Race officials and relevant local groups in Colorado are reportedly discussing whether or not to allow motorcycles to compete in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) once again, following the tragic death of Carlin Dunne on June 30, 2019. The professional racer and “Motorcycle King of the Mountain” crashed his Ducati Streetfighter V4 Prototype near the finish line. Witnesses cited the irregular road surface near the summit as the probable cause. Since the PPIHC’s inaugural race in 1916, the motorcycle portion has been suspended and revived a number of times over the years.
On July 2, 2019 the PPIHC Race Director and Race Safety Team released a statement after having completed their investigation regarding the racing accident of Carlin Dunne. They said, “The motorcycle was inspected and there were no signs of a mechanical failure. After reviewing footage from the incident, it appears that the rider highsided coming into the last turn before the Finish Line.” The US Forest Service is also conducting its own probe of the incident.
Journalists from the Colorado Springs Gazette obtained documents through public information requests which revealed conversations between Pikes Peak race officials and the US Forest Service. Megan Leatham, Executive Director of the PPIHC, was seen to have used the following language… “He high sided… But it just happened to be on Pikes Peak with no room for error” and “Between us… I think the end of the motorcycle program on Pikes Peak…”
Leatham declined to provide additional details of the accident. She avoided discussing how Dunne’s Ducati motorcycle highsided and whether road conditions contributed to the crash. Officials at the event also instructed journalists to refrain from taking photos. In another email obtained by the Gazette, Leatham also wrote, “I don’t think there is any other footage out there which is good,” and described how marshals grabbed GoPros and other cameras which may have captured footage at the race’s end.
Dunne’s was the seventh fatality associated with the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. He is the fourth motorcycle racer to meet his end at the race. In 2015, Ducati 848 rider Carl Sorensen went off a cliff in the 3-mile stretch before the summit, during final practice. His accident was believed to have been caused by a road bump on the racing line. In 2014, Bobby Goodin crossed the finish line and crashed his Triumph Daytona 675R as he tried to slow into the gravel parking lot. In 1982, Bill Gross Jr. fell from his bike, speculated to be caused by dust, and was hit by another motorcycle rider. The whole course was paved by the end of 2011, which has concerned some race fans who believe this has made the race more dangerous by allowing greater power and higher speeds. Whenever the issue of safety arises, multiple camps weigh in with racers reminding the public that they have always been well aware of the risks and demands of one of the world's great, unique competitions.
“I think it’s going to be a big discussion with the Hill Climb board before any kind of decision is made,” confirmed Jack Glavan, manager of Pikes Peak America’s Mountain — the group which operates and maintains the mountain’s highway and Summit House. While Glavan can ultimately choose to stop the race, according to an agreement between the Hill Climb and Colorado Springs, he said that the PPIHC board of directors will make its decision and take the recommendations to the Forest Service. Colorado Springs’ Parks Director Karen Palus and Mayor John Suthers will also be consulted. “We’re waiting on the Forest Service,” Glavan said. “I don’t consider it closed until we get this final determination from everybody. Maybe the Hill Climb figures they have enough, but there might be more that we ask for.”