When Mouton defied the odds to win Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak's history is littered with amazing stories, but few can rival Michèle Mouton's 1985 success

Swedish Rally Karlstad (SWE) 10-12 02 1984

Michèle Mouton is the only woman ever to have won the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb. Being honest, that’s unlikely to change on Sunday. This Sunday. Future Sundays? Watch this space.

The Blocks are coming.

Lucy and Lia are both attempting America’s second oldest race for the first time this weekend. Lucy’s driving a Sierra Echo Block Edition powered by Hypercraft and competing in the unlimited class. While Lucy will be classified in the results, Lia’s run is a demonstration only. But what a demonstration – she’s driving the Porsche Hoonipigasus her father Ken had been scheduled to run in Colorado this weekend.

For Lia, Mouton’s story is the stuff of legend. Following in the Frenchwoman’s tracks is a source of inspiration every time the 16-year-old takes to the stages.

And it will be the same when she guides the 1400bhp, all-wheel drive 911 towards the first of 156 turns on the 12.42-mile course.


America’s Mountain has been the source of so many stories in its 107-year history. Few of those are as extraordinary as Michèle’s 1985 win.

Having competed for the first year in 1984 and finished second overall, she was even more determined not only to win but to take Al Unser Jr’s record at the same time.

A woman winning the race up America’s Mountain, well that wasn’t really a thing in the mid-80s.

Bobby Unser recalled the first time he heard Mouton’s name.

He said: “Bobby Junior called me one day and he said: ‘Daddy you gotta get up here…’ I asked why and he said: ‘They’ve got that Audi car going up the hill and it’s breaking records every time it runs in practice.’

“I asked who’s driving it?

“He said: ‘They’ve got a girl driving it. Her name is Michèle Mouton.’

“A girl driving?

“He said: ‘Yeah, and she’s going real fast.’”

As far as the organizers were concerned, she was going too fast. Adjudged to have driven 6mph too fast through the paddock she was fined $500. The stewards’ collected nose was further out of joint when she launched her Audi quattro Sport into a practice start and unwittingly sprayed nearby marshals in gravel.

She was immediately banned from driving anywhere other than on the hill itself. That meant she would forfeit a flying start. Instead, her quattro would be pushed to the line by the Audi team. The car would have to be in neutral when the green flag dropped and only then could she select first gear and proceed.

“I was so angry,” said Mouton. “But I was so motivated.

Never I will lose this race. It’s impossible. This [penalty] gave me a boost like never in my life Michèle Mouton

“It was the first time I saw this macho side of the people. The feeling was like: ‘Why is this woman coming to the middle of our country with a car like this Audi?’ They could not accept it.

“I didn’t care. I said to myself: ‘Poor guys… you will see.’

“Never I will lose this race. It’s impossible. This [penalty] gave me a boost like never in my life.

“In the middle of the stage, you have four corners on the left side where you have the big drop to the right. On the middle one you have to lift a little bit. When I was there, I decided not to lift. I could feel the car pulling towards the drop.

“I thought I was going off and I accelerated even more.

“I was accelerating so much I managed to stay on the road and the next corner was a hairpin right – I braked even later than during the recce. I wanted to show them that anything they could do they would never stop me.

“It was one of my best events – it showed how strong I could be in my mind.”

Pikes Peak Hill Climb 2013, Colorado Springs, USA 26-30 June 2013

Mouton didn’t just beat Junior’s record, she smashed it by 13 seconds to set a new benchmark of 11m25.39s.

Twelve years on from his retirement, Bobby Unser was coming back.

Al Unser Jr smiled at the memory.

“Uncle Bobby coming out of retirement,” he said, “I don’t think he liked Michèle Mouton having the record. I don’t think he cared that Michèle Mouton had it, I think he cared that a woman had it.”

Uncle Bobby confirmed that thinking.

“That was enough to light me up,” he said. “Why? That girl went and broke all my records. That’s kind of dumb. I wanted to go back.”

All the Bobby chat hadn’t gone unnoticed by Mouton. On reaching the summit in record time, she wasted no time.

“I said to the journalists, you can tell him (Unser), if he has the balls, we can start the race from the top to the bottom if he wants.”

Mission accomplished, Mouton departed America’s Mountain victorious.

Pikes Peak Hill Climb 2013, Colorado Springs, USA 26-30 June 2013

And 38 years on, hers is still the only female name on the list of victors at the top of the hill.

It is, of course, way too early to talk about the Block name appearing on that list.

But Lia’s clearly something special. She followed three straight class wins in Green APU American Rally Association with a mesmeric Nitrocross debut, where she crossed the line first in NEXT final, only to lose the win in the stewards’ room.

Lia has the look of somebody ready to take on the world. She looks like a young Mouton.

Talking about Sunday, Block Jr told DirtFish: “It’s pretty surreal. The Hoonipigasus is an awesome car, it has so much power, but it’s built like a track car. Unlike the Hoonicorn, which just has a bunch of power – how it uses it isn’t as efficient.


“With all the aero and how it puts the power down on the track, it’s just a really fun car to drive.

“I’m super-excited about Sunday. My dad’s dream was to bring it up to the top and hopefully I get to do that on Sunday.”

As ever, Pikes Peak International Hillclimb brings its eclectic mix of million-dollar race cars and homebuilt open-wheelers.

Among the highlights are Tanner Foust in his JPS-liveried Radford Type 62-2 and, of course, Romain Dumas in Ford’s stunning Supervan 4.

Words:David Evans