Discussions are underway about discontinuing the annual motorcycle race portion of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb after Carlin Dunne’s fatal crash last month, the third death of a Hill Climb motorcycle racer since 2014.
“He high sided … but it just happened to be on Pikes Peak with no room for error,” race Executive Director Megan Leatham said in an email to city and U.S. Forest Service officials the day after the crash, according to documents obtained by The Gazette through public information requests. “Also...between us… I think the end of the motorcycle program on Pikes Peak…. The last rider on the 156 turn…”
Jack Glavan, manager of Pikes Peak America’s Mountain, a city enterprise that operates and maintains the mountain highway and the Summit House, confirmed that conversations already are happening about whether the motorcycle portion of the internationally famed race will continue.
“I think it’s going to be a big discussion with the Hill Climb board before any kind of decision is made,” Glavan said.
Under the pact between the Hill Climb and Colorado Springs, the buck stops at Glavan, who can decide to discontinue the race if he believes it is unsafe.
Leatham declined to say whether Dunne’s death factored into her prediction that the motorcycle races might end.
“We take a hard look and review what worked, what didn’t work,” she said. “There’s a lot to review at the end of every race. We’ll take our time doing it, and we’ll look at everything.”
Once the Hill Climb board of directors makes a decision, it will bring its recommendation to city and Forest Service officials, Glavan said.
“It was a racing accident and nothing more,” Leatham wrote the afternoon of July 1, just a little over 24 hours after the crash.
The next day, Hill Climb officials said the race director and safety team completed an investigation, finding no signs of mechanical failure.
“After reviewing footage from the incident, it appears that the rider highsided coming into the last turn before the Finish Line,” Hill Climb officials said in a news release.
Leatham declined to discuss the quickly completed investigation, saying the process is not public. She also declined to discuss how Dunne’s motorcycle highsided and whether road conditions caused or exacerbated the crash.
Highsiding happens when the back tire of a motorcycle loses control and regains it violently, often throwing a rider from the machine.
From the start, race officials were tight-lipped about the crash. At the scene atop Pikes Peak, officials ordered journalists to stop taking photos and notes.
In another email, Leatham said race officials were deferring inquiries from media. She also wrote of grabbing GoPro cameras that captured footage at the end of the race.
“I don’t think there is any other footage out there which is good,” she wrote.
But more information about the crash may be coming. Dunne’s autopsy isn’t expected to be completed for several weeks, said Sandy Way, a spokeswoman for the El Paso County Coroner’s Office.
Likewise, a Forest Service probe isn’t done, Glavan said. The Forest Service is heavily involved because part of the race is on its land.
For the race to continue, Glavan said, questions by him and Forest Service officials must be answered.
He said he has seen some preliminary information from the Hill Climb’s investigation but is seeking more details.
Among the outstanding questions are whether a bump in the road caused or worsened Dunne’s highside.
“We’re waiting on the Forest Service,” Glavan said. “I don’t consider it closed until we get this final determination from everybody. Maybe the Hill Climb figures they have enough, but there might be more that we ask for.”
He said he will discuss the merits of continuing the motorcycle race with his superiors, including Parks Director Karen Palus and Mayor John Suthers.
Each morning, safety crews employed by the Hill Climb examine the race course, Glavan said.
“They check to see: Is there ice on the road? Is there water on the road? And then if there was a bike or car that had trouble … they can closely monitor,” he said.
Weather on the mountaintop creates uncertain and inconsistent race conditions, with freeze-thaw cycles that can shift the highway itself, Glavan said.
He said he had not heard any concerns about the turn where Dunne crashed.
A GoFundMe account has raised more than $82,000 toward its goal of more than $100,000 for Dunne’s family. The money will be given to Dunne’s mother to help with expenses “and to honor his legacy with a celebration of Carlin’s life in Santa Barbara (Calif.) a month from now.”