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Peter Cunningham, Clint Vahsholtz set records at Pikes Peak Hill Climb

June 25, 2017 Updated: June 25, 2017 at 8:22 pm
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Peter Cunningham crosses the finish line as Dewey Benson waves the flag at the top of Pikes Peak in the Pikes Peak Open division. It was practice/qualifying day at the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Time Attack 1, Time Attack 2, Pikes Peak Open and Exhibition cars were racing up the upper section to the top of Pikes Peak. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Peter Cunningham had a hunch he could win the Pikes Peak Open division.

But with this being his rookie year in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the Milwaukee native knew there were a lot of things that had to go right for him to achieve his goal.

It started with his car, a 2018 Acura TLX GT. After confirming that he was going to participate in the 95th edition of the "Race to the Clouds", Cunningham says this team had to put the car together more quickly than it would have liked. But the Acura held strong, and Cunningham finished in 9 minutes, 33.797 seconds - an Open division record - and placed second overall.

"For it to come together and just perform so flawlessly, we couldn't be happier," Cunningham said. "We had a decent run. We left a little bit on the table in a couple spots airing on the side of conservatism, but we made it in a pretty quick time. ... There haven't been that many sub-9:33 laps ever, so it's elite company, and this car is just really well suited to it."

Cunningham's time was barely good enough to best Clint Vahsholtz in the Open Wheel division. Vahsholtz, a veteran of the Hill Climb, finished in 9:35.747, a new Open Wheel division record.

Vahsholtz, a resident of Woodland Park, also recognized that a lot had to come together to be successful.

"Altitude, obviously, is a huge deal," Vasholtz said. "I am always exposed to 8,600 feet, and I snowmobile, so I'm exposed to that, too. So that's very helpful, I think. And then, I live in my house during 'Peak Week.' These guys live in motels and things like that. They don't have the best places to work on their stuff, so I feel that that's an advantage, and it's more comforting. It's like anything. If you're away from home, it's alright for a day or two, but if you're away from home for almost a month, it's a big deal."

Layne Schranz and Christopher Lennon finished second and third, respectively, in the Open division, while Dan Novembre and Trevor Stewart earned those spots in the Open Wheel division.

"I definitely feel a sense of relief," Cunningham said. "I feel like I could have gone a little bit faster, but, you know, that's why we have to come back."

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