|Bobby Unser, whose racing acumen led him to three Indianapolis 500 wins and ten King of the Mountain titles at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, died Monday at the age of 87. |
According to The Associated Press, he died at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, of natural causes.
News of Unser’s death quickly spread among the racing community, especially at Pikes Peak.
“The entire Pikes Peak International Hill Climb family is mourning the loss of auto racing legend and Pikes Peak icon, Bobby Unser,” a news release from the historic race organization said.
“From his earliest days on Pikes Peak, Unser’s racing talent was evident. His first entry in 1955 was in the Open Wheel division where he finished 5th, behind brothers Louis J. and Jerry, in a field of nearly 30 competitors. In 1956, Bobby Unser won the Open Wheel division, setting a new course record in the process. This was the first of eight course records Unser would achieve on America’s Mountain, including an unprecedented five consecutive overall records from 1958 through 1962.”
King of the Mountain, the title given to the fastest driver each year, was bestowed on Unser ten times, more than any competitor in nearly 100 years of racing on Pikes Peak, the news release said.
He raced and won in the Open Wheel, Sports Car, Stock Car and Rally divisions.
After a 12-year hiatus, Unser returned to competition in 1986 determined to best the overall record of 11:25.390 set in 1985 by France’s Michèle Mouton. As usual, he accomplished what he set out to do, and once again his name was etched in the record books, the news release noted.
Unser raced the Audi Quattro Sport to the summit in 11:09.220, according to Pikes Peak International Hill Climb records.
“I knew Bobby for 44 years. He was a mythical legend to me who became a good friend,” Bob Gillis, former chairman of the board for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, said in the PPIHC’s news release.
“Not only did he win on Pikes Peak again and again, but he was perhaps one of the greatest ambassadors for this race. He brought drivers like Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti to Pikes Peak. When he returned to the mountain with Audi in 1986 to recapture the King of the Mountain crown, he proved he was never better behind the wheel.”
Unser became a legend on the 12.42 mile course to the summit of Pikes Peak, and beyond and, by his own account, his success on Pikes Peak opened doors. As a world-renowned driver, Unser moved on to race and win at tracks around world, but he never forgot his roots.
Inspired by the generation that preceded him, especially his uncle, Louis, Bobby Unser knew what he wanted and set out to get it. His competitive nature was nearly always evident, but so was his willingness to help fellow competitors by sharing advice and offering encouragement.
Bobby Unser was among the first inducted to the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Museum Hall of Fame in 1997.
His tribute reads:
American Racing Legend
Lifetime Pikes Peak Supporter
13 records in 18 years
Never failed to finish
3-time Indy winner