Hayes Makes History as Fastest Woman Ever on Pikes Peak

June 25, 2024

Shift Up Now Athletes Laura Hayes and Loni Unser took on the 102nd running of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) presented by Gran Turismo on America’s Mountain in Colorado on June 23, 2024. Not only did Hayes set a new record for being the fastest female athlete ever up the mountain, she won the inaugural Pikes Peak GT4 Trophy by Yokohama Tire and finished in the top 15 overall.

Also known as The Race to the Clouds, the PPIHC is an invitational automobile hill climb to the summit of a 12.42-mile, 156-turn course, culminating with a finish line at 14,115 feet of elevation. The climb takes place on public roads, which are shut down for the event, and drivers race the clock for the fastest time to the top. The competition features a number of classes, including production-based Time Attack cars, purpose-built Unlimited vehicles, and - for the first time this year - homologated GT4 cars.

Unser’s Porsche 911 entry had been specially adapted for the mountain, including massive additional downforce and more than 900 horsepower. Nicknamed “Lucy” and prepared by BBI Autosport, Unser’s Mobil1 Porsche, running on Yokohama slick tires, is the fastest car she’s ever competed in at PPIHC.

Competing for Thunder Bunny Racing, Hayes drove the only Toyota Supra in the new “Pikes Peak GT4 Trophy by Yokohama” class. All entries in this class compete on Yokohama-treaded, street-legal tires for this event, and run as homologated with the Balance of Performance (BoP) set by the SRO/GT4 America sanctioning body.

Both Unser and Hayes are Shift Up Now Foundation Grantees, sponsored by Mobil1 and running on Yokohama tires.

The PPIHC event began with tech day on the Monday prior to the race, when all teams and drivers were required to report for checks. The first practice took place at sunrise on Tuesday, followed by three additional practice days on Wednesday through Friday.

The entire field was split into three groups, and the mountain was divided into three sections. Hayes and the GT4 cars started on the top section, at high altitude, with a lot of bumps, and significant drop-offs on the sides of the road. During her eight runs, Hayes set a best time of 2:51, putting her second in class.

Unser and the Pikes Peak Open class started on the lower section of the mountain. Since qualifying is held in the lower section, and sets the run order for the start of the race, Unser’s first day on the course was also her qualifying attempt. After morning runs were complete, she qualified third in class.

On Wednesday, Hayes’ class took on qualifying in the lower section with light rain hindering the initial runs. But as competitors got familiar with the tricky terrain, lap times continued to fall. The top three in the GT4 class were separated by less than a second, with Hayes less than one- tenth of second behind P1 in qualifying.

Further up the mountain, weather delayed the Pikes Peak Open group in the middle section, and heavy fog combined with ice accumulation cancelled all running in the upper section.

On Thursday, Unser was ready to tackle the upper section despite wet weather that persisted. She ran on wet Yokohama tires for most runs, until the road began to dry later, and she finally got a few representative runs for race day.

Thursday also brought the announcement of the “Fast 15,” the 15 overall fastest drivers and cars in qualifying across all classes. Both Shift Up Now drivers continued to impress, with Unser being 10th-fastest overall, and Hayes 15th. This earned them potentially-advantageous early runs on race day, plus an exclusive invite to Fan Fest.

Race day dawned clear and bright on Sunday with the first car heading up the mountain at 7:30am. Hayes was lined up fifth and the first GT4 car to run that day. For the first time in her three years at PPIHC, the weather was finally cooperating. She set out in her Mobil1 Toyota Supra GT4 on Yokohama tires and lowered her personal-best time by almost a minute to set the new fastest time in history - by 30 seconds - for a female racer on the mountain.

When it was time for Unser to make her run, she set blistering times in the first two sections. However, a mechanical issue in the Ws section brought out the red flag and meant that “Lucy” had to be retrieved on the flatbed, bringing Unser’s day to an end early.

Once all entries had completed their runs, Hayes was confirmed as the winner of the inaugural Pikes Peak GT4 Trophy by Yokohama tire. She finished in the top 15 overall and confirmed as the fastest female up the mountain in history.

“I can’t believe it,” said Hayes. “I’m the fastest woman up the Mountain in Pikes Peak Hill Climb history! I hope today brings so much inspiration to every girl out there to chase her dreams, not just in racing. This is an honor, and I’m so proud of our entire team.

“This wasn’t just me. It was the collective effort of everyone at Thunder Bunny Racing, Mobil1, Yokohama, Shift Up Now, Toyota of Colorado Springs and so many more. I am supported by a team, sponsors and family who trusted me, and gave me this opportunity to make history today.

“I hope this record is broken every year, as more and more women with greater talent make their names known to the world, and get these opportunities. We’re just getting started, and I’m so excited to see it happen.”

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