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Loeb’s Epic Run On Pikes Peak Showcases Colorado Springs Again

Tuesday, Jul. 2 2013

Mike Moran’s Sports Commentary

July 1, 2013

DSC_9703 ©Ford McClave 2013

France gave the United States the Statue of Liberty in 1886.

The French gave Sebastien Loeb to Colorado Springs and the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 30, 2013, some 127 years later.

While the world knows the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor very well, the Hill Climb, until yesterday, was not as well-known around the globe, but Loeb’s record-smashing demolition of the course record on America’s Mountain on Sunday afternoon is one of the sports world’s biggest topics today.

Nine-time World Rally Champion Loeb set the racing world ablaze Sunday when he obliterated the overall race record in the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. In his first appearance in the “Race to the Clouds,” Loeb maneuvered through the 156 turns on the 12.42-mile course in 8:13.878, more than a minute-and-a-half faster than the previous race record of 9:46.181 set by Rhys Millen last year.

I have seen more than 250 stories from France, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy and scores of motorsports websites in the United States this morning, every one with a Colorado Springs dateline.

How much is that worth to a city already known as America’s Olympic City, but also a city recovering from a second massive wildfire and in drastic need of some good news?

“Loeb: Un Grand Souvenir! Trumpeted the headline on the sports pages of the massive French Daily sports newspaper, L‘Equipe.

DSC_3316 ©Ford McClave 2013

“It is a mythical race, and it kept running through my mind for some time to come running here,” Loeb told the paper.”With Peugeot, the objective could be the victory and the record. This is a great victory, because it is very different, in a car that has nothing to do with normal cars, and it’s a huge feeling of riding with eight hundred horses on a road like this, among the ravines. I have the satisfaction of going after, attacking 100% without fault, making it a good time. It is a relief and a good win and it will remain a great memory. There were many people on the way down, and a lot of enthusiasm, the audience was very warm, so it’s nice, because I was not on my land.

“For me, this was the race of the year,” said Loeb at the finish. “At the beginning of my run there was a bit of pressure for sure because I knew there was so much work and investment from Peugeot and all the partners. Now, after all the practice, it was just down to me and I had to perform.”  

And perform he did. Those rigorous early tests at Mont Ventoux in France and numerous practice runs on the Peak paid off for Loeb and the superb Team Peugeot behind him.

Our own Gazette led its sports pages with an crackerjack headline, “French Roll” over its lead piece by writer Kevin Carmody and columnist David Ramsey. In fact, the Gazette devoted a record three full pages to the race, with complete results, five separate by-lined stories, six color pictures within the sports pages and a big one on page one of the paper, all seven through the camera of talented photographer Michael Ciaglo.

Never has this race been so dramatically well-covered by our own daily paper in the long history of the event. It was a world-class effort by the newspaper, and so was the coverage by our local television affiliates and their teams, some spending the entire day at the summit with its ever-changing weather and lack of oxygen.

“Normally we’d wait for a recap to do this but the news is just too big,” said Jonathon Ramsey on the popular website AutoBlog.com. “Everyone knew Peugeot and Sébastien Loeb came to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb to do something impressive, but taking one minute and 33 seconds off last year’s record is unprecedented. Rhys Millen set the time to beat in 2012 with a 9:46.164. Loeb just ran the mountain in 8:13.878, which not only makes him the only member of the Eight-Minute Club ever, it beats last year’s record by more than 15 percent. As they say in France, a mighty Chapeau! to Peugeot and the man behind the wheel. We’re atop the mountain right now and everyone here has been saying that this could mean the Seven-Minute Club isn’t far away. We have a feeling Peugeot will get to enjoy this one for a while, but we’d love to see another manufacturer take up the challenge. Audi, anyone?”

“But this race belonged to 39-year-old Sebastien Loeb and his Unlimited class Peugeot 208 T16,” said journalist Robert Duffer in the Chicago Tribune. “In an industry where fractions of a second can crown a new leader, the automotive world, and the French in particular, were blown away by Loeb’s time of 8:13.878. The Frenchman has nine World Rally Championships but beating a race record by over 90 seconds is unimaginable.”

Journalist Alex Nunez of Road & Track’s website wrote “Loeb took the previous record of 9:46.164, set a year ago by Rhys Millen, and vaporized it as if it were Alderaan and the Peugeot was the Death Star. The chatter leading up to today’s runs focused around whether anyone in the Unlimited group would finish in under nine minutes. With his record-shredding 8.13.878 run up the mountain, Loeb didn’t just become the charter member of the eight-minute club, he was 14 seconds shy of breaking into the heretofore unthinkable seven-minute arena. His average speed? 87 mph. Bonkers. To put just how absurdly dominant Loeb’s run was in perspective, consider this: Rhys Millen abused his previous record himself, ripping off a 9:02.192 in his Hyundai PM580T. That was the second-fastest run of the day and the second-fastest run at Pikes Peak ever; but it was still 49 seconds behind Loeb’s berserk record time. Yes, the road at Pikes Peak is paved now. Big deal. There’s no diminishing what Sebastien Loeb did today.”

Within minutes of Loeb’s history-making run from the start line at 9,300 feet to the summit of America’s Mountain in a jaw-dropping time of 8:13.878, I watched the internet light up with batches of blogs, pictures and coverage from around the world.

A worldwide audience saw his historic run on Red Bull TV and who knows how many thousands listened to the flag-to-flag coverage presented by KRDO Radio on its website?

At one point in the afternoon the Pikes Peak website was getting 6,000 hits per minute and it caused a shutdown for a period of time.

While exact figures won’t be available until later this week, the ticket sales total may be the biggest in the event’s history, with as many as 8,000 people, fans, media, officials and crews, all along the course, at the start line, the summit, and elsewhere below.

We’re two-for-two this summer with home runs in Colorado Springs and big national coverage.

First, it was the grand Warrior Games of the United States Olympic Committee.

Now it’s Sebastien Loeb and the other 150 drivers and racers who gave everything they had on Pikes Peak yesterday in an event that won’t be forgotten for decades.

très bien, Colorado Springs

Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee from 1978-2003 and Games from Lake Placid to Salt Lake City. He served as the Sports Information Director at Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado, and has lived in Colorado Springs for 34 years and is the Senior Media Consultant for the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation and keynote speaker and emcee for numerous sports events. mike@thesportscorp.org

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