Home » David Sent A Guy From His Apartment To Cover The Pikes Peak Race. Here’s How That Went

David Sent A Guy From His Apartment To Cover The Pikes Peak Race. Here’s How That Went

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It’s three in the morning in the largely empty lobby of a rather environmentally conscious hotel. The only people there to greet me from the room’s leather couches are a handful of older white guys I’d be spending the weekend with and a security guard at the front desk with the big iron on his hip. “I put on a pot of coffee for y’all,” says the combination armed guard/desk receptionist. 

“Thank you,” we reply, before loading our thousands of dollars worth of gear into two brand spanking new Hyundai Santa Fe’s. We hit the road to make our way to the almighty, seemingly unconquerable, Pikes Peak.

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Vidframe Min Bottom

[Full Disclosure: Hyundai invited us to Pike’s Peak this year, where the Ioniq 5 N was out strutting its stuff. We sent Griffin, a young, energetic, and just cool guy who used to live in my Studio City apartment building, and whom I bonded with over his lifted Jeep TJ and stickshift Mazda 3 daily driver (which he’s now changed to a C6 ‘Vette). Turns out: He works in the film industry and is a great shooter, and he loves cars. Apparently Hyundai took him on some rapids? I’m worried he now thinks our grueling industry is just some shrimp-eating boondoggle. From Griffin: “Thank you for taking me along the ride, Hyundai, and thank you for forcing me to get onto a raft in nearly class five rapids and hoping I didn’t drown. It was a blast.” We work hard, Griffin! Hard, I tell you! Anyway, back to Griffin. -DT]. 

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Spectators at Devil’s Playground watch the sunrise through the fog at nearly 13,000 feet.

As soon as we reached the mountain, we were greeted by several mile long lines and abysmal weather with visibility so poor that the surrounding cars disappear into the fog that flanks us.

 

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A post shared by Griffin Riley (@darkcrustacean)

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Our car has Becky Evans of Top Gear fame, her videographer Patrick Whelan, Chris Rosales from Motor1 and Motorsports.com, and myself: the youngster who was told the first press trip of his career would be with Hyundai covering a race where a popped tire or snapped suspension arm or even something smaller could send a driver off a mountain, potentially to their death. This was was not going to be a cushy Porsche Cayenne press drive in the South of France, but I, a photographer, kinda of liked that.

Pikes Peak 062324 Ilce 7m4 31
(from left to right) Becky Evans, Chris Rosales, and Patrick Whelan as we walk towards our raceday basecamp at Engineers Corner.

The one thing we all have in common though? We’re damn tired, struggling for breath atop Devil’s Playground’s 13,000 feet, and we’re waiting for conditions to maybe change while watching a documentary about a professional English fraudster who allegedly impersonates footballers and robs his girlfriends for all they’ve got. It’s good vibes up here.

Here’s the thing I quickly learned that Friday morning: three layers was absolutely not enough to stay warm, but hugging a stack of tire warmers on full blast? Surprisingly effective!

Pikes Peak 062124 Ilce 7m4 41
Hyundai’s PR representative Miles Johnson stands by the tire warmers inside the Hyundai team trailer.

The cars and the ones who drive them

Hyundai brought two variations of the IONIQ 5 N: the base production model whose extra seats had been removed and which had a cage added, and the TA Spec, which is a full time attack build with 37 extra horses at the rear and an insane aero kit to boot.

Pikes Peak 062124 Ilce 7m4 63
Ron Zaras piloting the #49 IONIQ 5 N through Devil’s Playground during Friday’s quali session. This weekend marked Zaras’ first attempt to conquer the mountain.
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Dani Sordo piloting the #198 TA Spec past Devil’s Playground during Friday’s quali session.

“Pikes peak is becoming a proving ground for electric technology,” said Ron Zaras, the pilot of the production-model SUV/hatchback. “There’s no other place I can think of where you see the huge disadvantage of (internal combustion engines).”

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Zaras, best known for his work with Hoonigan and the late Ken Block, has only just started his professional racing career and felt like he was thrown in the deep end almost immediately.

 

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A post shared by The Autopian (@theautopian)

The beauty of the the electric powertrain for drivers like Zaras is that they offer access to power all the time, simply because they aren’t reliant on the increasingly thinning air as they approach the 14,115 foot summit. And just as important is the speed with which that power can be accessed; it’s instant.

