Cole Powelson – Pikes Peak ace takes on 2021 Simola Hillclimb

Cole Powelson, from Salt Lake City in Utah, is taking on the Simola Hillclimb for the first time this year, and is the only US-based competitor in the 2021 edition. As the CEO and founder of LYFE Motorsport, he has an exceptional motorsport pedigree – most notably finishing fourth overall and third in class at the 2020 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, widely regarded as one of the world’s most extreme motorsport events, and the premier hillclimb.

Competing in a Sierra Alpha open-wheel racing car, powered by a turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa engine, he powered his way to an impressive time of 9 min 37.449 sec for the 156-turn 20 km-long Pikes Peak course which elevated him to a very exclusive club of sub-10 minute Pikes Peak finishers.

He is driving a privately-owned Citroën Xsara at the Simola Hillclimb, originally built by Citroën Motorsport and campaigned as a works car in the 2001/2002 World Rally Championship (WRC). It was subsequently bought by multiple Swedish rallycross champion Kenneth Hansen, and modified to compete in the European Rallycross (ERX) series.

It is powered by a Cosworth-developed and built Audi 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 engine as used in the Audi RS4 of the period. It currently produces around 550 hp (410 kW) for the Hillclimb, which is delivered to the rear wheels via a five-speed sequential manual transmission and a limited-slip differential.

Cole Powelson: “I’m living the dream here in South Africa. It’s amazing. I set a very low goal so I wouldn’t be disappointed, but I’m already breaking the 40-second mark, and I did that on the second run. I’m getting more familiar with the course and the car has been great. I will definitely go a bit quicker but right now I’m just having such a good time, I couldn’t really care what my time was. It’s been a fantastic event so far.

“The vibe is so great, I just can’t explain what a good, relaxed and positive atmosphere it is here. The quality of cars has really exceeded my expectations. It’s just top-level equipment with very nice builds to go along with the great people driving them. There’s a lot to take in, and I’ve been looking at every car up and down the pit lane, as well as talking to other hillclimbers that I’ve interacted with on the internet or e-mail in the past, and now I’ve been able to meet them in person. It has been a really memorable experience for me so far.

“The car is great, and I’m just starting to find its limits. It’s really predictable and a lot of fun to drive. It’s not an overall winner, but it’s still a fun car to steer up the hill.

“The Simola Hillclimb is very different from an event such as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The biggest difference for these cars is the heavy standing start. It’s remarkable to see heavy cars such as the high-powered Nissan GT-Rs, which are essentially straight-line drag cars, having to sort out a whole bunch of corners too.

“The extreme loads off the line with a standing start are not something that we have to deal with back home, as even at Pikes Peak we have a good long run into the start line. So the cars here are a totally different kind of build from how we would approach it.

“There’s no way I could bring my GT-R here and launch it like that. I launched it one time and blew the front driveshafts. We’re generally running factory Nissan parts, but here they’ve got heavily upgraded 2 000 hp drag car parts, so it’s just next-level. It just goes to show the quality of the cars here, and how far the local guys are taking the builds. It’s a short hillclimb but asks a lot of the cars.”

Castrol Motorpress
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