If this year's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb had a theme, it'd be life's stark duality. Sunshine versus rain, light and dark, and victory alongside tragedy.
Indeed, Pikes Peak is a race whose extremity can only be understood by attending in person. Thousands of spectators file up a single lane in pre-dawn hours to reach their favorite viewing spots, where they'll be imprisoned from green flag to checkered. Or red, in the case of this year's race, which was plagued by stoppage-inducing rain and lightning.
Nevertheless, 78 red-blooded racers braved the unpredictable elements for their chance to race the world's most grueling hill climb, and some of them achieved results to remember. Ten competitors limboed under the once-thought-impossible ten-minute mark, six of them class winners. Motorcyclist Lucy Glöckner was the first racer of the day to break 10, becoming the first woman to achieve the feat at Pikes Peak.
And yet, a cloud darker than those which thundered loomed over "America's Mountain" on Sunday. As Ducati Streetfighter V4 rider Carlin Dunne neared the end of a run expected to beat the course's all-time motorcycle record, he reportedly hit a bump and lost control of his bike. Dunne was thrown over the edge of the road and down an embankment, sustaining serious injuries. The Gazette reports that responders recovered Dunne around 11:00 am for transport via flight-for-life to the nearest hospital. He was sadly pronounced dead at 11:42 am.
Dunne's passing is mourned by the racing world, both two- and four-wheeled, and also by those of us at The Drive who were present for the race and laid eyes on Dunne without knowing he had only minutes to live. While you could say Dunne died doing what he loved, the best way to honor Dunne's memory will be by doing our best to prevent other deaths like his.
Even then, Dunne's own mother hopes the race to the clouds continues as the hillclimb and her son were forever linked, saying in a statement to the world's press, "All his life I’ve known that losing him was a possibility. We went into this with eyes-wide-open. We were aware of the flip side of this sport. I was committed to him and his dreams. He was doing what he loved. So, who are we to take away other racers’ dreams of racing Pikes Peak International Hillclimb?"
Pikes Peak will continue. It'll continue to thrill, terrify, and ask drivers, and riders like Dunne, to risk their lives for glory. It's what they love to do and what we all love to watch. The mountain needs conquering and we'll be there whenever someone tries.