2012 Team APEV with Monster Sport Pikes Peak EV Challenge [Report]

August 12, 2012, PPIHC Final 2012

"Monster's Climb to the Peak Hits Problems

August 12, 2012, Colorado Springs, CO - The 90th edition of Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) started on a high note. Team APEV with Monster Sport had three days of successful practice before race weekend, and reigning champion Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima was full of confidence on race day. The team had made some small adjustments to the car during practice, and, as a result, Tajima produced faster and faster times. "Monster" qualified first in the electric class by a large margin, and it seemed possible that he could take the overall win once again.


On race day, the 2012 E-Runner Pikes Peak Special started first in the electric class. Things were going well until a fast section called "Horseshoe," about 1.5 kilometers into the course. Tajima explains, "I saw smoke coming out from the motor, and I had no choice but to stop the car so it wouldn't get any worse. I am very disappointed because my team and I have put a tremendous effort to get where we are today." Although Tajima was saddened by the problem that put a halt to his race, his spirit persevered: "Thank you so much for your support. I will be back next year. Watch out for me!"

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August 10, 2012, Fan Fest 2012

"Monster" Meets His Fans at Fan Fest 2012

August 11, 2012, Colorado Springs, CO - Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima is becoming a familiar face to the general public of Colorado Springs. He has been coming to Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) for over 20 years, and he is a nine-time Unlimited Class champion. This year's hill climb was preceded by the annual Fan Fest, and "Monster" was there in person to sign autographs and take photos with his fans.


Monster Sport displayed their new 2012 E-Runner Pikes Peak Special in their booth. The car was a complete hit with the fans. Most were in disbelief that the car was purely electric, and many were stunned by the sleek, dynamic shape. At Fan Fest 2012, three Red Bull skydivers dove from the sky and landed at the Fan Fest, congratulating Tajima on his record run at Pikes Peak. The City of Colorado Springs then presented a belt buckle to "Monster" with the inscription, "King of the Mountain." Tajima's record here at Pikes Peak more than warrants this nickname. This year, he wants to further stun the public with the speed of his new, electric vehicle.

On Sunday, August 11th, he will make the run up to the summit of Pikes Peak in his virtually silent vehicle. With this run, he hopes the general public will realize the advantages of using electric propulsion. The vehicle is cleaner, quieter, and provides a very usable, flat torque curve. Additionally, the electric vehicle has some other distinct advantages in this race. Tajima explains: "Last year, we lost a lot of power at the high altitude because our gasoline-powered engine could not breathe in the thin air. Now that our car is electric, the motor can perform at its potential all the way up to the peak." He concludes, "I hope the public can watch me make history as I race up the mountain this Sunday in my fantastic electric vehicle."

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August 10, 2012, Colorado Springs, CO

Tajima Ends Three Days of Practice with Confidence

The last day of practice for the reigning Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Champion Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima took place along the highest section of the twisty route to the summit. Tajima's newly debuted electric vehicle had been setting some top times over the last two days of practice, and the third day was to be no different.


An early start meant chilly conditions near the top, but Monster was feeling confident: "It's very cold right now, but last year was even colder, so I'm happy [with the current conditions]." In theory, electric vehicles are more resilient to changes in temperature and altitude than their gasoline-powered counterparts, as they do not rely on air to fuel internal combustion. This left Tajima free to concentrate on feeling his new steed out. After two practice runs, he states, "The settings between my first two runs are not so different. The only difference is that this morning on my first run, I was driving gently. Now I'm pushing a little because I'm more confident now."s

Experience counts along the final section of the route, as it is the fastest of all. The high speeds mean the driving lines must be very precise; a small mistake usually ends in a large time loss or even a severe accident. Tajima has been coming to Pikes Peak for over 20 years, and his confidence along the uppermost section left him wondering how the new car would measure up with the old. To find out, Tajima took several practice runs, and by the last run, he felt confident enough to back off and conserve the car for Sunday's race.

At the end of the run, the dark, chilly morning ended in blue skies over the summit. Tajima summarized the last three days of practice: "The car is fantastic because it is not loud, there is no vibration, and the handling is fantastic, so it's like driving a five-star hotel!"

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August 9, 2012, Colorado Springs, CO

Tajima Makes Progress on the Steepest Section of Pikes Peak

The second day of practice of the 90th edition of Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) consisted of steep uphill climbs and tight switchbacks for the reigning champion and record holder, Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima. This year, Tajima traded in his incredible unlimited class car for an arguably more impressive electric vehicle (EV). Tajima continued the second day of practice by learning and feeling out the car, adjusting it as required for Sunday's race day.


Today, Tajima attacked the middle section of the climb. This section is great for spectators because it has the most dramatic elevation changes and multiple switchbacks that are visible from above. These conditions can potentially favor EVs over gasoline-powered cars, as the driver does not have to worry about constant gear changes or "bogging" the engine; electric motors have a characteristically flat torque curve over most of its rev range that helps the car propel out of corners with ease.

After yesterday's first practice, Tajima made many changes to the car's setup. As a direct result, the feeling with the new car improved, and the times started to show the progress. Tajima's run topped the time sheets in his run group today, which included Exhibition, Vintage, Stock, Open, and Electric classes. Tajima warns against comparing to his competitors at this stage of practice: "The times we achieved today are only a result of the changes I made to the car. Today was only practice; the conditions will be different on race day. My main objective was to gain confidence and understanding of the car going into tomorrow's practice."

