BMW took roughly 6,000 pounds of XM Label Red to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) this year, aiming to break the record for an SUV run up the mountain. Rhys Millen set that record in 2018 behind the wheel of a 2018 Bentley Bentayga, taking 10:49.9 to cover the 12.42 miles and 156 turns through almost 5,000 feet of altitude gain. Matt Mullins, who’s also the head instructor at BMW’s Performance Driving School in South Carolina, would be driving the #728 XM Label Red on behalf of BMW Motorsports. Closing the circle, Mullins asked his friend and fellow stunt driver Millen to come on board as program director. Millen obliged.
We should note that in 2022, Pirelli test driver Simone Faggioli roared up the climb in a Lamborghini Urus in just 10:32.064, but that run took place in August, two months after the event. The PPIHC organizing body naturally only recognizes records run during the event, so Millen’s name occupies a line in the books for now. In fact, let’s note that Millen’s name occupies several lines, as the racer/drifter/stunt driver and all-around nice guy owns the quickest times in the production car, modified electric car, and two-wheel-drive showroom stock categories as well. Millen had set a production car record of 10:18.488 in 2018 driving a 2019 Bentley Continental GT before resetting the record this year in a BMW M8 as a side order to the XM main dish, stopping the clock in 10:12.024.
BMW was surprisingly reserved about both efforts, first unsure if it would take the XM, and saying nothing about the XM involved until a few days before the race. Walk softly and carry a big ol’ hybrid SUV and all that.
Or perhaps BMW was keeping the mountain’s capriciousness in mind; Pikes Peak loves a surprise, many ending in crumpled metal, some ending in fatalities. Turns out Mullins’ run fell victim to the crumpled metal kind of surprise. He went off the outside of a fast sweeper in the first section of the course and hit a tree. Thankfully, he was unhurt.
BMW’s cut a two-part video about the effort that went into the run, for the first time revealing just how much work the company put in. It’s a really cool video, showing what goes into a manufacturer effort to turn a luxury behemoth into both a race car and a believable hopeful for a hill climb record. And yes, the editors included the crash footage and the aftermath. Sensational.
Post-race, BMW of North America issued the statement, “Unfortunately, our hopes for a record run with the BMW XM today ended with a race incident. Driver Matt Mullins is disappointed but unhurt. The focus now is on repairing the vehicle and planning for another record attempt later this summer.” Part 2 and the end of the race to the record should hit YouTube shortly.