Tony Quinn is counting down the days to his first Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado Springs, USA. The owner of Highlands in Cromwell and Hampton Downs in Waikato is one of only 100 drivers invited to compete in the 100th anniversary of the event to be held on June 26.
Pikes Peak, or The Race to the Clouds as it is commonly known, is America's second oldest motorsports race after the Indy 500 and for Quinn it's a race that's been on his bucket list for a long time.
"I feel pretty special to be part of it," says Quinn. "As a rookie I had to give the organisers the names of a couple of referees who could vouch for me. Having the legendary Monster Takajima and Robby Gordon in my corner certainly helped me secure an invite."
Recently Quinn spent four days in Pikes Peak getting some much needed practice on the 12.42 mile (20 kms) course. On race day the drivers take it in turns to try and set the fastest time on a notorious stretch of road that starts at over 9000 feet and finishes 156 turns later at the summit of Pikes Peak, 14,115 feet above sea level. Not ideal for someone like Quinn who has a fear of heights.
"Thankfully my fear of heights didn't bother me at all and the road, which I was very worried about, isn't nearly as tricky as I thought it would be," says Quinn. "One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn't be competitive and that my guts would be churning inside but it's actually a really enjoyable road to drive. It's very steep and tight in places but it's beautiful countryside and it reminded me of parts of the South Island of New Zealand. It's quite majestic and I'm really looking forward to the event now."
Quinn drove a red Mustang convertible up the mountain on his recent recce run but he's looking forward to putting his custom built Monster Tamer through its paces at Pikes Peak at the end of June. Originally built for the Race to the Sky hill climb in New Zealand in 2015, the heavily modified Ford Focus with a 3.8-litre twin-turbo engine from a Nissan R35, cost over AU$350,000.
"That might sound like a lot of money but Sebastian Loeb came to Pikes Peak in 2013 and spent a lot more than that," says Quinn. "He took over a minute and half off the previous record but he spent four weeks here before the event going up and down the hill. I've been told he had a team of 40 people with him including engineers, mechanics, tyre specialists, a helicopter and God knows what else. Apparently the whole thing cost Red Bull and Peugeot something like US$14 million. Me and my mechanic Harry are going to try and do it for a lot less than that."
"I think the car will go really well and I'm looking forward to posting a good time but it's the same as any other race. The stars have to align for you and if they don't any mistake you make will be punished. I'm competing in the Donegal International Rally in Ireland this week so hopefully I'll get to Pikes Peak in good form. We'll see how we go and we'll give it a good lash."