On June 30, Ducati rider Carlin Dunne died from injuries after crashing on the 156th turn in the 97th running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
An investigation by Hill Climb officials concluded that Dunne’s 2019 Ducati Streetfighter V4 prototype highsided, throwing him from the bike and down an embankment a mere 20 yards from the finish line.
Dunne’s was the third motorcycle death associated with the Hill Climb over the past five years, the fourth of all Hill Climb motorcycle deaths, and the seventh death overall since 1921.
The 12.42-mile course was fully paved in 2011, which some race fans speculate made the road more dangerous to drivers, despite multiple speed records falling in the years since.
French racer Romain Dumas broke the course record last year in an electric Volkswagen, racing to the clouds in 7:57.148. Similarly, Dunne was on his way to a major motorcycle course record. Race officials estimate that Dunne would have crossed the finish line in 9:32, beating the then-record by 12 seconds.
Before Dunne, Ducati rider Carl Sorensen was killed when he fell off the course during a practice run the Thursday before race day in 2015.
“This race really needs some competent organization,” Travis Newbold, a close friend of Sorensen’s, told The Gazette in 2015. “There needs to be more safety put in place and more organization. It’s a shame that they’ve been running it as long as they have, and it’s just like a plastic toy-machine watch the way things are run up here.”
But that same year, David Donner, a long-time Hill Climb competitor in the auto division, argued, “The course is safe. There’s no question it does have inherent risks, and the organizers have done as much as they can do. Accidents do happen, and obviously it’s a horrible tragedy. I think they’ve done all they can do, and I support the event.”
Drivers and riders speculated in 2015 and after Dunne’s crash that rough road conditions could have been a factor in both deaths.
Sorensen crashed on a stretch where road conditions were compared with a washboard. Racers said the bumps were big enough that a rider’s wheels would come off the ground, making the curve about a half mile from Dunne’s crash site, “pretty much a jump,” one rider said.
Some racers presumed last week that Dunne hit a bump near the finish that gave many riders trouble throughout the day, but the official investigation of the accident made no mention of a bump.
But danger didn’t deter Dunne.
“We all know that motorcycle racing can be dangerous, but you take the necessary precautions,” he told CNN. “Many people look at it who are not familiar with it, and they think it might be reckless abandon, just a bunch of guys twisting and throttling, riding into oblivion. But we take it very, very seriously.”
In the race’s 97 running years, two-wheeled divisions were not included for 10 years — from 1977 through 1979 and again from 1983 through 1990.
But two-wheeled drivers accepted the risk through the years.
“If you’re prepared and you know where you’re going, I think it’s the same either way. I really do,” motorcyclist Codie Vahsholtz told The Gazette in 2015. Vahsholtz, a local racer, was a teammate of Dunne’s. “Cars also have their dangers — roll cages that can break and puncture you like a tree could, rocks or anything. A car you can’t eject out of. You’re stuck in it. You’re going for a ride. Motorcycles, sometimes you get lucky and don’t go with it.”