Friday is the last day of practice allowed on the hill prior to the race, and the route features the highest elevation out of all three sections, although the change in elevation is not as great as the middle section's. Tajima says that the top section is his favorite section because the high speeds require bravery. Even though the car is clearly coming along, Tajima remains cautious about the final day's practice. His only comment when asked how he and his car will perform on Friday is, "I'll do my best."

Fan Fest - August 10, 2012

Monster Sport would like to invite the public to meet "Monster" Tajima and see his new electric car at Fan Fest 2012. The annual pre-race celebration features food and live entertainment. Monster Sport will sell official "Monster Sport Pikes Peak" shirts and hats, available at this event only. The celebration takes place on Tejon Street between Colorado Avenue and Bijou Street in downtown Colorado Springs from 5:00 PM through 10:00 PM.

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August 8, 2012, Colorado Springs, CO

"Monster" Sets Top EV Time on First Day of Qualifying

A new era of Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) officially began today, as the new, fully paved course invites a new breed of race car. In past years, the Pikes Peak hill climb cars were notorious for three things: their massive amount of horsepower, their huge wings that provide much-desired downforce, and their ability to adapt to the changing and inconsistent road surfaces leading up to the summit. Now, the last is no longer a necessary trait, as the smooth surfaces are more familiar to a circuit race car than a rally car. Cars should be able to climb faster on lowered suspensions and racing slicks, but it still takes a brave driver to reach the necessary speeds to break Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima's sub-ten minute record.


PPIHC held its first practice sessions on Wednesday, August 8th, and as usual, practice was divided into three sections along the 12.42-mile course. What was unusual was that Tajima's familiar Unlimited Class entry was replaced by an electric vehicle (EV) running in the EV Class on the lowest section of the course. This section covers the longest distance in the three-day practice and qualifying sessions. The final bits of gravel road last year were part of this lower section, so veteran drivers had to deal with new lines, new curbs, and a different way of driving to negotiate up the tricky, newly paved road.

Team APEV with Monster Sport came to the first day of the qualifying session prepared after several days of testing at Pueblo Motorsports Park. Consequently, "Monster" set the fastest time in the EV class along the lower portion.

Monster Sport's exclusive interview with Nobuhiro Tajima reveals his feelings about the new car and the new course.

MS: How was the drive?
NT: Fantastic. Everything is going well.

MS: What is different between this car and last year's car?
NT: This car has more torque, and this car is easier to control than last year's car. Last year's car was gasoline-powered, and the engine had a lot of power and torque, but the range was very limited [in the revs of each gear]. This year's car has a torque curve that is much longer and flatter that I can use everywhere, so it's very nice.

MS: So coming out of the corners is easier?
NT: Yes, also, I don't have to shift gears, so I can keep my hands on the steering wheel. That makes me very happy. MS: You just ran the course that's fully paved this year. How is your driving different this year compared to last year? NT: I like gravel very much - a bit sideways is my driving style, but paved is not good for driving sideways. I had to drive gently - not too much sideways - just gently.

MS: Did you find the right line this morning, or are you still trying to find the right line?
NT: Yes, I understand the line, and I'm very happy now.

MS: So, after today's two runs, what adjustments to the car are you planning to make?
NT: Today, I knew that this car's suspension is still not set up for the full pavement. It is still set up for a mix of both gravel and pavement. I want more time to tune the car for the fully paved course.

MS: I know you did some testing on a track before. Is this hill climb different from the track?
NT: Different - I was worried about the gravel getting spread on the asphalt on the hill climb, so I adjusted the set up on the track with this in mind, but it seems that there was very little gravel on the course today. The course was very clean. I had set up the suspension for a mix of gravel and asphalt, but now I want to change to a 100% asphalt setting. I want to try this setting tomorrow.

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He is best known as "Monster" around the world of motorsports. The name originated from his superb, wild driving style in the All Japan Dirt Trial [Rallycross] Championship. He achieved nine series wins there, then continued his dominant form in international overseas rallies. Many of Tajima's rally wins come from the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, where he won a total of five times in the 2WD division. In New Zealand, he saw a new challenge in the "Race to the Sky" hill climb. His determination helped him win a total of eight times there. Fittingly enough, the motorsport world renamed the mountain, "Tajima's Mountain." In 1988, Tajima's sights naturally fell on arguably the most famous hill climb in the world: Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Again, his perseverance helped him achieve the overall win in 1995 - a first for a Japanese competitor. In 2007, he made history by breaking the overall course record. Tajima continued his streak by finally breaking the 10-minute barrier in 2011 on the mixed-surface event. This record will forever stand in the history books. Tajima is still determined to continue his run of consecutive overall wins (currently at six) with his new electric vehicle this year. His company, Tajima Motor Corporation, has designed an electric vehicle from the ground up that will propel "Monster" up the mountain at speeds high enough to potentially break the overall course record. Tajima hopes that his vehicle will serve as a pioneer and catalyst in the "green energy" push around the motorsports world.


Led by Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, CEO of Tajima Motor Corporation, and managed by Paul Wilding of Monster Sport Australia, the team consists of a small but effective group of engineers and technicians from around the world with extensive World Rally Championship experience. Monster Sport [Japan], Monster Sport Australia, and Monster Sport Europe will be on hand to support Tajima's endeavor in conjunction with the Association for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles (APEV).