Published: June 28, 2013
Jeff Zwart's two worlds collide in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
For most of the year, Zwart directs action commercials for soft drink, video game and car companies.
He also enjoys auto racing, particularly rally car-style racing and has even ridden in a professional rally car championship.
When he takes to the 156-turn course on one of America's tallest mountains, his speed-demon antics around harrowing turns could very well appear to be a scene from his latest commercial.
But his performance isn't a part of a contrived idea to sell a car, it's just Zwart doing what he loves.
"One of the great boxes to check off as a rally driver was to race up Pikes Peak and this was in the days when it was all dirt," Zwart said. "It's just a rally driver's dream road with every type of corner you can imagine in it and so for me, running in the rally championship, you just wanted to go to Pikes Peak some day."
Zwart has been involved in 14 Hill Climbs and has captured seven championships across three classes. The Californian began his racing and directing careers simultaneously, and his racing has helped him with the commercials.
"My racing gives me a unique perspective for my commercials because I've raced and raced at a place like Pikes Peak, you really get to understand performance and driving and action in a different way than somebody who doesn't race," Zwart said.
His most recent win at Pikes Peak came in 2010 in the Time Attack class when he drove a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
In 2011, Zwart tried a different approach to the famous race and entered with a street-legal Porsche 911 GT2 RS Turbo. He didn't have the car custom made - instead he drove it off the dealer's lot. He then continued to drive the car from his home in Corona del Mar, Calif., to Colorado Springs for the race, but didn't end up going home with a title.
After missing last year's race to direct a Cadillac commercial out of the country, Zwart is back on the mountain and eager to race on the fully paved course. His car this year combines the race car that earned him the title in 2010 and the sleek, speedy street car that gave him a good dose of turbo power.
"This year's car is a full racing car that was built and modified especially for Pikes Peak," Zwart said. "It is not road registered or street legal."
In Tuesday morning's qualifying practice on the bottom third of the course, Zwart earned the right to go third in the Time Attack class on Sunday.
On Monday, Zwart's 15th Hill Climb will be over - something that brings relief and anticipation.
"It's one of those races that as soon as you're over with it, you're happy it's over but the next morning, you're dreaming of the next year," Zwart said. "And we all probably have different favorite corners and corner sequences on the mountain, but you're going to think about for the rest of the year how you're going to drive the different corners."