This time of year, Pikes Peak Highway and Clint Vahsholtz go together like wine and cheese, fish and chips, peanut butter and jelly. One without the other just doesn’t seem right.
Vahsholtz, 47, is a lifetime Woodland Park resident. He graduated from the high school in 1989, married his high school sweetheart, and has a long-established automotive repair business in town.
By 1992, when he competed in his first Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Vahsholtz was already a longtime regular in America’s second-oldest motorsports race. He had a 15-year build-up to the race. He began accompanying his father, Leonard, in 1977 in his quest to become king of the mountain. Leonard claimed a then-record 19 class titles at the time of his retirement in 2008.
Clint Vahsholtz has 23 Hill Climb championships to his name.
He finished second in his first race in 1992 while riding a motorcycle. The following year, Vahsholtz returned and claimed his first of three titles on a bike, and went on to win all but three of the following 22 attempts in a car, leading up to this year’s race, which takes place June 30.
In total, from 1992 to 2017, Vahsholtz won his championships in Pro Motorcycle, Super Stock Car and Open Wheel divisions at Pikes Peak.
“If we win our class this year I think we’ll be a top-five car,” Vahsholtz said last week while taking time out from working on his race car at his dad’s shop (Vahsholtz Racing) in Woodland Park.
Vahsholtz will be competing in the Time Attack Class for the second year in a row. He will be driving a 2014 McLaren 650S for Flying Lizard Motorsports Racing. Vahsholtz said the car lists for sale for $250,000.
“We had some teething issues last year,” Vahsholtz said when he ran a 2013 McLaren GT3 up the 12.42-mile course that includes 156 perilous turns. “Some gear-box issues. Hiccups with suspension. A few other things. This year we’re hoping we have those issues worked out.”
For years, Vahsholtz has maintained that the biggest obstacle to winning the race is reaching the top. His fastest time ever to the 14,115-foot summit is 9 minutes, 35.747 seconds in 2017 while competing in the Open Wheel Class.
“One of the biggest challenges facing you at Pikes Peak is Mother Nature,” said Vahsholtz, who competed as a NASCAR driver in the Busch Series 2003 and 2004. “She’ll throw a curveball at you when you least expect it. Sometimes you don’t know what’s next.”
Beyond the elements, the way Vahsholtz’s car performs on race day will decide whether he stands atop the podium. FLM engineers figure there are 21 first-gear corners and quick, short, straights that are not entirely straight, where the car will reach speeds of about 130 mph. The McLaren’s setup is much like that of a road course with additional ride height and aero downforce added to the package.
Clint Vahsholtz won’t be the only member of his family in this year’s race. His son, Codie, 27, will be on motorcycle in the Heavyweight Class on his sleek 2019 Ducati MTS-1260 Pikes Peak.
This is Codie’s ninth year racing motorcycles. He has won three times. The Vahsholtz family has an all-time record 45 Hill Climb victories. They passed the Unser family (39 wins) a few years back.