by Ralph Routon
Hill-climb racers and organizers, and also many people across Colorado Springs who have nothing to do with the sport, have lost a friend.
Robert "Bob" Donner Jr., 78, who spent his adult life here after graduating from Colorado College in 1954, passed away Wednesday.
Donner won the sports-car class of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb three straight years, from 1960 through 1962. He started racing Porsches in the 1950s and made it into Sports Illustrated in 1959 after winning three races in the first two days of the old Continental Divide Raceway outside Castle Rock.
He was a permanent fixture in the car-racing world, and under his guidance, his two sons, Bobby Donner III and David Donner, became prominent open-wheel drivers, both winning on Pikes Peak. They finished 1-2 in the 1989 Race to the Clouds open-wheel division, with Bobby setting the division's race record. But just a few months later, he died tragically when a deer jumped in front of his open-wheeler at the end of the Teller County Hill Climb north of Cripple Creek. David Donner continued racing and has four victories on Pikes Peak.
Besides many community involvements — both he and his wife Joan were socially active through the years — Bob Donner also was a trustee emeritus at Colorado College.
Pikes Peak Hill Climb race director Phil Layton, in one of many online tributes, called Donner "one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met." Marty Reid, a longtime racing TV announcer who has produced many shows on the Pikes Peak race, said, "It is rare when one person can have such a profound effect on so many."