PIKES PEAK: First Practice on the Victory Empulse RR

High-altitude, holding the horn button, and a 3:15 a.m. start

Victory Empulse RR on-road practice action
Early morning practice session.Jeff Allen

Today was the start of official practice for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Motorcycles ran the top third of the mountain from Devil's Playground to the summit while car categories occupied the lower two sections. The Victory Racing team headed for the hill at 3:15 am and had the Empulse RR electric racer and Project 156 V-twin prepped and wearing tire warmers under a full moon on the mountain an hour later.

full moon in the night sky
Full moon over Pikes Peak.Jeff Allen
Project 156 on-road practice action
Project 156 practice session.Jeff Allen

Following a riders' briefing, all riders made the mandatory sighting run to check road conditions as the first rays of light peeked over the horizon. Today's early morning temperature was as good as I've ever experienced at this event—chilly, but not uncomfortably cold. The road was also in better shape than when we tested here 10 days ago. Over the past week pavement repairs had been made to some of the nastier bumps riddling the final two miles of the climb. Thank you PPIHC organizers!

Don Canet Pikes Peak practice action
The Empulse RR's warning siren malfunctioned, threatening to end the practice session early.Jeff Allen

All was not perfect with my bike, however, as the warning siren (a rules requirement for electric-powered racers) crapped out on my first run of the day. Course workers get pretty rattled over fast-approaching vehicles they can't hear coming, and as a result several complaints were voiced over the radio. On my next pass up the section I held the bike's horn button depressed the whole time. While this desperate measure produced an onset of left arm pump, corner marshals reported the bike still being too stealthy.

Victory Empulse RR practice action
After only completing two runs, the course was red-flagged.Jeff Allen

Just when I was thinking our day might be done because of the siren issue after only two heated runs, the course was red-flagged due to a sidecar dumping oil along a critical stretch of the road. The impending cleanup marked the end of the day for all motorcycle competitors since practice only runs until 8:30 am so that the mountain can be reopened to normal traffic during the rest of the day.

The Victory Empulse RR and I clocked the second-quickest time of the morning behind the Kawasaki Z1000 of Frenchman Bruno Langlois. Tomorrow we practice the middle section which includes the harrowing switchbacks above Glen Cove. Here's to hoping the snow-melt water crossing in the left hairpin below Devil's has evaporated come race day!

PPIHC practice time sheet for June 21
Practice times for June 21st.Courtesy of PPIHC
Victory Empulse RR PPIHC practice action
The Empulse RR clocked the second quickest time of the practice session.Jeff Allen
Project 156 PPIHC practice action
Project 156 finished in the top five for today's practice session.Jeff Allen
sidecar riding up Pikes Peak
Sidecar in full flight during practice session.Jeff Allen
sidecar taking a turn up Pikes Peak
Another sidecar taking one of many turns up Pikes PeakJeff Allen