PINKHAM NOTCH — History was made again on the legendary Mt. Washington Auto Road with Sunday’s 2017 Subaru Mt. Washington Hillclimb. Known as Climb To The Clouds, this historic hillclimb is one of America’s oldest motorsport events. First run in 1904, the inaugural race record was set by Harry Harkness in his Mercedes, posting a time of 24 minutes, 37 3/5th seconds.
Today’s course follows the same serpentine path up the 7.6 mile Auto Road, with drivers ascending 4,600 vertical feet and negotiating 138 turns along a narrow mountain road with no guardrails. Throughout the race’s history there have been 21 course records set, with some famous names in racing included. In 1956, Carroll Shelby set a time of 10 minutes 21.8 seconds in his Ferrari 375 GP. Sixty years later, that record time had been dropped to 6 minutes 9.09 seconds with a flawless run by David Higgins in his Subaru WRX STi rally car. It was a time so fast, that many wondered if and when it could be beaten.
That question was answered at the 2017 Subaru Mt. Washington Hillclimb, where Travis Pastrana, driving a specially prepared 600hp Subaru WRX STi rally car, didn’t just beat the record, he crushed it. The new time to beat is now 5 minutes 44.72 seconds, again begging the question, “Can they go any faster?” The next opportunity to answer that will be at the 2020 Mt. Washington Hillclimb on July 10-12, 2020.
While the spotlight was aimed squarely at Pastrana and his amazing drive, this year’s Climb To The Clouds was a landmark event in every respect. On hand were over 1,500 spectators and volunteers, cheering on a field of 80 drivers, competing in 10 race classes. Congratulations to everyone who tackled the Auto Road at speed, as they are now fraternal members of a select group of racers that have braved the unique conditions of Mt. Washington. Complete race results can be found here.
One record that may have been overlooked in the wake of Pastrana’s historic run was the fact that his Subaru teammate, David Higgins, posted the fastest speed ever on the Auto Road—116 mph. He and Pastrana were neck and neck throughout practice, and it was anyone’s guess who would take the victory, and possibly a new record. Higgins pushed it to the limit during the morning run, but crashed at the famous Cragway Spring turn and was unable to compete in the afternoon session. Being the gentleman that he is, he was quick to congratulate Pastrana on his accomplishment.
“It was going really well up until it went really bad,” explained Higgins. “It’s one of those events that you put so much work into one small run, so the disappointment is massive. If you are going fast enough to win the event you are going fast enough to crash. But there is no better person to lose my record to than Travis. I’m really happy for him and the job the team has done.”
Mark your calendar for July 10-12, 2020 and join us for the next chapter in the history of Climb To The Clouds.