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New Pikes Peak Hill Climb frontiers, no problems for 'Monster' Tajima, Greg Tracy

June 27, 2013 Updated: June 27, 2013 at 7:05 pm

One is still getting used to his redesigned car. Another continues to adjust to four wheels instead of two.

For Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima and Greg Tracy, two legends of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with 14 individual titles between them, both turned in top times Thursday in the electric division during qualifying on the 5.16-mile bottom section.

Tajima, the eight-time champion in the Unlimited division who first cracked the 10-minute barrier in 2011, switched to the electric division last year. His E-Runner prototype, however, caught fire early in last year's race, forcing the Japanese racing star out of the competition.

He turned in a time of 3 minutes, 58.189 seconds Thursday, ranking third among seven drivers in the division. That said, Tajima admitted he's still not completely comfortable in his redone car yet.

Instead of taking three rounds in practice, Tajima elected to skip the first trip up a portion of Pikes Peak.

"I went only two rounds because of my battery," Tajima said. "I'm not sure it had enough today. I need more practice with the car. Hopefully, by the end of the week, everything will be good."

Earlier, Tracy turned in the fastest run of the day in any division at 3:56.287 as he continues to make the transition from an illustrious motorcycle career to a vehicle with four wheels and a roll bar for the first time.

Last year, Tracy finished second in the 1205cc division, finishing in 9:58.262, a close second to champion Carlin Dunne (9:52.819).

"I wanted to go faster, and I think this is the best way to go faster, hopping in a car," said Tracy of Long Beach, Calif. "I ultimately decided not to race bikes anymore, and this opportunity (with Mitsubishi) came along, and I couldn't be happier."

One day after qualifying commenced in the Unlimited and Time Attack divisions, Thursday's runs comprised - in addition to electric - entries in Open Wheel, Exhibition, Open and Vintage.

Motorcycles get into the action early Friday in the final day of qualifying before Sunday's 91st running of the race to the clouds.

As a former motorcyclist, Tracy always was among the first competitors to head up the mountain on race day. On Sunday, he'll have to wait a little longer but hardly seemed concerned.

"I'm super excited to be doing this," Tracy said. "This race requires 100 percent focus, no matter what. But I've definitely learned some new bumps around here, ones I didn't know were there."

Two area natives represent schools that no longer exist

What are the odds of finding two Colorado Springs natives who graduated from now-defunct high schools among the competitors at this year's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb?

Layne Schranz and Dan Rose don't live here anymore but are forever linked by a dubious distinction.

Schranz, racing in the Pikes Peak Open division after winning the Stock Car division title in 2012 (unavailable this year), lists Birmingham, Ala., as his hometown. However, he grew up in Colorado Springs and, in 1990, graduated from Hilltop Baptist School, which closed in 2011.

Rose, in the Vintage division for his second Hill Climb, lives in Westminster but graduated in 1982 from Wasson, which closed last month.

MacPherson resumes career after quarter-century layoff

When Jeff MacPherson took the wheel at the Indianapolis 500 in 1987, he had enjoyed a 15-year career in motor sports. But with his wife pregnant with their first child, the Bozeman, Mont., native put his racing on the back burner to raise his family.

"My kids are a major joy to us," said MacPherson, whose son and daughter graduated from college last month. "I don't like to tell my wife how much I like doing this, but I think she could tell. I had to convince her to go, just one time per year, that I wanted to go back and taste it again."

Last year, MacPherson, 57, returned to racing after a 25-year hiatus, competing in the Hill Climb for the first time.

He's back this year, driving a 2014 Porsche 914-8 as an entry in the Pikes Peak Open division.

"This year, I'm much more confident about some of the corners," MacPherson said. "Still, some catch me off guard. I was told that it's going to take five years to really learn the corners in this race."

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