The 101st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is happening tomorrow, and I’m happy to be reporting on the ground from the famous race itself. This is a special and meaningful event in global motorsports, and folks have pulled out all the stops. But in the field that has everything from an Alpine A110 GT4 to a Toyota Starlet, there is one person fielding a 2022 Rivian R1T: Gardner Nichols.
His Pikes Peak program has been years in the making, and he is using his personal R1T for the event–no factory support here. Though Nichols is an engineer at Rivian, he has fielded himself with the help of his partners and an all-star team of folks with years of Pikes Peak experience. He’s also quite the hotshoe and has plenty of experience in racing to back up the bravery and skill needed to conquer the mountain and possibly take home a production truck record.
With the way he was wheeling the R1T in qualifying, you wouldn’t guess that Nichols is one of 17 rookies running this year. He has been preparing for months in his home racing simulator, along with the preparation needed to run the R1T. His truck now sports a stripped interior to fit a sturdier-than-usual roll cage to keep him safe in the 7,100-pound (with driver) missile he is piloting toward 1,000-foot cliffs.
There are barely any modifications to the truck to keep it as close to production as possible, with upgraded Hawk brake pads, Pirelli Trofeo R tires, and a slightly more aggressive alignment being the primary changes, as well as lightweight Optima 12-volt batteries. The rest of the truck is as-factory, with the hydraulically cross-linked adaptive suspension, quad motors, and battery pack all stock. Nichols even retained the factory electric tonneau cover, tool kit, and speakers. I spoke to Nichols in depth about his attempt, and we'll follow up with a deeper dive into what it takes to run Pikes Peak.
Though I’ll be watching Nichols closely, there are dozens of reasons to tune in this year. Mad Mike Whiddett is driving a steezy four-rotor Mazda 3 drift car, Rhys Millen is gunning for the overall production record in a BMW M8 Competition, Dai Yoshihara is running a specially modified Honda S2000 with a 2.4-liter turbo F20C engine, and French rally driver Raphael Astier is driving an unbelievably cool specially prepped Alpine A110 GT4. Tanner Foust is in a Radford Type 62-2 and looking fast, Romain Dumas is looking at an Open class win in the 1,400 hp electric Ford Supervan, James Clay is right behind Dumas in his 1,400 hp tube-chassis E36 BMW M3, and Robin Shute is looking good to keep his crown as King of the Mountain with his insane turbo K20 powered Wolf TSC-FS. FS means Full Send.
Tomorrow is race day, and the weather is looking promising for a good run up the mountain. The anticipation here is palpable, and all eyes are looking at the unpredictable Colorado weather forecast.
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