Independence Pass is the second highest crossing of the Continental Divide in the United States at an altitude of 12,095 feet, and twists its way through the mountains in a series of switchbacks, hairpins, long sweeping turns, and various elevations and grades. Round trip, it is some 300 miles and approximately four hours worth of driving. 906s, while road legal, are still thoroughbred race cars devoid of any sound deadening or luxuries.
Back in September, we brought together four 906s with race and hillclimb pedigree, along with their intrepid owners and caretakers together for the road trip of a lifetime through the winding, undulating mountain pass between Vail and Aspen, Colorado and back to Vail.
It sounded like a crazy idea at the time, but it wasn’t long before we had a group of friends and clients who shared the same desire to take on the challenge. Two more 906s were sourced for their new caretakers and joined 906-110 in the workshop. For the next three and a half months, the cars which had sat for approximately a decade were prepped to be roadworthy once again and to perform at altitude. While planning the logistics for Pikes Peak with Jeff Zwart, the invite was extended and Jeff gladly accepted with his personal 906 and helped to plan the route. Piëch to Peak was officially on its way to becoming a reality.
Just days after Zwart’s historic run up Pikes Peak in the Ingram Collection 935, three of the four 906s arrived in Vail Village. At the break of dawn, they underwent final testing and tuning to compensate for the thin air at altitude. Zwart had already enlisted Dieter Izenhofer (former part-owner of Andial) to re-jet the carburetors and tune chassis 906-109 prior to the drive. With all four cars running strong, both the drivers and support team managed a few short hours of sleep through the mix of anticipation and excitement for the next day’s drive.
Shortly after the first rays of sunlight crept over the mountainside adjacent to Vail Village, the echoes of the high-strung flat sixes reverberated against the walls of the shops and grew louder as they approached. The group assembled for a driver’s meeting while the arrival of not one, but four historic race cars drew an awe-stricken crowd that quickly surrounded the group to take photos and ask questions. After a few group photographs, the drivers slid into their cars and with that, the group headed for the highway.
Seeing four of these incredible cars in a single location is nothing short of a spectacle, but to see and hear them in action on public roads is truly awe-inspiring. Each driver leaned heavily onto the accelerator pedal to bring their car to speed, and the raucous sound of the flat sixes grew exponentially louder as they roared up to speed.
Following a short stint on the highway, the group turned toward Independence Pass and onto narrow single-lane roads through a few small towns. It wasn’t long before the terrain became dense with trees and boulders, eventually giving way to steep rock faces and plunging hillsides. The straight sections of roadway became twisting, hilly switchbacks and hairpins. For the next 150 miles, the terrain only became more and more dramatic, the roads narrowed and became much more technical. It was evident that even though the roads became more challenging, the drivers grew more confident with each mile. They accelerated harder and kept on the throttle longer, and carried more speed through each turn.
By the end of the trip, each of the cars had performed flawlessly and the drivers formed a new relationship and respect for these incredible cars through experiencing their hillclimb capabilities firsthand.