The Buffalo Motorsports Examiner recently had a chance to speak with the winner of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Hankook Tire driver Rhys Millen. Learn more about Millen’s winning run here and more over the next few days.
New Zealander Rhys Millen grew up with racing in his blood: his father, Rod, was a successful rally and off-road racer and his uncle, Steve, raced IMSA sports cars as well as off-road.
“My dad moved to the US in the late 70s,” said Rhys Millen in a recent interview, “I stayed in New Zealand with my mother and was raised by her until I was 17 then I moved to the US to join my father. At that point I had a competition base that revolved around BMX bikes and mountain bike racing and that’s actually what brought me to the US was to further my profession in mountain bike racing.
“My uncle Steve drove for Nissan for most of his career in the IMSA Series running both GTO and GTU in sports car racing, and my dad had more of an off-road career path, back in the day what was Mickey Thompson Stadium Short-Course Racing, Baja and primarily Rally. So my first interests in motorsports were developed in the sport of rally.”
Millen’s interest in drifting and rally led him to the Formula D and Global Rallycross, as well as to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which he won in 2015 in a Drive eO PPO3 all-electric, all-wheel drive car. The electric car proved to be a challenge, even for someone with 20-plus years of motorsports experience.
“One of the biggest challenges,” said Millen, “you do your career as a professional driver, as I have done for 20-plus years – well, speed is typically relative to noise, and if you’re going into a breaking zone, you might be doing 120, 160, 200 mph down the back straightaway of a track, and you know that you’re in your top gear, and even if there is no breaking zone indicator on the track, you have a good indication lap after lap that there is a point with the RPM or noise that is when you choose to break for that given corner.”
“You take away that noise and it is surprising how much you’re focusing on the visual cue of the relative speed approaching that corner, but it is so difficult to tell your mind when to break – I was always breaking way, way early up until probably race day. It was that one element that was missing and it was a challenge.”
While it may be a challenge to some, it’s part of the sport that Millen doesn’t see going away anytime soon.
“Throw all your cards up in the air, and you kind of wipe them all away, because none of what you learned in traditional road racing on pavement applies to this event, and electric cars are becoming very dominant in this environment.”
Learn more about Millen at his website.
Coming up: Stunt driving and what lies ahead.