“It’s so nice to have that power right off the bat,” he said about the over 600 horsepower machine he’s carving up the mountain. He added that most of their time comes from the middle sector filled with slow hairpins that immediately open to long straights that they can only just get on the power for.

Pikes Peak 062324 Ilce 7rm4 95
Matus Huska takes his 2010 Audi TTs around 9 Mile. Cars with more intense aero packages and higher downforce can take turns like 9 Mile nearly flat out.

“This kinda feels like a video game,” he said, the irony being that most of his time getting to know the track was through simulator time on the game Asetto Corsa

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Hyundai’s three-car entry (it was initially four until Paul Dallenbach suffered a crash that broke his leg and pulled the car out of competition) marks the Korean brand’s first year back on the mountain since 2013. What’s even crazier is that the decision to race the car was one only made last December.

“Koreans are so quick,” said Till Wartenberg, Vice President of N Brand & Motorsport at Hyundai. “Bali, bali,” he said while referring to the decisive Korean ethos that loosely translates to “fast, fast,” or “hurry, hurry.”

The thing is: Hyundai never even cared about racing an EV, specifically. Wartenberg, whose last name aptly translates “waiting for the mountain,” said all they wanted to do was race a production car that you could buy in stores the next day. It just so happened that car was an EV. 

And from where I was standing: it looked like a pretty damn good machine.

Let’s go racing.

It’s Sunday morning, and we’ve got three cars itching to dump their batteries’ full power through their wheels to eat that early morning pavement.

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The four car exhibition class that Hyundai was competing in ran first in the morning, with SCCA hall-of-famer and fellow journalist Randy “RFP” Pobst starting first in the #49 TA Spec. 

RFP’s 2024 go at Pikes Peak was a strange one. He was a last minute replacement for four time “King of the Mountain” Robin Shute, and Pobst found himself victim to a mechanical failure during Friday’s quali session that resulted in him not setting a time.

In other words: that means Pobst had to run at the mountain in a car he really didn’t know and on a track he hadn’t raced in years. A true recipe for success, right?

Randy Pobst Speeds Towards Halfway Picnic Grounds In His #49 Ta Spec Ioniq 5 N.
Randy Pobst speeds towards Halfway Picnic Grounds in his #49 TA Spec IONIQ 5 N.

Honestly, yeah, kind of a success. Pobst piloted the #49 to a time of 9:55.551, which landed him at a shockingly high (all things considered) eighth place overall. Solid start to the day, right?

Next up for the Korean outfit: Ron Zaras in the production model. 

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The mountain rookie surely terrified his wife, Lara, who joked on Friday that she needs “my own oxygen tank for when he takes off.” 

But she also acknowledged that Ron understands his limits when he’s on the track, and she’s clearly right on that end.  Zaras piloted his production spec car to a time of 10:49.267 which landed him in 26th place. Zaras’ closest competitor in class was a road based Rivian R1T with 1,025 horsepower that clocked a time of 10:53.883. If you’re keeping score, that means Zaras, who only started racing in the last couple of months, finished in the top half of the 60 total entries and finished ahead of a car with nearly 400 extra horses on tap. Still, the Rivian was clearly much heavier and larger, and it was cool seeing it racing out there.

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Ron Zaras drives out of Engineers Corner flatout before flying by huge crowds at the Halfway Picnic Grounds.
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The Rivian R1T shakily pushed up the mountain on road tires, frequently fishtailing at some of the faster turns. It set a time of 10:53.883, landing in 28th overall.

Lastly for Hyundai we have Dani Sordo, whom you may know as a WRC driver — largely considered to be one of the best drivers to touch the pavement. With three rally wins to his name and 229 stage wins, you know that this car and driver pairing was meant to do great things, and you’d think right.

Pikes Peak 062324 Ilce 7rm4 23
Dani Sordo navigates the hairpin at Engineers Corner in his TA Spec IONIQ 5 N. The WRC driver finished on the podium in third place.

Sordo pulled the TA Spec Ioniq 5 N the whole way up the mountain to a blistering 9:30.852, landing the Spaniard in third place overall, only behind Christian Merli in a 2024 Wolf Aurobay GB08 2.0 HP and Romain Dumas in the absolutely unhinged Ford SuperTruck that boasts a whopping 1,600 horsepower and set a time of 8:53.553. (You can see the supertruck in the image below).

