For over a year, a large group of hard working dedicated staff of Audi aficionados were put to task planning the Frank Beddor National get-together in conjunction with the 90th running of the 2012 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. During this planning there was a repeated phrase from ACNA attendees and Pikes Peak racers alike: Pikes Peak or Bust! This term was greatly used back in Colorado’s gold rush days but is now a motivational rallying cry for attendees of the hillclimb. None of us could have predicted how important this term would be to the people of Colorado Springs.
The original July 5-8 date was put into jeopardy due to a fast growing wildfire that started June 23rd. The fire consumed over 18,000 acres and took approximately 346 homes in the Colorado Springs area. The organizers of this year’s ACNA national event and PPIHC made a decision to postpone our joint event until August 9-12. With the new date, scheduling conflicts arose for some ACNA members and racers alike. Others rose to the “Pikes Peak or Bust” call in an effort to support those in the Colorado Springs Community—not just for the tourism aspect, but to show the thousands of fire, police, EMS and countless volunteers—that we appreciated their selfless commitment to save lives and property and give back to the community that supported them.
This would be a first in many ways for myself. First time ACNA member convention, first Pikes Peak race and first time to Colorado Springs. We planned to go early to give ourselves time to explore the area and see the many wonderful sights the springs area had to offer.
Thursday was our first day of event participation with a special request by Jason Campbell, Curator of the El Pomar Foundations Carriage Museum located on the sprawling Broadmoor Estate. Jason asked if we could display our Audi Group B urq along with the official Audi S5 Pikes Peak pace car from Phil Long Audi. Leaving the hotel we encountered police, SWAT and secret service blocking roads and highways in preparation of President Obama’s visit to the area and almost missed our scheduled time.
The international media day was sponsored by PPIHC to allow journalists to interview some of the top drivers for this year’s race. What a great group of friendly and outgoing racers! Some are big fans of the Audi brand and requested that they do their interviews with our Audis in the background.
ACNA registration at Cheyenne Mountain Resort was next. We were promptly greeted by friendly event staff who gave us a rundown of the week’s events.
On Friday we took the morning tour of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The zoo was unique in that it was built into the mountain. For a smaller zoo, it had an exceptional variety of animals with a superb view of the surroundings.
Friday evening gave us a chance to meet quite a few ACNA members from all over the U.S. Blondie’s was the place to be as ACNA had taken over that location for a few hours. The action was everywhere and included motorcycle jumping, sky divers and lots of rare cool cars including Walter Röhrl’s S1 that Audi AG and Audi Tradition worked hard to bring over. It was the talk of Fan Fest.
On Saturday morning everyone was excited to join the long line of Audis on the drive to the summit of Pikes Peak. The RS5, Phil Long S5 Pace Car and our urq led the charge up the hill. It was quite an honor and a recognized once in a lifetime opportunity for most of us to be part of this day. After reaching the summit, everyone took photos of cars, people and a group shot before hitting the gift shop to purchase something to remember our unique trip. We soon headed down and had a very unique thing happen. All week and even before the event there was a common theme and renderings of Audi and Ducatis recent joint venture showed the Audi and Ducati meeting on the hill. With no prior planning we met the Ducati group about halfway down the hill…a true sign of things to come.
Members then met for lunch at Briarhurst Manor in Manitou Springs—tasty food, drink and a fun place to meet new friends. After lunch some of us traveled back to the resort where Phil Long Audi provided a free mobile car wash to those in the show-and-shine car show on the resort grounds. There were some amazing cars and displays; congratulations to the winners!
Saturday evening was going to prove to be the highlight of the event at least for or many. With the rescheduled date, it meant that Walter Röhrl would not be in attendance, so the ACNA staff worked very hard to find another speaker for the banquet. What better suited driver for our eclectic group than a 13 times Pikes Peak winner Bobby Unser!
Mr. Unser spoke at the packed venue of the Unser family racing heritage and a very funny account of how he got involved with Audi. As the story goes, Joe Hoppen of Audi asked Bobby Unser to come to Talladega and talk to him about a secret project he needed help with. They met at a local bar and Bobby asked Joe how he could help. It seems the Audi 200 they were testing at the time failed to break the 200 mph mark. Neil Bonnet had been hired to be the driver and could only get the car up to 183 mph before the car would vibrate so much the driver could no longer see.
With Unser’s Indy experience, could he help them with their problem? After sorting suspension issues with the engineers and mechanics, Bobby did a new setup on the car, went out on the track at 10:30 am and drove the car to a record setting speed of 206 mph. After doing further testing with Michelin tires, Bobby flew back home and realized he worked himself out of a job. he got to thinking about running Pikes Peak again, but it had been 12 years since he was racing. He called Joe Hoppen and said I need to run an Audi for Pikes Peak. Joe promptly told him that the big boss of Audi had his own driver (Walter Röhrl) that was going to compete. Bobby asked Joe to build two cars and make them the same; he would drive one and Röhrl could drive the other. Joe hung up the phone and called Germany in which they replied, no, again. Bobby was not about to give up…
Bobby: Joe, do you remember when we did that thing in Talladega…we kinda did that in one day…did we not?
Bobby: We also set something like 14 world records right?
Bobby: Well, we were in such a hurry and forgot to do a contract right?
Bobby: And we really didn’t have a verbal agreement either right?
Bobby: Well it’s pretty obvious I’m gonna run Pikes Peak then, isn’t it?
Joe: When can you leave for Germany?
Bobby ended the evening with a Q&A from the ACNA members before signing autographs and participating in a live auction, including some rare signed Bobby Unser memorabilia and items donated by Phil Long Audi.
During the evening we also heard from Doug Clark, Director of Audi Customer Experience, and Kevin Thiel from Audi Tradition Audi AG.
In all, it was a remarkable event sharing stories, drives and memorable experiences with new friends. Special appreciation goes to the many volunteers and ACNA members and staff that made this event happen including ACNA, RMC, Audi, Audi AG/Audi Tradition, Phil Long Audi and the Cimino family and mostly the members that made the “Pikes Peak or Bust” trek to Colorado!