Behind the wheel of a 750 horsepower Ecopower Saab 9-3 Viggen, Per Eklund, the 1999 European Rallycross Champion, realized his dream of competing at Pikes Peak. In an impressive rookie performance, he captured first place in the Open Class, set a new record for this top division and finished with the second fastest overall time of the day 21.58.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado - For Swedish rally driver Per Eklund, dreams really do come true. In his first time racing the fabled Adephelia Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Eklund won the Open Class and finished with the second fastest overall time of the day.
"This has been my dream. I started rally racing 36 years ago, and this is my most exciting victory," said Eklund. That's quite a statement considering his history of European rally wins and the fact that he is the reigning European Rallycross Champion.
"This 9-3 Viggen was perfect today," he added. "Even at this elevation, the high-output turbo engine was very powerful. A careful right foot sure helped me today."
The Saab Ecopower 2.0-liter engine helped Eklund set the Open Class record. It had been broken earlier in the day by Paul Choiniere. He finished an 11:26.05 run in his Hyundai Tiburon a few minutes before Eklund came across the finish line in 11:21.58.
Pikes Peak veteran, Larry Ragland, driver of the Vortec-powered GMC Envoy with an inline 6-cylinder engine, captured first-place overall with a time of 11:17.66.
The route to the top of Pikes Peak is not a challenge for the faint-of-heart. It's a 12-mile course of both pavement and gravel that starts at an elevation of 9,402 feet and ends at 14,110 feet. Known as "The Race to the Clouds," this event is the second oldest automobile race in the U.S. (after the Indianapolis 500) and features 156 turns with no guardrails.
Technical specifications of Per Eklund's Pikes Peak Ecopower Saab 9-3 Viggen
Engine -Original Saab engine block and cylinder head. Engine tuned by Trollspeed of Trollhattan. Longitudinally mounted, four-cylinder, -16-valve with twin overhead camshafts -Garrett turbocharger with intercooler (3.0 bar or 42.8 psi) -Displacement: 2.0 liters -Bore/stroke: 92/77 mm -Compression ratio: 9.0:1 HP Rating 750 HP at 8,000 rpm Peak torque 518 Ib.-ft. at 6,500 rpm Transmission Four-wheel drive with programmable active differentials and six-speed Prodrive gearbox Weight 2,090 Ibs. O - 60 mph 2.3 seconds Top speed 155 mph