Rivian will race the new 1,025hp Ascend Quad Max R1T at Pike’s Peak this week

Rivian’s new high-powered Ascend Quad Max R1T variant will race up Pike’s Peak, one of the longest-running and most difficult races in the world, this weekend.

The Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb is one of the longest-running races in the world, being held 102 times since 1916.

It’s a famously difficult race, starting at an already-high 9,390ft (2,862m) in elevation and finishing at 14,110ft (4,300m), with an average 7.2% vertical grade. Until 2011, the track was largely unpaved on dirt or gravel roads, and it is not uncommon for cars to leave the track and crash into the woods or, worse, end up tumbling down the mountain. The race is also commonly stopped by rain, snow, fog, or other inclement weather of the type you commonly get at the top of mountains.

In particular, the high altitude nature of the race (which earned it the nickname “Race to the Clouds”) has always been difficult, because at high altitudes there is less oxygen, which means less complete combustion of fuel. This means that gas-powered race vehicles need to have incredibly oversized engines to do well.

That difficulty does not apply to electric vehicles since EVs don’t need oxygen for combustion, so for years EVs have overperformed in the race. Currently the all-time record for the 12.42-mile hillclimb is 7:57.148, set by the Volkswagen ID.R in 2018. And this year, an EV (Acura ZDX) will be the pace car for the first time, and Hyundai is bringing its fun Ioniq 5N, hoping for a record among EV crossovers.

We’ve also seen some wild concepts, like Ford’s SuperVan made out of an E-Transit last year, and this year’s similar 1,400hp SuperTruck based on an F-150 Lightning (the giant wing on each vehicle is also a reflection of the race’s high altitude – thinner air means it’s harder to create downforce from aerodynamic elements).

Rivian’s entry is a little less wild than those, consisting of what seems to be a stock R1T – but with Rivian’s new upgraded “Ascend Quad Max” trim, which Fred tested earlier this month. This ups the torque and horsepower to 1,198lb-ft and 1,025hp respectively, much higher than the previous 835hp top-spec. It’s not quite as much as the SuperTruck’s 1,400hp, but the R1T is stock and the SuperTruck is modified, so they’re playing on different fields.

Rivian ran the race before, last year, also in an R1T. But that was before this year’s refresh which increases power significantly. Here’s a video about that entry, driven by Gardner Nichols, who returns this year to drive the updated R1T:

Rivian clocked a 11:23.983, which is the record for any production truck, gas or electric, and puts it ahead of past runs by the likes of Faraday Future and a Tesla P90D. But the R1T is still behind the current electric exhibition class record of 11:02.802 by a Tesla Model 3 Performance – which weighs about half as much as the R1T’s 7,000+lb heft.

With the R1T Quad Max Ascend’s increased power – nearly a 200hp increase over the 835hp of the 2022 model it ran last year – it should be able to improve on that time. This may not be enough to break the 11 minute barrier, but it could be close.

In preparation for the race, Rivian has already been spotted in a parking lot getting their outfit set up for running, with colorful livery and new “Rivian Adventure Department” branding on its vehicles. Rivian is even using one of its RCV commercial vans as a team van.

The race event is this weekend at Pike’s Peak, Colorado. Practice runs start today and go through Friday, with race day on Sunday the 23rd. Rivian set up a site to direct enthusiasts to where to buy tickets (or where to reserve an R1T Quad), but according to the Pike’s Peak website, it looks like tickets are sold out. So you’ll have to watch the official race day livestream on Mobil 1’s YouTube channel or catch up on Pike’s Peak’s YouTube instead.

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