In extremely tough conditions with fog clouding much of the mountain and snow still on the ground, Robin Shute shot up the Pikes Peak Hillclimb to claim his third win in four years. Fresh from his victory at the weekend, the Motul-backed driver tells us what it was like to take another King of the Mountain title at the world-famous event.
KING OF THE MOUNTAIN ROBIN SHUTE: “MOTUL GIVES US THE CONFIDENCE TO PUSH EVERY SINGLE PART OF THE CAR TO THE LIMIT”
Robin, this was the 100th anniversary at Pikes Peak. How does it feel to win this special one?
We have the exposure of the mountain, but that isn’t really the focus of my energy. What makes the road really hard is the fact it’s on a 14,000-foot mountain. There are so many variables to deal with up there. We’re working with road conditions, weather conditions and no two runs are the same up there. You always have to be adapting. The cars are very complicated and being on a mountain, it’s hard to extract all the performance out of them. So, it’s about making sure everything is as good as it can be and getting the most out of what we’ve got. The exposure and lack of guardrails isn’t something I’m particularly focused on. It’s more about doing a good job. It’s a tricky race to be competitive with so that takes all my focus.
Do you have a particular area of the mountain you prefer?
It’s all actually quite a lot of climb. The first couple of sections are in the tree line and that’s fast and flowing, and I really enjoy that, and the car does well there. Then the third section can be actually quite a fun part of the course once you get into the rhythm as you’re chasing from hairpin to hairpin. A lot of time can be won or lost there. And then finally the last section can be very enjoyable. There are some fast turns up there and that’s where the road conditions are normally getting tough. The last couple of stretches of road are incredibly bumpy. While I enjoy the challenge of those bumps and getting through them quickly, that’s definitely the hardest part of the mountain.
Do you try and get into a nice flow on the mountain?
You do get into a flow and that’s something that’s always hard in practice because you’re just doing sections of the mountain. It’s almost over before you get into the flow. But come race day you really get dialled into the car and feel a lot more comfortable and able to push a lot more. But finding that flow is incredibly important because that’s really where the pace comes from.
Can you tell us more about your car?
It’s a Wolf GB08 that we’ve hot-rodded for the mountain, so it’s a Pikes Peak special now. It was originally a sports prototype with a Honda K20 engine without a turbo, but Mountune built us a new motor that is combined with a BorgWarner turbo and our own custom aero kit. Most of the car is different from its “showroom” spec.
How much power does it produce?
On the mountain, we’re probably seeing about 600hp at the flywheel at the start and about 500hp by the finish.
As well as power, downforce must be very important, too?
This car is probably one of the most aerodynamically potent race cars in the world. We’re making in the region of two metric tonnes of downforce at 200km/h. It’s a little less on the mountain because the air’s thinner but those numbers are at sea level.
Motul is a partner of the team. How important are its products in helping you achieve a good run on the mountain?
The mountain is an incredibly harsh environment. There are a lot of variables and unknowns, so we rely on great products when things maybe don’t go so well or when we’re pushing things so hard. Motul gives us the confidence to push every single part of the car to the limit. The gearbox for instance, we’re running it above the recommended power and torque limits, and the engine was designed to produce around 250hp, and we can push 700hp out of it at sea level. The brakes, too, were originally intended for Formula Three cars with about 200hp. We’re just pushing everything to the limits for the most extreme roads in the world and able to succeed. The key is having great products in the car.
Is it a year-round job preparing for Pikes Peak?
It’s getting that way now. Three months prior it’s pretty much full-time with 80-hour weeks to get the car together. To do the upgrades and do what we do with the vehicle takes up a lot of time. The event itself is physically demanding as well, so there’s a lot of early mornings and a lot of work after we get down the mountain each day.
What happens now?
Rest and regroup [laughs]. I’ll be doing a couple more motor races this year, including rallying and rally cross, and then putting together a programme for next year’s Pikes Peak. Hopefully something faster, more exciting and something people can engage with.
© Pictures: Larry Cheng