View from the 14,110 foot Summit of Pike’s Peak
2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Inspires Innovation
Pikes Peak is a magnet for the curious and the adventurous, and it beckons thrill seekers of all kinds. Its ascending 156 turns inspire racers to dream of sprinting up the mountain in their favorite vehicle. Its 14,110 foot summit inspires others to scale its surface on foot. And finally, its breathtaking views inspire families to ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the top and back. With a completely paved road, Pikes Peak has also inspired a new level of competition and a new level of innovative vehicles for this year’s 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. One of the drivers continuously inspired by the mountain is unlimited class driver Doug Siddens.
Doug Siddens rounds a corner near mile marker 1 in his RZR-X1 during the 2013 PPIHC Race
Pikes Peak Driver Doug Siddens Interview
Doug Siddens is no stranger to Pikes Peak. The 2013 PPIHC race marked his 4th year competing. With the course completely paved, Doug was determined to push the boundaries of his own innovation. He completely rebuilt his vehicle in his own garage. Originally a Polaris RZR 800, Pikes Peak inspired Doug to transform his UTV into the vehicle he calls the RZR-X1. It is now a 400HP single-seater that resembles a competition F1 race car. We met up with Doug Siddens after the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb to get the scoop on his experience, and to hear more about how his home built RZR-X1 performed. Here’s what he had to say.
Discount Tire: Can you give us a quick run down of the practice and events leading up to the 2013 PPIHC race?
Siddens: Even though I started this year’s build back in December 2012 I still felt like I was a bit behind. I was able to do a brief test of the RZR-X1 at Harris Hill Raceway in San Marcos, TX, but it was mainly a shakedown run. I actually loaded up the trailer and the race car early and I headed to Colorado Springs where my Crew Chief Kevin Colwell of KC Truck and Performance was waiting. We wrapped up the remaining tasks in order to pass tech inspection at his shop and did the remaining pre-race tests on Pikes Peak.
Discount Tire: What did you discover during practice that needed to be addressed?
Siddens: We actually started out with some engine issues. On the day of tech inspection the engine bent three valves as I was backing the car up into the trailer. So we scrambled around; Kevin and the guys tore into my spare engine and I ran to Denver to get some gaskets for the new top end of the engine. We still don’t know what caused this freak issue, but we pushed the RZR-X1 to tech and thankfully passed all their requirements. Needless to say, this is not how we had planned on starting race week. We also had a nagging fueling issue. There were several small things that could have lead to the issues, but we ended up chasing down some wiring faults. We also replaced the fuel pump and cleaned all the connections. I’m still not certain exactly what fixed the issue, but by mid-week the problems were resolved and we were finally able to get in some solid practice sessions on the mountain.
Discount Tire: Before the race, did you have a chance to meet any of your competitors?
Siddens: I did and I was amazed at how well I was received. Everyone seemed to really like the RZR-X1 and all the hard work that I put into it. Everyone there was a class act and it felt great to be on the same road as some of the best drivers in the world.
Discount Tire: What did the competition think about your home grown RZR-X1?
Siddens: I think a lot of people respected the fact that I did it all myself. When you race and spend a lot of time around race cars you come to realize how much work they are. It was definitely a huge feat to take on everything and, still be able to have the car ready in time to finish on race day with a respectable time.
Discount Tire: On race day did you have any final preparations before the start?
Siddens: One of the tough things about Pikes Peak is that there is no warm up or practice laps. Since it’s one way up and one way day down, the road is closed and your race car is finalized when you pull it out of the trailer. This is pretty nerve-wracking to a driver. It would be nice to know if something is wrong with the car before you pull it up to the starting line so you could, at least have a chance to track down an issue before you begin.
Discount Tire: When the green flag was waved what were your first thoughts?
Siddens: I have this ability to forget about everything that is going on around me as soon as I get behind the wheel. Leading up to the race I’m super nervous and antsy to get started. Once I have my helmet on and I’m behind the wheel I go into a focused mode that is surprisingly calm. Thankfully this is the case, because at the starting line I had a fouled plug and the engine started to stumble when the green flag dropped. My normal out of the car thought process would have been to worry about it, but instead I put the hammer down and drove through it!
