Shift Up Now Athlete Loni Unser placed second in the Porsche Pikes Peak Trophy by Yokohama class this past weekend during the 100th running of the famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb event on Sunday, June 26th in Colorado Springs, CO.
The event marked Unser’s first time taking on the mountain at speed in a race car. She completed mandatory rookie testing on June 10-12, 2022, which was spent working on progression with each run. Under supervision of her coach, eight-time class winner Jeff Zwart, she learned both her Cayman Clubsport GT4 and each section of the famous mountain.
Qualifying took place on the lowest section of the mountain on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 after a one-week break following testing. Unser’s group was first on track. Despite little time to reacquaint herself after the break, she qualified third in class for Sunday’s race.
Practice continued on Wednesday and Thursday, and Unser continued working through the middle and upper sections of the mountain. She ran second-fastest times in class in both sections, but a mistake under breaking in the treacherous top section caused a significant slide.
While unhurt, the damage to Unser’s Cayman GT4 Clubsport put her chances of being able to start Sunday’s race in jeopardy. A heroic effort from Porsche Colorado Springs, Porsche North America and Euro Collision Repair enabled what Unser described as “a miracle.” On Saturday afternoon, it was confirmed the car would be ready for Unser to take the green flag the following morning.
Race day greeted the Pikes Peak competitors with rain, mist and thick fog. While these conditions are notorious at the famous mountain, they differed greatly to bright blue skies, clear visibility and dry pavement that Unser and the other competitors had practiced on. The lower section of the mountain was wet and misty, then thick fog provided less than five feet of visibility in the upper section.
Nevertheless, Unser persisted with two goals: Complete the race and finish as high as possible without taking risks in the newly-repaired car. She did both in impressive fashion, earning second place in her class for her rookie debut.
“Running Pikes Peak this year was the coolest experience of my life,” said Unser. “These past few weeks have had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and I’m so thankful to all of the people who rallied behind me to help me get back on the mountain for race day.
“I want to thank the entire team at Porsche Colorado, and the Euro Collision Repair center for their tireless work to allow me to take the green after it looked like my debut was in doubt. Thank you to Jeff Zwart for all the advice and help, and of course Yokohama, Mobil 1, Pep Boys, Hagerty, Shift Up Now and Ricotech for making my first attempt on the mountain possible.
“The Unser’s have a rich history on this mountain, that I’m proud to be part of. Next year I want to come back, and I want to try to win.”
Unser returns to her full-season racing schedule on July 9-10, 2022 at Road Atlanta, driving the Team Cooper Tire Porsche Cayman for Round 3 Racing in the World Racing League, where the team will be hoping to win their second race of the season in the GP1 class.