Basalt’s Dallenbach fifth overall in 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Paul Dallenbach has always had a bit of a love affair with the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Held since 1916 on the Front Range, the world famous mountaintop car race is one-of-a-kind and brings in the best the planet has to offer, including Dallenbach.
“There is just something about that place,” Dallenbach said in a recent interview with The Aspen Times. “You never have a perfect run up there, because you only get one shot. And even in practice, you don’t get to practice the full mountain. You practice it in thirds. So the first time you make a full run is the one time in the race.”
Dallenbach, a Basalt native who still calls the Roaring Fork Valley home, is part of the well-known Dallenbach racing family. His father, Wally Dallenbach Sr., was a noted Indy car driver and his brother, Wally Dallenbach Jr., had an 11-year career racing in what was then the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
On top of being a stunt driver in the random commercial and occasional blockbuster — his movie credits include Fast & Furious (2009) and Need for Speed (2014) — Paul Dallenbach is probably most known for being a three-time overall champion in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. His first overall win was in 1993, when he broke the then course record. The record has naturally been broken multiple times since.
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Last month, Dallenbach competed in the race yet again, finishing fifth overall and winning the open wheel class, his ninth classification win over that 25-year span.
“It was a good weekend,” Dallenbach said. “It could have been better. We should have been third overall, but we blew up our good motor in testing, so we basically had to build a motor in a week. It was a little bit down on power, but it was good enough to win.”
The June 24 race was the 96th running of what is believed to be the second oldest auto race in the United States, after the famed Indianapolis 500. While only 12.42 miles, the race features 156 turns over a 4,720-foot climb, topping out at the 14,115-foot finish line on top of Pikes Peak.
“I like to say it’s my Indy 500. It’s one of the biggest races in the world,” Dallenbach said. “The cool thing is anybody can pretty much design a car and go up and compete with everybody. It’s not like the Indy 500 where you have to buy the exact same car everybody else has.”
The 2018 overall winner was France’s Romain Dumas — now a four-time overall winner of the race — who set a new course record with a time of 7 minutes, 57.148 seconds. He did so with a custom 2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak electric prototype, which Dallenbach heard cost about $14 million to build.
The 2006 PVA Dallenbach Special, which he used to get to the top of Pikes Peak last month in 9:37.135, cost a fraction of that. You can watch Dallenbach’s run on YouTube.
“There was little old us, which has a budget of about $25,000, and we did pretty good. Finished fifth overall and won the class,” Dallenbach said. “You are always going back up there with something different from the year before. This car was originally a dirt car that we kind of converted over, and it works pretty good.”
Dallenbach’s ride is a heavily customized Wells Coyote. The dirt-track vehicle goes back to when the road up Pikes Peak was mostly dirt. In the fall of 2011 it was paved all the way to the top, forever changing some of the dynamics of the race. With the Wells Coyote as his base, Dallenbach built it to handle the pavement, including a different suspension, gearbox straight out of an Indy car, larger carbon fiber wing and a 900-horsepower small-block Chevy engine.
Dallenbach already is looking to the 2019 race, where he’d be going for his 10th classification win. Whether or not he can overcome the roughly $14 million in budget difference to win his fourth overall title remains to be seen.
“It’s a year-long process for one race,” Dallenbach said. “We are already talking about next year and what we are going to do. We might go with a turbo charged engine next year. We are just thinking what’s going to be faster.”
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