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'Monster' Tajima shatters Pikes Peak mark in Suzuki SX4 special

By KBB.com Editors on June 28, 2011 2:42 PM
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It was a day of runs for the record book at the 89th annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and in the end, Suzuki’s legendary Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima finally managed to do what no other driver had ever done: Take a vehicle up the fabled 12.42-mile venue in under 10 minutes. Piloting the latest iteration of his all-wheel-drive Monster Sport SX4 Hill Climb Special fitted with a 3.1-liter/910-hporsepower twin-turbo V6, the 60-year old Japanese rally ace eclipsed the existing 10-minute 1.41-second Unlimited Class mark he set in 2007 with a stunning 9:51.276 clocking to claim his sixth consecutive overall win on the most famous mountain in the Colorado Rockies.

Although Tajima’s latest triumph for Suzuki proved definitive, it was far from easy. In ascending from the 9,390-foot start to the 14,110-foot summit finish line, Monster had to battle gusting winds and an overheating engine as well as stiff competition from another impressive rival, Rhys Millen in his RMR Hyundai Genesis PM580 -- who completed the run in 10:09.24.

While not quite as quick in absolute terms, the hard-fought Time Attack class also provided its share of high-quality drama, particularly in the two-wheel-drive side of the category. Rod Millen -- scion of New Zealand’s most renowned racing/rallying family -- claimed victory in the class by taking his fully race-prepped Hyundai Genesis Coupe up the hill in record time of 11:04:912. However, it was Jeff Zwart who served notice to the Time Attack troops by clocking a blistering 11:07.869-time in his street-legal Porsche 911 GT2 RS -- a car which he’d also driven to the Pikes Peak event from Los Angeles.

Zwart, a remarkably skilled although part-time Porsche race driver, had previously claimed seven class wins at Pikes Peak in Porsche 911 variants. Despite having to settle for second best in 2011, Zwart slashed more than 24 seconds off of his existing 2WD Time Attack mark that Millen eclipsed -- and easily established the best-ever time for any street-legal vehicle to make it up to the finish line.

Two more records of note was set in the Electric Vehicle class, where Ikuo Hanawa drove a rear-drive/open-wheel single-seater powered by a 268-horsepower AC Propulsion motor to a new mark of 12:20.084. The effort bettered his existing record time by more than 57 seconds. The only other EV to take part in this year’s event was an unmodified Nissan LEAF. Driven by Chad Hord, the 110-horse front-drive hatch completed the run in 14:33.429, setting the first-ever EV production-car record in the process.

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