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Rhys Millen Discusses Pike's Peak
by Frank A. Filipponio | Jul 06, 2011

We recently ran into ace driver and drifter Rhys Millen when he stopped by a local weekly car meet in Irvine, California. It wasn't the first time Rhys has attended the meet, but this was the first time he brought such a dirty car with him. The filthy Hyundai you see above looked out of place at this show, which usually attracts high end European exotics, show-quality hot rods, and classic cars that look like they just finished a 10-year restoration. The inch of dirt caked onto just about every visible surface almost covered up the Red Bull livery. Nobody seemed to mind the dirt, however, as it was evidence of where Rhys had taken the car the previous weekend - up Pike's Peak.

Racing in the top unlimited class at Pike's Peak, Rhys piloted this 800-hp, 1,900-lb PM580 prototype to a second place finish behind Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima in a 1,000-hp Suzuki SX4. While Monster was finally able to break the elusive ten-minute mark going up the 12.42 mile course, Rhys had some mechanical issues that prevented him from taking the win. We asked Rhys a few questions about his car, the race, and his "other" car - the Genesis Coupe he drives in his day job.

StopTech - Your car looks like a shrunken Le Mans Prototype - how does it stack up against those cars?

Rhys Millen - Well, it may look like a Le Mans racer, but this Hyundai is lighter, has more power and is all-wheel drive. It is built for acceleration more than top speed. During testing, we tried to see how it could accelerate from a rolling start. The car launched so hard and ran a 20-125 mph sprint in less than 6 seconds. During that run it registered 1.14 g's of acceleration.

ST - They are saying that because the course will be fully paved next year, people are considering running Formula 1 cars up the hill. Do you think that's the future of this hillclimb?

RM - As cool as that would be, I don't see it happening. Formula 1 cars don't like running in first gear and don't enjoy their aerodynamic benefits below 100 mph. There are 20-something first gear turns on this course and that would kill an F1 gearbox. The cars are also very low and need to be that low to maximize their aerodynamics. Raising them for even a paved course is essential so a lot of their aero advantage is taken away. Plus, we have our car geared to a top speed of just 125 mph, which is barely into the aero range of the F1 cars. No, I don't think it will happen. You need all-wheel drive, quick acceleration and better low-speed aerodynamics with extra ground clearance.

ST - As you're saying that, the Bugatti Veyron is coming to mind.

RM - Well, the Veyron has the power, the aero and the awd, but it has to push around an awful lot of weight. What does it weigh - 4,000 pounds? My Hyundai has nearly as much power and less than half the weight to haul. The Veyron might do well against my Genesis Coupe, but not against the unlimiteds.

ST - Speaking of your Genesis Coupe...your father drove it to a record-breaking win in the time attack class.

RM - Yeah, he ran a great race...and he returned it in one piece.

ST - The Genesis is your drift car. We were closely following it because you use our brakes on it.

RM - Yeah, the brakes are fantastic on that car. I love it. It did really well up the hill too.

ST - We noticed you aren't running our brakes on the PM580 though...

RM - It all came down to weight. You guys don't have a carbon ceramic available for that car and we wanted everything to be the lightest component available. We actually struggled quite a bit with the brakes we chose though. It's really scary going 120 mph and wondering if it's going to slow down for the next turn. I saw some scary offs and I'm glad it wasn't me. I'd love to run StopTechs if they become available.

ST - We'll see what we can do about that.

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