The 85th annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Race to the clouds

The 85th annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is something of an American institution in the same way that the Daytona and Indianapolis events are part of USA racing folklore. BMW Motorrad is returning to this year's race - which takes place on Saturday 21July - with two missions: to win the event outright and to break the outright speed record for the climb up the famous hill. And in order to achieve this, BMW Motorrad Motorsport will be fielding a team of four American riders and will also be showcasing the new HP2 Megamoto machine in this historic and arduous race.

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a long-standing tradition in Colorado Springs and the second oldest motorsport event in the United States. The hill climb itself started in 1916 and is run on a 12.4-mile course that begins at 9,197 feet and rises to 14,100 feet up a tight twisty Colorado Rockies mountain road with numerous tight hairpins. On one side is the mountain, on the other cliffs of 1968 feet and no safety rails. This historic race certainly separates the men from the boys - spectators have been known to suffer from altitude sickness, so just imagine what it's like for the competitors!

Fresh from a very successful weekend at the Erzberg Rodeo in Austria - where BMW Motorrad Motorsport enjoyed victories in the

Knigsklasse' and the

Prologue' race - the team are now en route to the Colorado Rockies for a special test session, where they will hopefully be able to gain the crucial set-up information necessary for the HP2 Megamoto. Last year, BMW made its first appearance at the US hill-climbing classic race and came away with excellent results on the HP2 Enduro. Californian Casey Yarrow and factory rider Simo Kirssi dominated the Exhibition Class (for motorcycles above 750cc), taking first and second positions, and in the unofficial ranking of all motorcycles, the BMW riders were placed fifth and sixth.

Casey Yarrow will be returning to the scene of his class victory last year but this time he will be joined by three other American riders. Making their debut at Pikes Peak for BMW Motorrad Motorsport team will be last year's winner Gary Trachy, his brother Greg (who won the Supermoto class), and Micky Dymond, who claimed the overall runner-up spot last year. It is also possible that German rider Markus Barth will join the US boys, subject to a successful test this weekend in Colorado.

Team Manager Wolfgang Fischer believes the team's experiences at the Erzberg Iron Road Prologue will act as great preparation for Pikes Peak. "There are very few high-speed mountain races like Pikes Peak so it's great that the American riders have had some time on the HP2 Enduro. Erzberg was a great experience, even if we are feeling quite tired now, but Pikes Peak and the Megamoto are an exciting proposition so we will know more after the test this coming weekend. We hope the weather will be fine in July so we can attack the record time!"

If ever a bike was built for the Pikes Peak course, it is the HP2 Megamoto. The 85th

Race to the Clouds' takes riders over a distance of about 21 kilometres, has 156 bends and a tarmac covering for about a third of the race distance. The rest consists of a sand-covered and heavily compressed natural path, with virtually no run-off areas or barriers. The average speed for motorcycles is around 60 mph and last year - with a recorded top speed of 97 mph - Simo Kirssi managed the fastest performance of any motorcycle on the

Americas Mountain', as Pikes Peak is known by the locals.

Last month, BMW Motorrad's HP2 Megamoto scored its first international victory at the Moto Tour event in Belgium, where local rider Fred Lejeune was victorious on the 110 hp sports boxer against an international field of riders and bikes from all the major manufacturers. The BMW Motorrad Motorsport team is hoping that the raw power and high torque of the 1200cc Megamoto, combined with the talent and experience of the team riders, will be more than enough to conquer the Pikes Peak hill and possibly even shatter the lap record?