June 28, 2013 Updated: June 28, 2013 at 10:50 pm
Carlin Dunne had his doubts about switching from a traditional, gas-powered motorcycle to one powered by electricity. His performance Friday during qualifying for the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb made the Santa Barbara, Calif., rider much more resolute in his decision.
"I think this is the first time that an electric bike has beaten gas bikes in a large competition like this," said Dunne, who completed the 5.16-mile qualifying run on the bottom section of Pikes Peak in 4 minutes, 13.532 seconds, nearly seven seconds faster than the competition. "It's a big step for electric technology. This bike is a real player."
Last August, Dunne rode his gas-powered Ducati to the Pikes Peak 1,205 division title in record time (9:52.819) to win his second straight title. Soon after retuning home, however, part of his world came crashing down when a revered bike track was shut down by the city after nearby homeowners complained about the noise.
"That made it personal," Dunne said. "It makes you think this is the way things are going, and I want to preserve what I like to do. I grew up with gas and gears, and I still love it. This is the reason I took this project on. If it means running electric and being quieter and greener, let's see what we can do."
Down the road, Dave Stock prepared to load his vintage 1971 Yamaha 750 after recording the top time in his division. At 5:18.930, his time was more than one minute off Dunne's pace, but the Pueblo car dealer offered a one-word response to considering a switch to electric if it meant going faster.
"No," said Stock, who will race in his fourth Hill Climb on Sunday, his first in Vintage division after the previous three among the Pikes Peak 450 category. "Nothing against electric, but it's not me. Unfortunately, I think someday, these bikes will be sitting around in museums. As long as I'm alive, I'm going to have them and preserve them and keep them nice. That's the plan."
Dunne, aboard his Lightning Electric SuperBike representing the Exhibition Powersports division, improved on his time through qualifying, achieving his best on his fourth and final attempt. Micky Dymond, racing in the Pikes Peak 1,205 division and former Hill Climb champ in the Pikes Peak 750 class, used a similar method, clocking a 4:18.201 on his Ducati MTS in the latter rounds of qualifying.
That legendary manufacturer also struck a chord with Dunne, who won the past two Hill Climbs aboard the Italian-made motorcycle.
But it was time for a new challenge.
"I love Ducati, but I felt coming into this year, it would be like playing the same tune," Dunne said. "I could have raced it again, but I'd be risking my tail for a second, or maybe I'd go slower. This was a blind leap of faith, but you have to find it within yourself to take it on. It's still a work in progress, and today was another step. It's only qualifying, so I'm not totally satisfied. Talk to me on Sunday."