The Height of Racing
SEMA News - November 2009
By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Source Interlink Media Archives
At this year’s running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima was the fastest man up the 12.42-mile, 156-turn course. Driving an 880hp, four-wheel-drive Suzuki SX4 clad in carbon and Kevlar composites, Monster missed his goal of breaking the 10-minute barrier; but with a run of 10 minutes, 15.368 seconds, he was still nearly a full minute faster than the next closest competitor.
Fifty years ago, it was a young Bobby Unser who set the pace on the Peak with a 13-minute, 36.5-second run that beat his own previous record. According to Hot Rod magazine’s Ray Brock, both Bobby and younger brother Al were set to race up the Peak in July 1959, but when USAC discovered that Al was still a few months shy of his 21st birthday, they wouldn’t let him run. Bobby surprised everyone by giving up his Jaguar-powered roadster to drive Al’s Pontiac-powered car. His reasoning, said Brock: Although the Jag handled better through the switchbacks, the Pontiac was more powerful and had the acceleration he needed to stay ahead of the other roadsters in his class. Unser acted as his own mechanic at the race and is seen here checking the throttle linkage on the 360-inch Pontiac mill. And, of course, Brock had an extra Hot Rod T-shirt to put on Bobby for the photo.