The TA Spec that Sordo and Pobst were driving? Just shy of 680 horsepower. Forty seconds slower in a car with less than half of the SuperTruck’s power isn’t anything to be ashamed of if you ask me. (It’s worth nothing that the SuperTruck had an issue that resulted in full power loss that took almost 30 seconds to restart).

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Pikes Peak 062324 Ilce 7rm4 301
The Ford SuperTruck leads the driver’s parade back down the mountain, with crowds at Halfway Picnic Grounds leaning in to high five and cheer on the drivers.
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Ford’s F-150 Lightning SuperTruck was driven by Romain Dumas and finished in first place with a blistering time of 8m53s. The car suffered a power loss that resulted in a 26 second stoppage for the Frenchman.

Takeaways

Based on what I saw, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N seems like a hell of a car, and their results and all the circumstances around it seem to prove that. [Ed Note: Plus, anyone who’s driven the production model seems to love it, so it all tracks (pun intended). -DT]

Whether it’s pulling up just a few seconds shy of the unhinged, Frankensteined creation that is Ford’s SuperTruck or rookies going toe to toe against folks who have been doing this for years in cars with more power, Hyundai showed that the IONIQ 5 N and its TA Spec variant are here to make a name for themselves. 

 

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A post shared by Griffin Riley (@darkcrustacean)

And from what it sounds like, they aren’t done yet. “Yes, we will come back to Pikes Peak,” said Wartenberg. “Definitely.” Wartenberg feels that Korea is trendy right now, and it’s hard to argue otherwise considering the meteoric rise of K-pop and the catapulting of Korean filmmaking into the American zeitgeist via shows like Squid Games or movies like “Parasite.” With that in mind, Wartenberg feels like it’s their time to shine.

As for Zaras’ post-race plans? “First thing: I’m going to Denver Biscuit Company, getting a Bloody Mary, and probably some kind of fried chicken.” I hope you got that meal, Ron. You definitely earned it.

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Overall results from the 2024 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb can be found here, and full stats and more details about the IONIQ 5 TA Spec can be found here.

Untitled 1.1.3 Untitled 1.1.1

[Ed Note: I’ll reiterate: We work hard, Griffin! -DT]. 

 

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Myk El
Myk El
10 days ago

I love the hill climb race as a genre of racing. Crew, car and driver versus clock. I mean yes, there are competitors, but not direct. But fundamentally it’s about your team’s preparation and ability.

Segador
Segador
10 days ago

These are some amazing photos!

Strangek
Strangek
10 days ago

Great write-up and beautiful photography! I really need to make it to that event someday.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
12 days ago

Damn…that Supertruck time is insane…the front end looks sorta like the classic Squarebody truck grille area! Way too bad it’s a Ford…it would be awesome as a Chevy w/ a real engine=gas…so sad…SO SO SO SO SAD!

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
12 days ago

Fabulous photos and really fun writing! Great piece on an event I’d love to attend myself.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
12 days ago

Great writing and even better photography!

Yes, going up in elevation is where electric powertrains shine.

Is Travis
Is Travis
12 days ago

Rafting here is LEGIT.

Ron888
Ron888
12 days ago

That first image! Damn!
As soon as the word photographer was mentioned my expectations went up, but not that far haha.
Amazing

Handlebar
Handlebar
13 days ago

I liked this a lot – would love to see and read much more from ya!

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
13 days ago

The SuperTruck and SuperVan are my unashamed, loud n proud most favorite vehicles. They’re just so bonkers in all the best ways.

James Carson
James Carson
13 days ago

Great article, pics and prose. Thanks!

Arthur Flax
Arthur Flax
13 days ago

Before I scrolled down, I figured this Griffin character was just another fellow with a lot of camera equipment or a new iPhone. Anyone can take a photo these days, right? But then I scrolled.

This fellow can shoot! If he isn’t shooting for Tarantino or Spielberg, you ought to hire him before he is.

Jb996
Jb996
13 days ago

This was really well written, with facts, metaphor, and color, all entertainingly mixed.

Live2ski
Live2ski
13 days ago

It gotta be weird seeing all the electric race cars in the drivers parade and there is no deafening roar of the engines.

AlterId
AlterId
13 days ago

Welcome, Griffin!

