Professional motorcycle racer Carlin Dunne is confirmed to have died after a high-speed crash that allegedly took place just 20 yards from the finish line of the 12.42-mile Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race. The 36-year-old California native had earned the title of "King of the Mountain" after becoming the first motorcycle rider in the history of the race to achieve a sub-10-minute time in 2012 while piloting a modified Ducati.
Unlike the race cars, where the fastest-qualifying car starts first and the slowest last, the motorcycles class kicks off the day with the slowest bike first and the fastest last. Therefore, Dunne was the final motorcycle to start Sunday's race—and after delivering the fastest time during qualifying earlier in the week at the wheel of his 2019 Ducati Streetfighter V4 Prototype, team and fans alike expected Dunne to set a new course record and take the class win.
The Drive was on site at this year's Hill Climb and witnessed Dunne blast through the first sector of the 156-corner "track" at incredible speed despite the changing weather conditions. Unfortunately, what should've been a several-minute wait until the first car launched from the start line became a two-hour delay. We didn't know about the crash at the time, but after timing and scoring failed to update Dunne's final sector time everyone began to fear for the worse. However, death is never one's first thought. Sadly, hours after learning that Dunne never crossed the finish line, a press release from Pikes Peak and Ducati officials was released confirming his death.
A reporter from The Gazette who was present near the finish line reported seeing "bike shrapnel going over the right edge of the road about 20 yards from the finish line." Other witnesses cited by the local outlet claim that Dunne "hit a bump at high speed near the summit, which caused his front wheel to spin out."
After driving the entirety of the race course at the wheel of an Acura RDX on Friday morning, we can confirm that the track surface near the summit was extremely bumpy and even poorly maintained in certain spots. Acura racing drivers acting as back-seat tour guides during our ascent claimed that several open-wheel race cars were actually bottoming out on entry to the final corner. This appears to corroborate the witnesses cited by The Gazette.
“There are no words to describe our shock and sadness. Carlin was part of our family and one of the most genuine and kind men we have ever known. His spirit for this event and love of motorcycling will be remembered forever as his passing leaves a hole in our hearts,” said Jason Chinnock, CEO Ducati North America.
Our thoughts are with the Dunne family as well as his friends and racing colleagues.