Near Miss

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But now Rhys was again behind the wheel of his four-year-old racer and in the same class as Dumas. Time Attack allows more latitude in preparation than a regular production class. Millen’s major mechanical advantage was the Hyundai’s turbocharger. Dumas had the lighter car by some 182 kilograms pounds, at 1,160 kilograms, but his inexperience on the mountain, against Millen’s vast 18 years of speed on the Peak, would count heavily against the Frenchman’s chances.

Practice sessions on Pikes Peak, because of the number and types of entries and limited time, is divided into three sections: bottom,middle and top. Entrants are also split by class into three groups, each group running one of the three sections on the three consecutive practice days, starting Tuesday. Each section of the 12.42-mile, 156-turn road to the top is unique; altitude and temperature change are important factors, but so is terrain. The lower section, starting at a 9100-foot elevation, is very fast,with three vaguely similar corners that can easily fool the inexperienced. Dumas commented later that thiswas, for him, the most difficult to master. Zwart still feels the super-fast top section, across the mountain’s long upper ridge, from Devil’s Playground to Boulder Park, remains the most complicated because of the varying arcs on the three fastest sweepers, with changing camber, that have to be taken flat. The hard-climbing mid-section is slowest and perhaps easiest to learn but has a couple of unforgiving serious un-ARMCOed drop-offs.Nothing is easy on the Peak.

Dumas wasn’t the only Frenchman on the mountain. Jean-Phillipe Dayraut, last year’s extremely promising first-year challenger, had returned with his beautifully prepared French Dacia coupe in full World Rally trim.His early practice runs showed that he’d be a strong contender for the overall best time, along with Paul Dallenbach’s perennial favorite openwheeled, unlimited, turbocharged Chevy V8 hillclimb special and current record holder Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima in his brand-new all-electric contender.

Tajima’s existing 9:51.278 record, set last year when the top section was still unpaved, was almost certain to fall. Topsection practice speeds among the swiftest contenders were all much faster than Tajima’s previous times. What became really interesting, when final times from the three days of practice times were connected, was the real possibility of one of the Unlimiteds “breaking nine”minutes with a new record in the high eight-minute range…a time that was considered impossible just a couple of years ago.Dumas’ section times were shockingly fast, as was his qualifying speed on the lower section.He’d run 1.5 seconds quicker than Millen! As a relatively unknown “flatlander” in a production car, only a couple local pundits had even considered the fast Frenchman for a top five.Once his times were posted, however, people soon became aware of his factory racer background, and his class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Dumas was being whispered as a real contender.

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