The 1949 Ford F-1 race truck that broke Pikes Peak's diesel record in 2020 was destroyed in a wreck during Sunday's 2023 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Despite plunging 175 feet off a cliff, the pickup protected its driver who reported no injuries as a result of the crash.
The historic Ford was entered by Scott Birdsall, who drove then 71-year-old pickup to the diesel record in 2020. He achieved a time of 11:24.065 with the aid of huge tires, loads of downforce, and a hugely boosted Cummins diesel that could generate 1,400 horsepower on more than 100 pounds of boost. Birdsall didn't get a chance to challenge his own record until the 2023 race, but the opportunity slipped from his grasp when a mechanical failure sent him and his truck sailing over a cliff.
"... during the 101st running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Smokey had a complete brake failure," Birdsall recalled in an Instagram post. "I went to settle in to the corner, and the brake pedal went to the firewall with zero effort. I tried to turn in and scrub speed in the ditch, but there was too much momentum, and I went off very quickly."
"The truck flew about 175 feet down the cliff onto it's roof [sic], and then rolled eight or nine times before it came to a stop in a snow drift. I was winded, but completely unscathed. I dug myself out of the snow, unbuckled, and started climbing back up the mountain to the safety crew and medics. They checked me out, and confirmed I had zero injuries or a concussion. These guys are consummate professionals, and I can't thank them enough."
The Ford was completely destroyed in the crash, with Birdsall stating in a Facebook post that "the truck is gone forever." Unfortunately for Birdsall, his truck's record also fell in 2023 to two other diesel competitors. One was a Powerstoke-powered Nissan GT-R, while the other was a tri-turbo diesel-powered Radical prototype that Gregoire Blanchon drove to a new diesel record of 10:25.071 (almost one minute quicker).
Still, the fact that a more than 70-year-old pickup held the record at all is a testament to how special a truck "Smokey" was—but also to the savagery of Pikes Peak, and how far from settled the mountain's performance arms race is.
Update at 1:45 p.m. on 06/29/2023: This article now includes onboard footage of Birdsall’s crash, which he posted on YouTube.
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