.
The electric class is dominated by Japanese. Four out of seven entries are from Japan this year. Mitsubishi will field two electric racers.
The drivetrain is fitted to a a tube-frame chassis with a carbon fiber cowl. A single motor drives the front, two motors drive the rear wheels.
With its three motors and a 35 kWh battery pack, the car is good for 240 kW, or some 320 hp. The rest, including the driver, is built as light as possible.
The car will be piloted by Hiroshi Masuoka, a Dakar Rally veteran (overall winner 2002 and 2003.) Masuoka works at Mitsubishi Motors where his many duties include vehicle development, the training of company test drivers and the occasional races.
At the Dakar, Masuoka piloted more traditional cars, such as the Mitsubishi Pajero, and later the Lancer.
The second car is an only slightly modded i-MiEV. That takes guts, because Mitsubishi’s electric offering is not known for winning any races – except the race to the super market to fetch some missing noodles. For the Pikes Peak event, the production model has received a more aerodynamic front bumper and roll bars. That’s it.The car will be driven by American off-road racer Beccy Gordon.
The 500 lbs gorilla in the electric class is a friendly Japanese senior citizen by the name of Nobuhiro Tajima. He is the true king of the mountain. Since 2006, “Monster” Tajima won every unlimited class race up the mountain, each year in a crazier Suzuki race car. This year, Tajima will enter in a Tajima Motor “Monster Sport Pikes Peak Special.”
Also on the entry list is Toyota. WRC rally driver Fumio Nutahara is listed as the pilot of a yet to be announced Toyota. Trash talking racers say it will be the TMG EV P001 – the electric race car that did the Nordschleife in 7 mins 47.794 secs. We’ll see. So far, nobody at Toyota wants to confirm that the car will be entered.
Conspicuously absent from the race will be Nissan, maker of the Leaf. With the Leaf NISMO RC, Nissan would have a car with good odds. However, they won’t show.
“We set the new record in the electric production vehicle class with the Leaf last year,” says NISMO president Shoichi Miyatani. “Mission accomplished.”
With a monster on the loose, staying home is probably a good strategy. Kudos to Mitsubishi for taking on Tajiama in a shopping cart. Who knows, his monster special could break.