SAUKVILLE, Wis. — Peter Cunningham is about to tackle one of the oldest and most challenging North American motorsport events for the first time in his career.
From June 20-25, he will drive a 2018 RealTime Acura TLX GT for Acura Motorsports in the legendary Pikes Peak Int’l Hill Climb.
The event was first run in 1916 and is a one-way climb from the base to the summit, the event takes place on a public road, which was initially all dirt, but over the years has been gradually surfaced until 2012 when the entire road was paved. The route’s multiple switchbacks and elevation change make it a daunting ascent.
“The course is only 12.42 miles long, which is equivalent to just over three laps at Road America,” Cunningham explained. “Road America has 14 corners per lap, so that works out to 42 corners, but in that same 12.42-mile distance there are 156 corners at Pikes Peak. Not only that, but you start at 9,000 feet above sea level and go to 14,000 feet! It’s a lot to learn, but it’s not that different from other things I’ve done. I’ve done autocross, rally and road racing. A hill climb on a paved course is a combination of all those disciplines.”
Cunningham will drive an Acura TLX GT; the same chassis used in the team’s 2014 and 2015 Pirelli World Challenge campaigns. The all-wheel drive sedan will get some hill climb upgrades, including front fender louvres, revised dive planes and movement of the rear wing up and back to create more downforce. Additionally, the car’s suspension, transmission and turbos have been fine-tuned for the unique configuration of the course.
The RTR TLX is entered in the ‘Pikes Peak Open’ category. One of the requirements of the class is the use of D.O.T. tires. In Cunningham’s case, those will be Hoosier A7 Tires. Just last weekend, Cunningham completed two days of tire testing with the car on designated portions of the course.
“The Friday prior to the tire test we spent the day at Pikes Peak Int’l Raceway,” Cunningham said. “That doesn’t replicate all the kinds of turns on the mountain, but it is at 5,500 feet of elevation. That’s higher than any race track that this car has ever competed on.”
Cunningham will be up against a variety of cars, including several models of Porsches, Chevrolet Camaros, a Trans-Am prepared Ford Mustang, a Nissan Skyline GT-R, and even a Palatov D2 roadster.
“Our first priority is to make it to the summit,” Cunningham said. “Based on the testing that we’ve done, we’re hopeful that with a representative time we’ll be in the running for a class win. The all-wheel drive TLX GT is really strong on the tight, hairpin corners of Pikes Peak.”
The RealTime Acura TLX GT is one of three cars entered by Acura Motorsports in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Honda R&D engineer and reigning Pikes Peak Time Attack 2 class winner Nick Robinson will debut the Acura TLX A-Spec in the Exhibition class. His brother and fellow Honda R&D engineer James will drive an Acura NSX in the Time Attack 1 class.
While RealTime Acura’s primary focus remains with the Pirelli World Challenge NSX GT3 program (which is racing at Road America the same weekend as the hill climb), a number of RealTime crew members and former crew have been dedicated to the hill climb project.