Two remarkable things happened at Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb on Sunday. The first was that a 60 year old man won an internationally recognized motorsport event – Japan’s Monster Tajima continued to do just that to all-comers, taking his 1100kg 910hp Monster Sport Suzuki SX4 to a fifth straight victory. The second was that a newcomer won the motorcycle class. Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 S has had a spectacular market introduction around the world, and furthered the legend by taking an international hillclimb title in very close to standard roadbike trim.
Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima has been competing internationally for many decades, and is recognized as the foremost exponent of hillclimbing in the world. Father Time though, normally catches up with sportsmen of any ilk in their thirties, and particularly in motorsport, few people can maintain the razor sharp reflexes, precision vision and unimpaired judgement to race into their sixth decade, let alone the continued ambition necessary to race into their seventh decade of life. Juan Manuel Fangio won his last Formula One title at 46 years of age, but his motorsport career had a belated start and he had his first F1 race at age 39, so ... one can understand him prolonging it.
There cannot however, be many who have continued onwards to their sixtieth birthday (the day after the race for Monster) with a winning ratio undiminished by time, particularly in an event where a mistake can actually, quite literally mean death.
Think for a moment of the reflexes and skill levels required to keep a car pointed in the right direction on gravel when that car weighs just 1100 kg and produces 679 kW of power and 887 Nm of torque. By comparison, top flight F1 cars such as Red Bull and McLaren weigh 620 kg and produce 750 bhp and Monster is old enough to be the father of all current F1 drivers.
Who knows, as the world ages, perhaps we’ll see more sports people prolonging their careers, though Monster's record is probably unique.
Driving a modified SX4 race car complete with twin-turbo V6, Monster won the event for the fifth successive year and was never truly challenged by his rivals, winning the unlimited division in 10 minutes and 11.49 seconds – thirty seconds clear of his nearest challenger.
Monster has been a fixture at the world famous event since 1988 and has now won the Pike's Peak event ten times as well as holding the all-time record of 10 minutes 1.41 seconds set in 2007.
The race is run on a 19.9 kilometre-long course with 156 turns that begins at an altitude of 2860 metres and finishes at the 4300 metre summit of Pikes Peak. The dramatic rise in altitude robs engines of 30 per cent of their power at the summit and competitors employ special oxygen breathing apparatus to combat the changes in air pressure.
At the other end of the longevity scale, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S has been in showrroms less than 12 months but it didn’t stop the bike running 1-3 and but for a last corner crash, it would have been 1-2 in the world’s most famous hillclimb event at its first attempt. In the hands of Pike’s Peak veteran, Greg Tracy, the Multistrada 1200 S took a massive lead off the start line, and rode up into the clouds to take the top podium position at 14,110 feet (4,300 meters).
Tracy ran a smooth race, demonstrating the exceptional on and off-road capabilities of Ducati’s innovative new model, which uses electronically controlled “riding-modes” to deliver top performance across all terrains. “That was an exciting week I’ve got to say,” said Tracy in the post race award ceremony. “I want to thank Ducati for the opportunity they’ve given me.
The Spider Grips Falkner-Livingston Multistrada was an amazing ride. Everyone did an awesome job and that motorcycle is crazy fast. It hit 137mph (220km/h) at one point up the hill and worked great both on the dirt and the asphalt. When I was growing up, and all these factory teams would win races, I was sure they had $100,000 engines and that was why they went so fast. I was wrong. This is my first year on a factory motorcycle and I’ll tell you that bike was box-stock standard. It had some carbon, and few tweaks and that was it.”
Greg’s teammate, Alexander Smith, also put in a formidable performance, ensuring the second Ducati Multistrada entry also made the podium. Alexander fought his way up the mountain in 2nd position and looked set for a 1-2 finish before falling in the last corner and remounting to grab 3rd place.
“I have to repeat everything Greg said about the bike, it was really perfect,” said Smith. “The race was good, and if you see the start line footage you can tell how awesome the bike was working. It was a pretty smooth race up until the last corner where I kind of laid it down. I got off real quick and remounted which was still good enough for 3rd, putting both the Multistrada’s on the podium.”