The Monster of the Mountain
What attracts Nobuhiro Monster Tajima to Pikes Peak. -Junior
PIKE’S PEAK, CO Coming off his third victory in New Zealands Queenstown Gold Rush International Hill Climb, Nobuhiro Monster Tajima sets his sights on not just winning Pikes Peak 2000, but breaking the record. With as many successes behind the wheel as Monster has had, its no wonder hes become an international icon in both international hill climbing champions and Japanese motor sports.
His long history of winning dates back to 1968 with multiple wins in Japan Dirt Trial Championship and rallies. Besides a successful career as a racecar-driver, Monster owns and operates Suzuki Sports Co. Ltd where he strives for that same level of commitment and success.
I had a chance to meet up with Monster, and the rest of his crew just days before the competition. Choosing to enter Pikes Peak this year with his new twin engine 800hp Suzuki Esteem, Monster works side-by-side with his crew to prepare the car for qualifying. You heard right, this Suzuki Motor Corp., Silverstone Tire, and Mobile 1 sponsored car can generate a whopping 800 ponies from the two turbocharged 2.0-liter. four-cylinder 4 valve DOHC Suzuki engines. One mounted over each axle. The entire package weights in at a modest 2116 pounds. “We had to remove the larger of the two skid plates and replace it with a smaller version due to the nose lifting at high speed.” Says Monster. Considering the aerodynamics of the car there wasnt enough down force to both keep the car on the ground and allow the tires to produce the traction needed to safely maneuver through the cliff-lined corners.
Pikes Peak race spans 12.42 miles over fine gravel only interrupted every so often by patches of pavement. With an elevation increase of 4,708 feet, 20 foot wide straight-aways, and 156 turns, speeds can be reached well in excess of 100 mph.
Monster didnt waste any time in reaching those speeds having set a course record during qualifying. Rumor had it hed reached over 120 mph, but I was unable to substantiate that. Considering the horsepower of the 2001 Suzuki Esteem, Monsters years of experience driving, and race perfect day, I wouldnt doubt it.
When asked which race would he most like to win, or win again, Monster replied with “Pikes Peak, but not without setting the record”. With an overall win, an two Unlimited Division wins, and plenty of other podium finishes at Pikes Peak Monsters day is sure to come. This being his twelve trip to the mountain.
There supporting Monster in full force was American Suzuki Motor Corporation, including president Rick Suzuki. The energy and excitement was shared by all on race-day while final preparations were made to the car, last minute interviews by media, and a well deserved breakfast to send Monster off to victory. Of all the types of motor sport races, hill climb racing can be considered one of the most mentally and physically challenging to both driver and team.
Racers and their teams spend months preparing for this one chance to spend less than12-minutes speeding up a dirt road lined by 1000-foot drop-offs. But no matter how hard you try, no matter how long you prepare, one just cant prepare for everything. Theres always that one thing that could go wrong and end it all in a fraction of the time it took to get there in the first place. But thats racing.
In the case of Monster and his well-equipped Esteem, it was mechanical failure that struck in the second turn sending the car off the course.
Driver was ok but the car didnt fair as well. Yes, thats racing. You dont reach the top of a successful race career as Monster has without having had your share of letdowns. And what makes a great team such as the Suzuki team is that they will pick up, rebuild, and be right back at it. And that too is racing.