Per Eklund's Saab 9-3 Viggen takes Unlimited Class Victory in the 80th Running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Swedish rallycross racer Per Eklund piloted the most powerful modified Saab ever -- an all-wheel-drive 750-hp Saab 9-3 Viggen -- to victory in the Unlimited Class. Eklund clocked the second-fastest overall time of the day in the 80th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Saturday, June 29th.
Colorado Springs, CO--Former European Rallycross champion Per Eklund traveled from Sweden to tackle the 12.4-mile pavement and gravel course up Pikes Peak to capture the checkered flag and the victory at 14,100 feet. He claimed his second class victory in three Pikes Peak visits with a personal best time of 11:13.24, bettering his 2000 Pikes Peak Open Class winning time by over 8 seconds. Eklund and his Saab's performance defeated the second place Unlimited Class entry and long-time Swedish rival Stig Blomqvist by over 34 seconds (11:47.45). This challenging course features 156 turns and no guardrails.
"The road surface was very slippery this year and at times it felt like I was driving on ice, but the Saab engine and rest of the drivetrain performed perfectly," said Eklund. - In fact, the engine coolant and turbo intercooler temperatures were so much lower than we expected that we could have probably run another .5 bar of boost pressure (over 7 psi) and run quicker with a lot more horsepower."Ê
The last four miles of the treacherous course were particularly attention-grabbing for Eklund as his car's brake fluid boiled and the pedal went to the floor. "I guess we paid so much attention to gaining improved downforce by adding the front wings to the car this year that we took away needed airflow to cool the front brakes. It's tough enough driving this mountain with brakes." Eklund said. "I'd rather not have to drive up here again without them, but everything worked out fantastic."
For this year's entry in the Unlimited Class, Eklund and his team fine-tuned the same race car that tackled the mountain the two previous races. It's the most powerful Saab ever -- an all-wheel-drive 9-3 Viggen with a Saab 2.0-liter engine that delivers 750 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 545 lb.-ft. of torque at 6,500 rpm. With this amount of power, all-wheel drive and a 6-speed transmission, the 9-3 Viggen's acceleration is in the Formula One class: 0-60 mph in 2.3 seconds. Running in the Unlimited Class this year, Eklund's team was able to add front and rear wings and other aerodynamic aids to better harness the Saab engine's prodigious power and transfer it to the tarmac and gravel road surface. The car is geared for a top speed of 155 mph. The vehicle is constructed on a sturdy tubular frame that gives both high torsional stiffness and good crash protection.
Eklund has been competing in rallies, rallycross and other races since the early 1960s, most often behind the wheel of a Saab. Throughout the 1970s, Eklund was one of Saab's most successful factory drivers, and won the 1976 Swedish Rally in a Saab 96. In an impressive rookie performance, he won the open class at Pikes Peak in 2000 with a class-record-setting time of 11:21.38, the second fastest overall time of the day.
History of the Race to the Clouds
The first automobile to make it to the top of Colorado's Pikes Peak was a Locomobile Steamer in 1901. It took nine hours to drive, and push, the vehicle to the top. The first race was held in 1916 and the fastest time was 18 minutes, 24 seconds. The current race record is 10 minutes, 4.06 seconds set in 1994 by Pikes Peak veteran racer Rod Millen.
Technical specifications of Per Eklund's Pikes Peak Saab 9-3 Viggen
Engine --Original Saab engine block and cylinder head. Engine tuned by Trollspeed of Trollhattan, Sweden. Longitudinally mounted, four-cylinder, 16-valve with twin overhead camshafts --Garrett turbocharger with intercooler (3.0 bar or 42.8 psi at sea level) --Displacement: 2.0 liters --Bore/stroke: 92/77 mm --Compression ratio: 9.0:1 HP Rating: 750 HP at 8,000 rpm Peak torque: 545 lb.-ft. at 6,500 rpm Transmission: Four-wheel drive with programmable active differentials and six-speed Prodrive gearbox Weight: 2,090 lbs. 0 - 60 mph: 2.3 seconds Top speed: 155 mph