We sent Griffin, a young, energetic, and just cool guy who used to live in my Studio City apartment building…

So before you migrated to Santa Monica and the home of Elise (not her real name), you were in Studio City? I know neighborhood boundaries are pretty malleable, but I still assume this wasn’t Sherman Oaks adjacent, with the adjacency extended up Sepulveda to the, um, “hospitality cluster” of hotels serving the, um, “tourist trade.” Which is a safe bet, because I doubt even they would let you park anything in your pre-i3 fleet on site.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
13 days ago

Thanks Griffin! Great stuff here! I have run this road many times. And wished to win the lottery so I could actually put a car and support team together. But no luck yet.

Grew up at nearly that elevation, and can agree that breathing is hard for you flat- lander folks. Best to give yourself a day or two to get used to it, before working too hard at having fun.

Take care, and hope to see more from you soon.

Last edited 13 days ago by Col Lingus
YeahMoto!
YeahMoto!
13 days ago

Awesome pictures. Makes me want to go see it for myself. Just one thing, why call out the dudes you went with as “Old white guys” ? Seems weird and a little sus.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
13 days ago
Reply to  YeahMoto!

OK with that. We are old white guys, and there ain’t a PC term for us?
Boomer is OK, but it’s usually used in an insulating way…YMMV

Last edited 13 days ago by Col Lingus
Ineffable
Ineffable
13 days ago
Reply to  YeahMoto!

yeah you should avoid comments like that, esp as a first impression. makes you sound kind of superficial, which I’m sure isn’t true.

Papa Bruyant
Papa Bruyant
13 days ago
Reply to  YeahMoto!

Eh, as an old(er) white guy, I’m ok with it. It sets the scene as his being with a group of “trad” auto journalist types.

PlugInPA
PlugInPA
13 days ago
Reply to  Papa Bruyant

Agreed. You and I (middle-aged white guy) would feel a little out of place with a crowd of mostly early-20s black guys, and that’s fine. Doesn’t mean we can’t all get along and have a good time, just sometimes one finds themselves outside their comfort zone.

James Carson
James Carson
13 days ago
Reply to  PlugInPA

I’m a old white boomer and don’t resent the terms in any way. I referred to our coop students the other day as ‘the kids’. Someone called me out on it. I felt a tiny little bit bad; naw, they’re kids, smart, eager, enthusiastic kids.

lastwraith
lastwraith
13 days ago
Reply to  YeahMoto!

Can’t say that even registered for me. At almost any car event around here, it’s full of “old white guys”. That’s not a statement, it’s just facts. I was not surprised that this carries over to other parts of the country. As a (nearly) middle-aged white guy, doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

As for calling people boys or kids, nothing wrong with that as long as you’re not looking to denigrate on purpose.
I call my friends boys and kids (even in mixed gender and age) all the time.

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
13 days ago
Reply to  YeahMoto!

Oh, don’t get your panties in a bunch. It’s a Pike Peak article. For fucks sake…

Ron888
Ron888
12 days ago
Reply to  YeahMoto!

My opinion FWIW, i’d be totally fine being called that.
That said, my favorite sense of humor is clever insults (including ones directed at me) so i may be less sensitive than most

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
11 days ago
Reply to  YeahMoto!

Ya know what? Your comment on this piece actually struck a deeper chord than it should have, that I actually thought about it later. So, I am going to reply twice. You are kinda welcome for this…

Here is the deal from my lucid point of view. You’re (apparently) insinuating that the author has some sort of ulterior motive in mentioning that there were “Old White Guys” as the crux of his group (The horror!!!). This says possibly a lot about what you are looking to reassure in your own life. I’m not trying to be a dick here, but I doubt the owners of the site subscribe to your mentality, because it’s batshit crazy.

The fact that you would hit the send button on such a questionable comment, by any test and means of coherence, on what is ultimately a benign adjective-ish descriptor, is very telling about your own thought process.

The thing is, is that a writer’s job is to paint a picture of the environment that actively envelops them at the moment of capture. If they don’t do that, they haven’t done their job. It’s basically the same concept as to why Wikipedia doesn’t get anybody as fired up as, say, actually reading “The Catcher In The Rye”. Which is a fantastic snapshot into that time, but, boy, one way or the other, does he get flustered about Manhattan and says some stuff! That’s why people still talk about it. Objectively, one way or the other, it’s a quality piece of literature. That’s the job.

With all of that being said, I’d venture to say that if there was no picture of Griffin, there wouldn’t be a chance you’d write what you wrote. Which is an unflattering look for you, in my opinion. Which isn’t saying anything about anything, but at the same time is saying a bunch. That is fine, I suppose.

