COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Kathryn Mead stood out during the 98th Broadmoor Pikes Peak Int’l Hill Climb.
Mead was the lone woman competing this year during the Race to the Clouds, but she wasn’t intimidated by the 12.42-mile course that features 156 turns. Competing in the Porsche Pikes Peak Trophy by Yokohama division, Mead finished third in class with a time of 11:36.345.
Her time not only earned her a place on the podium in her division, but it was also the fastest time of any rookie climbing the mountain this year, earning her Rookie of the Year honors.
The best part of the entire experience for Mead was crossing the finish line at the top of the mountain.
“If I had to choose one thing, it was race day and the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line. Without the hard work to get there, it would not have felt so rewarding,” Mead said.
Racing as a rookie in anything is tricky, but being a rookie at the Race to the Clouds provides an added level of difficulty. Luckily for all the newbies to the mountain, the world of hill climbing is a welcoming community with many drivers willing to offer advice to first-time racers.
Mead says the best advice she received was from Pikes Peak Hill Climb Hall of Fame driver Jeff Zwart.
“He coached me in practice and told me to always leave time on the table in each practice run so I could learn and get faster each session,” Mead said. “He also emphasized that you race the mountain, not the other competitors.”
Mead’s racing career began in 2016, however the first time she heard of Pikes Peak she was was an active runner and heard about the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. When she began auto racing and learned about the opportunity to run the mountain on four tires instead of her own two feet, it seemed crazy and not something she would do.
When the Porsche division was created and her car fit the profile, she knew she had to go for it.
Her original plan to visit Pikes Peak in early April to check out the course and the mountain had to be scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She had practiced in a driving simulator and spent hours watching onboard videos in her hometown of Austin, Texas, but it was not until early August that she actually experienced the race course in person.
Not only did she compete, but Mead designed the wrap for her race car.
“With so many things outside my control, the one thing I could control was how this car looked,” Mead said. “I think it looks happy. Every time I get behind the wheel, I know it makes me happy.”
Mead was happy to finish, happy to capture third in her division and happy to be named Rookie of the Year on Pikes Peak.
“My goal was to get to the summit on race day. Getting a trophy for fastest rookie was the cherry on top,” Mead said. “Beyond that, it would take too long to explain. It was about more than just racing.”