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Hill Climb survived turmoil, lean years to enjoy unprecedented prosperity

June 29, 2013 Updated: June 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm
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Despite some rocky patches and tough times, Randy Schranz never completely believed rumors about the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb's demise and departure from the landmark simply known as America's Mountain.

A qualifier in all but two years since 1972, the Colorado Springs resident has certainly seen the race's roller-coaster journey, and most recently its rise to international prominence and financial prosperity in the past several years.

"Yeah, there were some lean years, that's for sure," Schranz said. "I don't know why I was never concerned about it. Maybe I should have been. I was just telling myself it would continue. There's too much history. I just couldn't imagine something drastic would happen."

On Sunday, more than 300 credentialed media from 20 countries will cover the 91st race from Pikes Peak as an elite group of contestants - 83 motorcyclists and 63 at the wheel of an automobile - make their way to the top of the 14,115-foot summit, just as Spencer Penrose first did way back in 1916.

Just a handful of years ago and with the event barely making ends meet, the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. took over managing the event. With assistance from the Hill Climb board, the Sports Corp. first stabilized, then elevated the second-oldest motor sports race in America.

"We probably have 100 to 150 years of event-planning experience on our staff, and we just added a little horsepower to it," said Tom Osborne, Sports Corp. president and chief executive officer. "But my hat goes off to those individuals who kept the race going in tough times. They held it together."

According to Osborne, the event was in such financial turmoil that each year's race could only be paid with revenue from entry fees the following year.

"It was just painful," Osborne said. "What we did was cut expenses and raised more money, and we kept that motto going. Now, we have new sponsors, El Pomar with a new museum, and we just have tremendous energy going now. The race is real healthy and its future is bright. We can pay this year's bill with money we already have in the bank."

That's music to the ears of Schranz, 65, and racers worldwide who push their vehicles and themselves to mechanical and physical limits during a 12.42-mile, 156-turn journey.

"It's definitely improved in past years," said Schranz who is racing in the Pikes Peak Open division Sunday with his son Layne. "After I started, there was a lot of class changing. Guys got all geared up to do a particular class, only to find out the race wasn't going to have that class that year."

PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL HILL CLIMB

Time: 8 a.m. (10 motorcycle, 7 automobile divisions)

Radio: 7 a.m. 1240 AM, 105.5 FM

Internet: ppihc.com, "Follow Live" for results and "Watch on Red Bull TV" for live streaming.

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