Could Carlin Dunne's Death End Pikes Peak Hill Climb Motorcycle Race?

Carlin Dunne as seen in the final installment of a video diary he recorded the day before his death at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 30.
Carlin Dunne as seen in the final installment of a video diary he recorded the day before his death at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 30. Ducati via YouTube
Multiple agencies continue to review the June 30 death of Carlin Dunne at the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and while no timetable has been set for the completion of the probe, potential fallout ranges from changes in the motorcycle portion of the venerable race to its permanent cancellation for safety reasons.

Among those actively lobbying for the race to continue is Dunne's mother, Romie Gallardo, whose statement about her son's passing appears below in its entirety.

The Hill Climb begins at 9,390 feet above sea level and ends at the 14,115-foot summit of a mountain as famous as any in America. But over the past century, the race has also proved deadly, as our 2016 cover story on the Pikes Peak race documented. Among other things, the article discusses the death of Carl Sorensen during a 2015 practice run on a Ducati motorcycle.

Dunne was also riding a Ducati when he died. He was at least the seventh person to lose his life in what is known among aficionados as the "Race to the Clouds," and the third since 2014.

In the days following the accident, representatives of Ducati North America and the Hill Climb created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Gallardo. After noting that "his loss is felt throughout the international motorcycling and racing community," the page offers a mini-bio of the late racer.

"Carlin was a four-time champion of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, won Rookie of the Year in 2011 and broke the ten-minute barrier the following year, setting a new course record that stood for five years," the passage reads. "He then selflessly volunteered two race seasons as part of Ducati’s Squadra Alpina Team, with the Race Smart program, mentoring rookie riders as they first came to race the mountain. He was loved, respected and admired by all those whose lives he touched."

Also spotlighted on the page is the final installment of a video diary that Dunne recorded on June 29, the day before he died. Here it is:

In a Colorado Springs Gazette article, Jack Glavan, who manages Pikes Peak — America's Mountain, a City of Colorado Springs agency that oversees the highway on which the race takes place and controls the permit that sanctions it, confirmed that discussions were taking place about whether the competition should continue. In addition, the publication obtained an email from Megan Leatham, the race's executive director, in which she predicted that Dunne's death from "high-siding" (his back tire lost control, causing him to be launched from the vehicle) would spell "the end of the motorcycle program on Pikes Peak."

When contacted by Westword, Glavan asked for questions to be submitted via email, but then declined to answer them. Instead, both he and Leatham offered statements about the current inquiry.

“Pikes Peak — America’s Mountain continues to mourn the tragic loss of Carlin Dunne, a champion in every regard," Glavan's comments read. "The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb holds a very special and historic place in our community and throughout the racing world. The race is owned and operated by the PPIHC through an agreement issued by PPAM, an enterprise of the City of Colorado Springs. As such, any questions regarding the race should be directed to PPIHC staff.”

For her part, Leatham writes about the race as if it will be happening in 2020 and beyond, despite the aforementioned email: "The PPIHC is still mourning the tragic loss of Carlin Dunne. In due time, the organization will review all of the Divisions in the car and motorcycle program, as well as all aspects of the event, to determine what changes will be made in 2020. The Board of Directors makes all final decisions regarding any changes to the 2020 Rule Book."

The other major decision-maker when it comes to the Hill Climb is the U.S. Forest Service, since a large chunk of the race occurs on land under its supervision. Lucero Hernández, acting spokesman for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands, also responds with a statement.

After expressing condolences to the family of Carlin Dunne on behalf of Oscar Martinez, the acting deputy forest and grassland supervisor for the area, Hernández notes: "The Forest Service is in communication with our partners Colorado Springs Sports Corporation and Pikes Peak — America’s Mountain, an enterprise of the City of Colorado Springs. The Forest Service has asked our partners to conduct necessary investigations and to share findings in order to ensure the safety of future races. This event operates under a special use permit that has been in effect since 1948. Since then, the Forest Service has worked with these partners to review safety protocols annually for race participants and spectators."

At this writing, the Carlin Dunne GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $96,000 toward a goal of $100,000; click for more details. Continue to read the official statement from Romie Gallardo, Dunne's mother. Note that Sonny, to whom she refers on two occasions, was Dunne's dog.

click to enlarge A screen capture from a tribute video shared by Romie Gallardo, Carlin Dunne's mother. - YOUTUBE
A screen capture from a tribute video shared by Romie Gallardo, Carlin Dunne's mother.
It’s been two weeks now since my son left us. In my heart I knew the instant that Carlin's time did not register in the 4th and final section of the race that I’d lost my baby boy. (Yes, at 36 he was still my baby boy.) Dear Lord, take care of my boy, he is truly in your hands now.

From the moment of his crash, the entire Pikes Peak International Hill Climb officials handled the situation with my full support. They exhibited the utmost privacy, respect, and dignity, and continue their steadfast support today. Media was instantly shut down and an outpouring of love and support was extended from the moment that I arrived in Colorado Springs. Megan Leatham, Executive Director of The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Tom Osborne, Chairman of the Board of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Paul and Becca Livingston, Owners of Spridergrips, Jason Chinnock, CEO Ducati of North America, and Ducati Motor in Bologna, Italy, all took care of me, protected me, and more importantly protected my son. I will forever be grateful.

Carlin was beloved by all who knew him. He was everyone’s friend. Whether playing the role of little brother, big brother, son, or best friend. From a young age, I shared him with the world because I knew he was bigger than me, bigger than our mother-son bond. He fiercely pursued his passions with my full blessing and complete support. He held the security and confidence of knowing, "Mom will take care of the homestead." He was never reckless in action or deed. I trusted him implicitly. Many years ago, he evolved beyond me. The funny thing is, Carlin never thought of himself as a "big deal." I did, but I was "just the mom." He still did his own laundry, picked up Sonny’s dog poop. He always said, "please" and "thank you."

Carlin loved the mountain. She challenged and enticed him, calling him back again and again. He gave her due respect. He was fully aware of her ability to "take." With that being said, I know for a fact that he would not want the motorcycle program to end. He would want us to learn from this tragedy. He would encourage the official accident reconstruction authorities do what they are trained to do, and for the race officials to implement additional safety precautions required.

Three days after Carlin’s crash a reporter asked me, "How do you feel about the race now?" To which I replied, "The same way I felt on June 29th, the day before he crashed." All his life I’ve known that losing him was a possibility. We went into this with eyes wide-open. We were aware of the flip side of this sport. I was committed to him and his dreams. He was doing what he loved. So, who are we to take away other racers’ dreams of racing Pikes Peak International Hill Climb?

In closing, I would like to give a massive worldwide THANK YOU to all of Carlin’s extended family and friends near and far! Our family is humbled beyond words. All of your love, support, stories, videos, and pictures without a doubt have helped me — and continue to help me. I am truly touched by your love and the ways in which you honor my son. Carlin would have been in awe at all the attention. He would have loved everyone coming together in harmony. He truly lives on in each and every one of us.

Rest easy, baby boy, we’ve got this. We’ve got Sonny. As you told your little sister many years ago, "Just keep pedaling." That’s what we are going to do — just keep pedaling. I’ll see you when I get there.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts