Hill Climb drivers aware of the risks of racing

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CASCADE, Colo. — Other racers are reacting after a driver died competing in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Sunday.

Carlin Dunne died after crashing toward the end of the race.

Seven people associated with the race have died in its 97-year history. Not all have been competitors.

The Pikes Peak Hill Climb is not for the faint of heart. Drivers call it the Super Bowl of racing.

It takes a lot of prep: everything from how the cars are made to bringing oxygen with them on the drive.

Dan Novembre, an 11-year veteran driver, knows all it takes to get behind the wheel.

“It’s got over 800 horsepower, and when you hit that accelerator pedal it feels good,” Novembre said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

He used to volunteer with his dad and work races every year.

“It kind of started, a family thing,” Novembre said.

He started out as a rookie on the half-dirt, half-paved course. Now, he’s with the best of the best drivers, who come together for the Race to the Clouds.

“This event is unique because we are going up a mountain,” Novembre said. “The air gets really thin at the top. We have to deal with weather. You have to deal with wildlife. So the car has to be prepared a certain way.”

Now he’s sharing his love with his kids.

“It’s a joy to have them involved, to see what they are interested in,” Novembre said.

He has four kids at home and one on the way, but his second family is the other drivers.

Though Novembre has a degree in mechanical engineering that gives him a leg up on the car stuff, he said you don’t have to be an engineer to race.

“As we come together for Peak Week, everyone had different backgrounds,” Novembre said. “It’s almost like a family reunion, because there are people from Europe and Asia, all over the place. We haven’t seen them in a year so it’s like, ‘Hey how are you doing?’ You know, hugs and all that stuff.”

He knows there are inherent risks of the sport, and even crashed this year during practice.

“I did have an accident on Wednesday slide coming out of a turn,” Novembre said. “I ended up putting it into the snow banks that were up there. It’s not really snow. It’s more like ice. It’s a wall of ice. I damaged the car pretty well. It looked really bad.”

He still raced part of the course in Sunday’s race. Toward the end, officials closed the track due to poor weather conditions.

After his crash, he reflected on a fellow racer’s death this year. Carlin Dunne crashed just short of the finish line.

“We all know what we are signing up for,” Novembre said. “It is dangerous, especially on a race like this. There’s no room for error. There is either a cliff or a wall on each side.”

Novembre thinks the crash could have something to do with road conditions, because Dunne was all about safety.

“He led the safety program,” Novembre said. “It’s sad that someone who cared so much about that, had a tragic accident like this. Pavement above tree line is just not very conductive. The freezing, thawing, it creates these big frost heaves. They try to patch the road as much as possible, but the road changes almost daily. You can see a new bump. Pretty much the last two miles of the race, you’re just kind of holding on.”

Dunne interviewed with CNN just days before the crash, talking about safety, but Novembre keeps racing because he knows Dunne would want them to pass up a green flag.

“You take the necessary precautions,” Dunne said in the interview. “Many people look at it who are not familiar with it and think it might be recklessly abandoned, just a bunch of guys twisting the throttle and riding into oblivion, but we take it very very seriously.”

“All you can do is honor him and just keep racing,” Novembre said.

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