The Pikes Peak International Hillclimb has been raced 98 times. A person named Unser has won the overall standings 26 times. Few of those victories are more memorable than 1986, the year of all-time record holder Bobby Unser retired, seventeen years after his last overall victory, with the sole aim of setting a time. record in an Audi Quattro. Being Bobby Unser, he achieved his goal.
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This 1986 video, shared on the official Pikes Peak International Hillclimb YouTube page, documents the event. It begins by telling the long story of the race itself, played out on historic clips from the glory days of a hill climb once dominated by the same kind of open-wheel racers who went to Indianapolis. Then, Unser explains, the era of rally cars in hill climbing led to Audi’s entry with their all-wheel-drive Quattros, and in 1985 Michele Mouton brought the company his first of what would be three wins in total, then world records. That was enough to bring him back to the event in one of their upgraded Quattro SLs, and the rest is history.
The last third of the video, marked by a dramatic synth, follows Unser’s actual run up the mountain. The Quattro is of course lightning fast on the then unpaved trail, but what’s even more surprising are the cuts in Unser’s on-board camera. It’s perfectly composed on the mountain, a route he has known for decades already, and no part of the mighty Quattro or the awe-inspiring cliffs below seems anything less than business as usual to the experienced climber.
Unser’s last time, 11: 09.220, was a new record. He also scored his tenth overall victory in the event, breaking a tie with his uncle Louis Unser for most of all time. The record would fall again in a year, then taken over by another Audi built specifically for Pikes Peak and driven by fellow legend Walter Rorhl. Unser’s son Robby would win a total of four times, including four of the next six.
Unser died yesterday at the age of 87. His larger-than-life career also included three Indianapolis 500 wins.
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