I’m not telling you how to feel, or what to do, but if that were me…? I’d feel borderline ashamed, and maybe ponder some reflection on my own. If you wanna stand by your thought? A+ for conveying it.

And, for all the other comments, re-phrasing “I’m an old white guy, and it’s fine by me”?

Fucking wow, about that. I’m the most German/Dutch/Irish mutt you’ve ever met, and it’s a bit sad reading that you are cool half-hearting tip-toe apologizing. Seriously. What the fuck? Nobody asked if your shift at the gate ended. You are a Cracker. It’s ok. Nobody asked for your stamp of approval. Nor, should you voice it. It’s meritless. What is wrong with any of you to think that saying that is cool?
This is a perfect example of why I’d never meet up with some of you in person. Weirdos.

Otherwise, Nice article, Griffin! I wish I woulda been there. Looked liked a ton of fun. I enjoyed it! 🙂

-Normal person from Detroit

Last edited 11 days ago by Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Papa Bruyant
Papa Bruyant
11 days ago

Wow…gotta say, wasn’t expecting THAT plot twist at the end. I guess that’s one way to read the community’s support for a new author’s fantastic work and push back against the OP’s underlying implications without turning the comment section into a flaming dumpster fire. A completely unsubstantiated and unnecessarily vitriolic read that undermines the first part of your comment, but a read nonetheless.

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
11 days ago
Reply to  Papa Bruyant

Eh, nevermind. Vitriol shmitriol.

Last edited 11 days ago by Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Ineffable
Ineffable
11 days ago

settle down beavis.

YeahMoto!
YeahMoto!
10 days ago

Wow. Well, I wasn’t expecting all this, but I guess I should have. The comment just struck me as odd. Nothing less, nothing more. should have just shrugged and moved on. Your assumptions about who I must be are pretty funny from my side – my Husband is still laughing.

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
10 days ago
Reply to  YeahMoto!

Ha! Yeah, I kinda made that more personal than I should have. Sorry about that. I still stand by the basic ideas, but it was my birthday and caught a very rare case of drinky fingers with a side bout of time to kill. Oops!

I genuinely hope you have a nice day 🙂

Lardo
Lardo
13 days ago

Nicely down. Informative and unbiased. Maybe David should have him review the Fisker?

Andy Farrell
Andy Farrell
13 days ago
Reply to  Lardo

Or the Cybertruck /s

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
13 days ago

Nice to have you here Griffin! And the rafting pics are perfect.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
13 days ago

For many years, Randy Pobst was really the only reason I read the SCCA magazine. He’s such rare stuff – a serious racer who’s also a serious writer, but with good fun in each.

Jeff Jordan
Jeff Jordan
13 days ago

A unique event and well worth the trip. Thamks for the article

Gubbin
Gubbin
13 days ago

Coming out of the gate hot with some of the most fun writing I’ve seen here, and I really like the way the blur works on that Rivian shot.

PlugInPA
PlugInPA
13 days ago
Reply to  Gubbin

That Rivian looks amazing in Griffin’s shot. They should offer that as a Pikes Peak Appearance Package. That is spectacular.

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
13 days ago

I would like to know more about the second place car, as it seems to be mentioned on Wolf’s website, but hasn’t been updated to the current cars. 410 HP in a light open wheeler sounds fun, but also potentially very expensive.

Appears it was light and turboed enough to overcome the altitude.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
13 days ago

That F150 probably has less in common with a standard F150 Lightning than a Toyota Corolla has with a Mercedes Unimog.

Jb996
Jb996
13 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

In the parade picture, you can see that the “F150” it is lowered until it is the same height as the Hyundai! With a covered, aerodynamic bed-area, giant spoiler, etc. What exactly does this vehicle have to do with a real F150?

R Rr
R Rr
13 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Same as if VW called the 2018 record-holder I.D. R a “Passat” 🙂

Paul B
Paul B
13 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Just like the Suzuki Escudo was stock, right?

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
13 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

I double-dog dare you to walk into your nearest Ford dealership and tell them you want to order the F-150 in SuperTruck trim.

05LGT
05LGT
12 days ago

If they offer to sell one to you at cost, RUN AWAY!

Phuzz
Phuzz
10 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Blimey, next you’ll be saying that because most Transit vans didn’t come with a GT40 chassis and engine, the 1971 Supervan was just a publicity stunt!

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