News that the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is suspending the motorcycle race class for 2020 broke recently and was no surprise to me. Despite the class being shrunk over the years, with fewer and fewer entries open each year, there have still been fatalities. This year's race was marred by the death of the Ducati-supported four-time winner Carlin Dunne, who was racing a prototype V4 Ducati Streetfighter.
While the four-wheel side of the race has regularly dabbled with big money manufacturer supported race efforts, the motorcycle class was hotly contested but seem free of the external pressures PPIHC race regulars say they witnessed being factory-supported riders being subjected to in the modern era, that is, since the whole hill was fully paved in time for the 2011 race.
In the hill climb's 103-year history, there have been surprisingly few fatalities (few when compared to Irish and Manx real road racing, but too many if you're a relation or friend of one of the deceased). Of the six reported racer fatalities, half have been motorcycle racers in the last six years. I was unfortunate enough to witness the death of Bobby Goodin in 2014 when I was at the top of the mountain to report for Sideburn 18 on Guy Martin's race. Subsequently our friend Carl Sorenson crashed and died in practice in 2015.
With this in mind, Pikes Peak hillclimb chairman Tom Osborne released a statement stating, 'It was decided that in order to determine the long-term viability of the motorcycle program, there will be no motorcycle program offered in 2020 so that race organizers can gather data and analytics to review more thoroughly the impact on the overall event in the absence of this program. Motorcycles have been a part of the PPIHC for the past 29 years, and their history on America’s Mountain dates back to the inaugural running in 1916. That said, the motorcycle program hasn’t been an annual event. They have run 41 of the 97 years we’ve been racing on Pikes Peak. It’s just time to take a hard look at every aspect of the race, including the motorcycle program, and determine whether or not the event may change.'
I don't expect motorcycles to ever return to Pikes Peak (but money talks, so never say never).