On July 4, Swedish veteran champion race car driver Per Eklund will pilot a modified Saab 9-3 Viggen in the unlimited class of the 78'h running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb—the second oldest automobile race in the U.S.A. With a 750-HP Saab Ecopower 2.0-liter engine, this Viggen is the most powerful Saab automobile ever.
NORCROSS, Ga. - The route to the top of Pikes Peak is not a challenge for the faint-of- heart. It's a 1 2-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. For the event, Saab and 1999 European Rallyaoss Champion, Per Eklund, have teamed with Trollspeed of Trollhattan to create the most powerful Saab ever—an all- wheel drive 9-3 Viggen with a Saab Ecopower 2.0-liter engine that delivers 750 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 518 Ib.-ft. of torque at 6,500 rpm.
With this amount of power, all-wheel drive and a 6-speed sequential shift transmission, the 9-3 Viggen's acceleration is in the Formula One class: 0-60 mph in 2.3 seconds. The car is geared for a top speed of 155 mph.
The vehicle is constructed on a very strong tubular frame that gives both high torsional stiffness and good protection. The protection can be useful if anything goes wrong—the race up Pikes Peak is quite fast (the average speed of last year's winner was nearly 75 mph) and the course is entirely lacking in safety railings. "If you happen to get one skid too many," notes Eklund, "you're not in the way to obstruct the guys coming up behind you."
Eklund labors under a handicap compared to the local and veteran drivers: he's only recently seen the hill for the first time. However, he was able to make a few practice runs
in early June and is excited about his chances. "I'm really looking forward to competing in this race," said Eklund. "Although it's in the middle of the European Rallycross series, it's a great opportunity to test my skills and this car against some of the best in the world. I expect top results."
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.
For more information see www.ppihc.com or http://www.eds.eklund.com
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, 1 6-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
Per Eklund Bio
Per Eklund competed in his first rally race in 1964 in his father's driving school car, three weeks after receiving his driver's license. Before that, he rode as a co-driver/navigator for his father, Torsten, and his brother, Lars. He began competing in a Saab two-stroke in 1966 and started driving a factory-sponsored Saab in 1970.
Throughout the 1 970s, Eklund was one of Saab's most successful factory drivers and won the 1976 Swedish Rally in a Saab 96. Eklund has exceptional breadth as a driver and has won Swedish championships in rallying, hill climbing and rallycross. He has started more than 100 World Championship events.
When Saab stopped its participation in the World Championships in rally in 1979, Eklund was immediately offered a place on many of Europe's rally teams. His first assignment was to develop and compete in a Fiat Ritmo for the Italian car producer. Eklund had similar assignments with Volkswagen, which launched Golf GTI at that time, Triumph, Datsun/Nissan and Toyota.
Eklund is still extremely successfully, having won the Swedish Rallycross Championship in 1997 in a Saab 900 and the European Rallycross Championship in 1999 in a Saab 9-3.