Discount Tire: After the start, can you briefly describe your 4th Pikes Peak run?
Siddens: The bottom third of the mountain was great! The car felt stable and I was pushing it hard. Towards the middle I started to notice that the course felt really slick and I had to drive hard to keep traction coming out of the corners. The rear end kept sliding out on me and while there were some beautiful drifts, I knew that this wasn’t fast. As I came up to the Devil’s Playground area it started to feel like I was driving on marbles. At this point I was being very cautious of turning in too hard into the corners and I was making sure that I had the car straight before I put the power down coming out of the turns. Everything was going fine until Boulder Park where the rear end finally broke loose without warning and made the car spin out. Luckily I kept it on the road, backed up, put it into gear and gunned for a finish. At this point my only goal was to finish. My CVT belt was slipping and I had to baby it the last few miles just to make sure I rolled the car past those checkered flags. I finished with a time of 11:03.070.
Discount Tire: Tires play a big part in racing. What version of Hankook tires did you end up running?
Siddens: I wasn’t able to get my hands on a set of Hankook F200 slicks so I decided to run the Hankook Ventus Z207 wets. For one, they were a bit wider than the Ventus Z209 tires that I had and I was concerned about the possibility of rain towards the top of the mountain. Rightfully so, it did rain and hail on race day, but I was lucky to finish right before it really started to come down.
Discount Tire: You described the course as feeling like it was getting slipperier mile after mile. This is a common feeling when tires start to overheat. What do you think could have caused this?
Siddens: The Z207 is a great tire but it probably wasn’t the best tire for my application. I really under estimated how hard I was going to drive on race day and how much heat the tires were going to absorb turn after turn. One of the issues with Pikes Peak is that we never get a chance to run the full mountain until race day. During practice we only run a quarter to a third of the mountain at a time and its very difficult to get back to back practice runs in with so many other drivers on the mountain as well. The turbo charged Apex also puts out massive amount of thrust and with a power to weight ratio of about 1hp per 3lbs… (smiles) Its not difficult to break any tire loose.
Discount Tire: After this years experience, what changes are in store for your tires?
Siddens: After driving the RZR-X1 to the complete limit I now know that we need to put as much rubber on the ground as possible. Since the CVT clutch allows the engine to instantly spike to peak power at 11,000 rpms we are putting more stress on the tires than ever. Hankook was a great partner this year and with a new vehicle, we learned a lot. Hankook makes some excellent tires and we just need to find the one that will work best for this application. I’m anxious to get my hands on a set of Hankook’s F200 competition slicks. These are a true slick and they are available in some larger sizes that should really help put the power down to the pavement.
Discount Tire: Congratulations on finishing! Your time this year is very respectable especially considering you haven’t had as much seat time as you would have liked and you are driving a completely new vehicle. When you started to spin out at the top did you fear going over the edge?
Siddens: I can live with knowing that there were outside factors that kept me from going faster or that caused the spin. It’s driver error that I never want to have. I left this race feeling like I drove as well as one could considering the conditions and issues. I have no regrets because I drove the car to its fullest and I left it all on the mountain. The spin didn’t even phase me. When the video comes out you can tell by my body language that I was doing everything I could to keep it on the road and wasn’t panicked at all. Thankfully I don’t panic in those situations because that’s what gets you into trouble. 🙂
Discount Tire: I’m sure you are already planning to make some improvements and changes for your next race. Could you tell us what you have in mind?
Siddens: I’m really excited to tweak the RZR-X1 and get it completely dialed in. I have some ideas for additional weight savings, improved suspension performance and increased horsepower. I’m also anxious to get more seat time and try out several different tire compounds. I know I have an insanely fast car, now I just need to spend the off-season getting the most out of it.
With another Pikes Peak race under his belt, Doug Siddens is even more excited and motivated to set a record on Pikes Peak. His experience on the mountain each year has inspired him to push harder and harder for a win.
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(Missed our interview with Doug Siddens before the 2013 PPIHC race? Catch it here: Home Grown Pikes Peak Race Driver Doug Siddens tells his Story