Jesse James rode the West again, an Unser threw a fit, the SCCA threw a ProRally and the Mountain reminded everyone gathered for the 82nd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb just who's boss. Pretty much business as usual in Colorado Springs, June 24 to 26, 2004.
Weather had caused practice-day delays but for PPIHC qualifying-and the first stage of the SCCA ProRally Championship event built around the Hill Climb-this year was perfect. Done by 10 a.m., everyone went home to get a good afternoon's sleep, as the following morning the ProRally cars were due at the Tollgate at 2 a.m. for the first-ever night stage on the mountain. SS2 also marked the first time the paved section of road (now extended 2.8 miles from the traditional start line) from the Tollgate to Halfway Picnic Grounds has been officially raced. The ProRally continued with SS3, a sunrise test from Cove Creek (just above the course's halfway point, Glen Cove) to the Summit while the quads and motorcycles practiced below.
Race day dawned clear and by the 10 a.m. start time several thousand fans were scattered across the hillside at Devil's Playground-with a commanding view of the infamous Ws and Glen Cove far below. First up the mountain was Jesse James of "Monster Garage" fame, driving a 1988 Blazer built in 41/2 days by a team led by Pikes Peak veteran Rhys Millen.
A furious Robbie Unser was fastest of three Pikes Peak Open competitors despite not being allowed to compete his tire of choice. Rain and hail the previous afternoon had left the road somewhat sloppy and Unser tried to switch to a tire better matched to conditions. Officials pointed out the rules require competitors to compete using the tires they qualified on. Unser launched into an obscenity-laced tirade as soon as he reached the summit, eventually earning a $2,500 fine. Several seconds behind Rod Millen's qualifying record through Glen Cove, Unser thought he had a shot at breaking the Kiwi's 10:04.6 record but finished more than 1:40 off in his specially built Subaru WRX STi.
ProRally was next and Leon Styles and John Dillon finished SS4 and the rally car's official PPIHC run was more than 20 sec. faster than anyone else, taking a 9-sec. lead with one stage to go. When the dust from the quads and motorcycles had settled, Davey Durelle had set his third record in as many tries on a 500 Pro Class motorcycle.
During the lunch break as the morning's competitors headed back down the hill, clouds rolled in, severely limiting visibility. The rain and hail started a short time later. Within an hour, several inches of snow had fallen at the Summit and highway officials dispatched a road grader to clear a path for the fans parked at Devil's Playground. Near 3 p.m., race officials cancelled the ProRally's remaining stage and decided to run the rest of the event only as far as Glen Cove, shortening the race for the first time since 1995, when it ended at Devil's Playground.
Leonard Vahsholtz won the truck-and-SUV class for his 15th class victory, while his son Clint posted his ninth-straight Super Stock Car win. With Clint's three motorcycle titles, the father-son total stands at 27 wins, five ahead of Bobby and Robby Unser. In ProRally, Leon Styles and John Dillon took the overall victory and Open-class win. Pat Richard, with sister Nathalie co-driving, won GpN, closely followed by Gp5 winners Paul Choiniere and Cindy Krolikowski. Mike Ryan won Big Rig trucks for the seventh time in eight tries, and despite turbo and engine problems Stig Blomquist won the Unlimited class in a RS 200. Fastest through the shortened course in his Open-wheel car in 5:06.23 was Paul Dallenbach, 5.99 sec. ahead of David Donner.