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Falken driver 'Monster' Tajima takes on Pikes Peak

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Current Pikes Peak overall record holder Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima returns to the famed international hill climb in 2009, driving a specially designed Monster Sport SX4 Hillclimb Special, built in conjunction with Suzuki Sport, and shod with Falken Ziex S/T Z04 Pikes Peak Special.

The 87th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will see the veteran driver pitted against three “rookies” in the Unlimited division as all four will try to crack the Peak’s elusive under 10-minute barrier. Rookies only in their debut in the “race to the clouds,” rally legend Marcus Gröholm, holder of 30 World Rally Championship victories and two titles, and four-time Swedish Rally Champion Andreas Eriksson, both from the Olsberg Motor Sport Evolution team of Sweden, will each field a Ford Rallycross Fiesta. The fourth combatant is British Rallycross Champion Mark Rennison, who brings his famous 1999 Ford RS 200 to the Peak.

Japanese superstar “Monster” Tajima, who set the current Pikes Peak record of 10:01.41 in 2007, will return with his new 885-hp machine this year. (By comparison, the winning time for the first event in 1916 was 20:55.40.)

Tajima’s 3.6-liter twin turbo Suzuki has gone through major changes for a new record-breaking attempt, but is loosely based on previous models that “Monster” has raced up the mountain. This year’s model has seen technical improvements which, during pre-event testing in Japan, have shown that Tajima has the potential to eclipse the 10-second record. The Suzuki Sport will run on Falken Ziex S/T Z04 all-season performance tires, size 285/60R18. The tires are known for having one of the deepest tread designs in the SUV/Sport Truck category.

“The ZiexS/T Z04 features a solid center rib that offers improved lateral handling and great roadway stability in challenging weather conditions,” said Andrew Hoit, Falken director of marketing. “The tires ‘Monster’ is using are what we call our ‘Pikes Peak Special,’ so we’re giving him product that will best handle the road surfaces that can quickly change based on the weather Pikes Peak is famous for.”

Tajima is no stranger to driving on dirt. In the All Japan Dirt Trial (rally sprint) Championship, he has earned nine series wins. His first visit to Pikes Peak was in 1988, and in 1995, he was the first Japanese competitor to achieve the overall win. “Monster” has competed throughout the Asia Pacific Rally circuit, scoring multiple wins.

"The 2009 Monster Suzuki Sport SX4 Hillclimb special is fantastic,” Tajima said. “After testing it, I know that it is the fastest car I have driven, and if all is good with the course, I am totally confident of breaking the record.”

The Pikes Peak race is run on a 12.42-mile course (with 156 hairpin turns) that begins at 9,390 feet and finishes at the 14,110-foot summit of “America's Mountain.” As the drivers climb toward the summit, the thin air has been known to slow reflexes and diminish muscle strength. The thin air also robs engines of 40% of their power at the summit. Competitors and vehicles must be in top shape simply to finish.

This year, the race has 11 classes and features a variety of automotive, semi-truck, exhibition, open wheel, super stock car, pro truck and motorcycle classes with a field of nearly 200 competitors.

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