Basalt driver winsPikes Peak qualifier |

Basalt driver winsPikes Peak qualifier

Basalt's Paul Dallenbach steers his Davis PVA-01 open-wheel car up Pikes Peak during a training run on Tuesday. Dallenbach defends his overall title in the 82nd annual race on Saturday. Gazette photo/Kevin Kreck.

Race car driver Paul Dallenbach of Basalt captured the pole position for Saturday’s 82nd Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, edging David Donner of Colorado Springs by two-tenths of a second in Thursday’s qualifying run.Dallenbach, the defending overall champion at Pikes Peak, maneuvered his Davis PVA-01 open-wheel car up the qualifying course in 4 minutes, 57.34 seconds. Donner, driving a similar Indy-style car called the Donner Dykstra Special, finished in 4:57.54. Robby Unser of Albuquerque, piloting a Subaru Impreza, posted the third-fastest time (5:06.40).The qualifying course covered about half of the actual raceway, from the start to about six miles up the 14,110-foot peak. On Saturday, racers will tackle all 12 miles, 156 turns and 5,000 vertical feet of the course.”The car’s running great,” Dallenbach, 37, said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. “But it was close. After a five-minute run, two-tenths of a second is nothing. But it’s been close all through practice, so I think it’ll come down to whoever makes the fewer mistakes.”

Dallenbach, who is profiled in this week’s Aspen Times Weekly, said weather will play a role in determining course conditions and strategy on Saturday.”The course was good for the four practice runs we’ve had this week, but then it started to dry out and it got kind of slick,” he said. “But it’s raining up there now, and if it’s cool, it may stay hard. For our car, we like a hard road.”Donner received mechanical help and spare parts from Dallenbach’s team on Thursday.”Both cars have a lot of common parts,” Donner told The Associated Press. “They didn’t have to help us, but they did.”

“Donner’s car looks like an Indy car,” said Dallenbach, “but it’s purpose-built for Pikes Peak, like mine. Our cars look different – different wing sizes, weights, engines and everything – but they seem to be about the same speed.”Dallenbach predicted that Jimmy Olson, a driver who had mechanical problems on Thursday, would be in the hunt on Saturday. “He’s the guy we’ve all got to watch,” he said. “They’re fixing his car and he’ll be racing.”With the qualifying-run win, Dallenbach gets to select his start position within the open-wheel class on Saturday. “It’s a pretty big deal when it’s gonna be iffy [weather], like it’s supposed to be.”Usually you go last because the course gets cleaned off, but if it looks like it’s going to rain, I can opt to go first before the course gets torn up and loose,” he said.

Mike Ryan of North Hollywood, Calif., set a new qualifying record Thursday in the big rig division. Driving a Freightliner, Ryan shaved 16 seconds off his previous record with a time of 5:36.17.Today is a rest day for Dallenbach and his team, but it’s a practice day for motorcycle and rally car racers. Dallenbach said organizers are expecting a record crowd for the race on Saturday.”I was surprised on a qualifying day how many spectators were up there,” he said, “because you’ve got to be at the gate before 5 a.m.”

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