Ryan Flips His Way to Pikes Peak Record

| September 04, 2002

Even for a Hollywood stunt driver, it was a heck of a finish.

Mike Ryan, who risks his neck for movie cameras, scared race officials and fans in a spectacular finishing crash at the 2002 Falken Tire Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in late June.

As he crossed the finish line, Ryan, fighting an overheating engine, lost control of his single rear axle Freightliner, flipped it onto its side and destroyed the Hill Climb’s timing mechanism.

“I dropped the front wheel inside a drainage ditch,” he said. “The wheel hit a rock and over she went. I landed on the timing light.”

Ryan, certain he had not crossed the finish line, climbed up and out of the driver’s door, grabbed his steering wheel and began running up the road toward the 14,110-foot summit. Race officials nabbed him and settled him down, explaining that his truck was sitting on the finish line.

For a brief time, officials weren’t certain what Ryan’s finishing time was, but when they sorted out the wreck, Ryan, it turned out, had eclipsed his previous record by 18 seconds to finish the race in 13:21.40. The last driver to compete in the second oldest motorsports event in the United States, Ryan was able to right the truck and drive it back down the hill.

“She looks a little forlorn,” Ryan said. “It might be the highest semi-truck wreck ever.”

Bruce Canepa’s T2000 Kenworth enroute to a record.

Bruce Canepa also broke a record, piloting his tandem rear axle Kenworth T2000/CFI Peak Performer to the top of Pikes Peak in 13:57.83, two seconds better than his last run. Canepa also set a record in 2001, when Ryan spun out and did not finish.

Rookie Molly Morter drove a tandem rear axle Sterling to a second-place finish in her division. She was named Rookie of the Year for the entire event, which features more than a dozen divisions from motorcycles to big rigs.

Commonly called “The Race to the Clouds,” the hill climb starts at 9,402 feet and finishes near the 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak. The racecourse, which is located outside of Colorado Springs, Colo., features both asphalt and dirt surfaces and has no guardrails to protect drivers from cliffs of more than 1,000 feet. Motorcycles, quad-cycles, vintage autos, stock cars, trucks, SUVs and Class 8 trucks battle against the clock to reach the peak. Three drivers have died in the race’s 85-year history, including one death last year.

The race will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Aug. 24, 3 p.m. (EDT) and Aug. 25, 11:30 p.m.

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