The 98th running of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, brought to you by Gran Turismo, welcomed only one female competitor, Kathryn Mead, to the field in the Porsche Pikes Peak Trophy by Yokohama Division. Behind the wheel of a 2019 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, Mead finished in third-place in the division with a time of eleven-minutes, 36.345-seconds which was cause for celebration at the summit. Mead’s biggest goal was just to get to the top and have a clean run and did she ever. Laying down the quickest time of all rookies on the mountain Mead earned 2020 Rookie of the Year honours.
When asked about the best part of her experience on Pikes Peak this year Mead recalled, “If I had to choose one thing, it was race day and the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line. Without the hard work to get there, it would not have felt so rewarding.”
Racing as a rookie in anything is tricky but being a rookie at the “Race to the Clouds” provides an added level of difficulty. Luckily for all the newbies to the mountain, the world of hill climbing is a welcoming community with many drivers willing to offer advice to first-time racers. Mead says the best advice she received was from Pikes Peak Hill Climb Hall of Fame driver, Jeff Zwart, “He coached me in practice and told me to always leave time on the table in each practice run so I could learn and get faster each session. He also emphasized that you race the mountain, not the other competitors.”
Mead’s racing career began in 2016, however the first time she heard of the mountain itself when she was an active runner and heard about the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. When she began auto racing and learned about the opportunity to run the mountain on four tires instead of her own two feet, it seemed totally crazy and not something she would do. Yet, sometimes things just work out, and when the Porsche division was created and her car fit the profile, she knew she had to go for it. Her original plan to visit Pikes Peak in early April to check out the course and the mountain had to be scrapped due to the pandemic. She had practiced in a driving simulator and spent hours watching onboard videos in her hometown of Austin, Texas but it was not until early August that she actually experienced the race course in person.
Not only did she compete, but Mead designed the wrap for her race car. She stated, “With so many things outside my control, the one thing I could control was how this car looked. I think it looks happy. Every time I get behind the wheel, I know it makes me happy.” Mead was happy to finish, happy to capture third in her division and happy to be named Rookie of the Year on Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain. “My goal was to get to the summit on race day. Getting a trophy for fastest rookie was the cherry on top. Beyond that, it would take too long to explain. It was about more than just racing.”
Mead is already making plans to return for the 99th running on June 27, 2021.