Marla Wiseman. Photo credit: David Liddle
Name: Marla Wiseman
Title: Board Member, Registrar, and Event Coordinator at PPIHC
Year first attended PPIHC: 1981
The first PPIHC you attended was 37 years ago. What was your initial impression?
I remember I loved being up on the mountain, being around the loud cars, getting to meet the drivers, and being in the middle of all the excitement.
You started volunteering for the non-profit the following year and have continued to do so, what brings you back?
First and foremost, I love the people involved. I love the cars. I love the sounds of the engines. I love the beauty of the mountain. I love the excitement of competition. I couldn’t imagine my life without the Peak each summer.
What are your responsibilities on race day?
I have several, the first one being that I am the liaison between the safety team and the competitors’ family and crew in the event of an incident. I’m also involved in the staging of cars and motorcycles. Entrance into the hot grid is limited to a certain number of crew members, and because I’m familiar with most of the people involved, I help security determine who should gain access.
How has the race evolved over time?
It has become more sophisticated with more factory teams becoming involved. With the change of the road from dirt to pavement, the cars that run have changed as well.
What has remained constant?
The respect that people have for the mountain, from the competitors down to the volunteers.
In 1985, Michele Mouton piloting an Audi Quattro S1 was the first female to win Pikes Peak, how special was that moment?
From the announcement that she would run the Peak, there was a lot of press about her presence and enthusiasm about her coming to compete. When she won, it was a really big deal. At the time, it was very unusual to have a woman compete in the race. In 1985, she didn’t just compete, she won it, and to top it off, she broke the overall record held by Al Unser Jr.
Having spent most race days at the start line, can you describe what it’s like?
Having been a course observer on the mountain and an official at the summit, I can honestly say that I love being at the bottom of the mountain the most. It’s where the excitement of the day begins. You see the jitters of the competitors, wondering what the mountain has in store for them. You see it in their faces, their pacing, and hear it in their questions. What is the weather doing above? What is the road like?
You see officials scurrying around getting everything set up and ready. You see the anxiousness in the crew members prepping their cars and bikes, and then intently listening to the radio to make sure their competitor made it to the summit. You see the relief on their faces when the competitor tells them they made it to the top. You see the disappointment when they hear it wasn't a successful run and see the concern and worry when they don't know if their competitor is okay.
What time does race day start for you?
That too, has changed. I used to arrive at 2:30 a.m., however in the past three years, I started spending the night at the start line. It’s peaceful and you avoid the morning traffic. For spectators, I recommend leaving as early as possible in the morning, especially if they want to go past the start line.
What changes has the start line area seen over the years?
For safety purposes, the area is much more strict and much more professional in appearance now than in the past. Before, anyone was allowed around the cars and motorcycles that were staged to run. Now, the staging area is blocked off and limited to four crew members.
The pit area used to be wooded and we used to wedge everyone in between the trees and in any open nook and cranny. Recently, there has been a lot of work done to clear the area, and new to this year, the pits have been paved! We now have a large VIP area, which provides breakfast, lunch, and a TV to watch the race.
Which vehicles generate the most amount of excitement from the fans?
Back in the day, the open-wheel cars gathered the biggest crowds. Now, it’s the Unlimited division that gets the most attention.
Do you have a favorite start line memory?
That’s tough, but one of my favorite times on race day is when the competitors come back down from the summit at the end of the day. The high-fives, smiles, and cheers are the best way to end race week.
Travelling the mountain