|March 14, 2010
Source: Climb To The Clouds
Colchester, Vermont Officials with Vermont SportsCar, located in Colchester, Vermont and the Mt. Washington Auto Road, located in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire, announced today that the legendary Mt. Washington Climb to the Clouds Automobile Hillclimb will be returning June 22-26, 2011 as a major motorsports event. The Mt. Washington Climb to the Clouds, first run in 1904, is one of Americas oldest motorsports events. The 7.6 mile Auto Road is one of the ultimate challenges for driver and automobile, the serpentine tarmac and gravel road is lined with trees and dramatic drop-offs as it winds its way to the 6,288 foot summit of the Northeasts tallest peak. Organized by Vermont SportsCar the 2011 Climb to the Clouds will be a 5-day festival of motorsports that hopes to attract a 70-car competition field filled with some of the best drivers from around the world competing for King of the Hill honors.
Considered one of the oldest motorsports events in the United States, the Climb to the Clouds was first run in 1904, seven years before the first 500-mile race at the Brickyard in Indianapolis and twelve years prior to the inaugural Pikes Peak Hillclimb in Colorado. The Climb to the Clouds was run sporadically from 1904-1961, then not again until the 1990’s. The last time the Climb to the Clouds was run was in 2001 on a rain shortened course.
The Climb to the Clouds is an amazing event on an amazing road, explains Lance Smith, owner of Vermont SportsCar. With the 150th birthday of the Mt. Washington Auto Road coming up in 2011 we felt it was time to just step in and make sure the Climb to the Clouds could return. We have made a great arrangement with the Mt. Washington Auto Road and the event will be back in 2011. Well do our best to include many of the people who have a history there, who have experience there and who have supported the event in the past. Its going to be a lot of fun.
Originally referred to as the Mt. Washington Carriage Road due to the horse-drawn wagons that traversed the road to the summit of Mt. Washington in the late 1800’s, auto manufacturers believed that the Carriage Road would be the perfect proving ground to demonstrate the ability of their new horseless carriages. Promoted as the greatest contest of motor vehicles ever held, the inaugural Climb to the Clouds included among others a Rambler, Mercedes, Oldsmobile, Stanley Steamer, Pierce and a high priced Daimler.
In 1904, the first year of the Hillclimb, F.E. Stanley from Newton, Massachusetts, co-creator of the famous Stanley Steamer, drove his 6-horsepower, 800-pound steam-powered car to the summit of Mt. Washington only to be beaten by Harry Harkness from New York. Driving a 40-horsepower Mercedes that weighed 2,200 pounds, Harkness posted a winning time in 1904 of 24 minutes, 37 and 3/5 seconds.
Since that first year of competition, many well-known drivers have competed and won the Climb to the Clouds such as Cannonball Baker in 1928 & 1932 and the legendary Carroll Shelby in 1956. Driving a Franklin in 1928, Baker raced to a time of 14:49.6 seconds. Carroll Shelby, driving a specially prepared Ferrari roadster in 1956, posted a record-setting run of 10:21.8 on his way to victory. In 1961 Bill Rutan from Connecticut drove his Porsche-powered Volkswagen to another new record time of 9:13.0 that would stand for 29 years until the return of the race in 1990 when Tim ONeil, a Rally driver from Franconia, NH drove his 300+ horsepower all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Rally Golf to the summit in a time of 7 minutes and 45 seconds.
Following the return of the Mt. Washington Hillclimb in 1990 after a 29-year hiatus, the event was run annually as part of the Mt. Washington Auto Roads summer event schedule until 2001. During that time, several new records were shared between 7-time Sports Car Club of America National Rally Champion Paul Choiniere from Shelburne, Vermont and multi-time Canadian Rally Champion Frank Sprongl from Mississauga, Ontario. The Climb to the Clouds record of 6:41.99 was set by Sprongl in 1998 driving his 500 horsepower all-wheel-drive Audi Quattro S2.
Sprongl may still hold the fastest race-day time for the Climb to the Clouds event but his time was bested by over twenty seconds this past Wednesday (Sept 8, 2010) in an officially timed test session by Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana at the Mt. Washington Auto Road, on the Climb to the Clouds course. The Red Bull Speed Chasers test session was conducted by Vermont SportsCar along with Mt. Washington Auto Road officials to evaluate road and safety needs in a race-like setting ahead of the 2011 Climb to the Clouds. The test included extensive filming as well as in-car video of Travis Pastranas test runs. The Red Bull Speed Chasers project will air on World of Adventure Sports on NBC as well as Transit Chapters on MSG this fall. Video highlights are available on YouTube.
Those competing in the 2011 Climb to the Clouds Hillclimb will be treated to a recently re-paved road surface below the treeline while some newly paved surfaces above treeline will certainly help make the course faster than it has ever been. Pastrana, driving a BFGoodrich Tires-shod Vermont SportsCar prepared 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI rally car set his fastest time on his first ever at-speed run to the summit, after seeing the Mt. Washington Auto Road for the very first time the day prior. Three subsequent runs were slowed or stopped short of the finish due to near zero visibility from low clouds and inclement weather, a hallmark of the Mt. Washington Auto Road. However, split times from each of Pastranas subsequent partial runs were significantly faster than his first run as he became more comfortable with the road. Event officials, along with Pastrana, concluded that a sub 6 minute run could be possible in 2011 if conditions are good.
The Climb to the Clouds has always been a thrilling event right from its inception in 1904, said Howie Wemyss, General Manager of the Mt. Washington Auto Road. The race is an important part of our heritage and a piece that always gets great attention when were telling that story. Were so glad that Vermont SportsCar shares our enthusiasm for bringing this great event back as a major part of our 150th birthday celebration in 2011. With Vermont SportsCars connections in the rally world were sure to have one of the most exciting races and race weekends that weve ever seen here at Mt Washington.
About the Mount Washington Auto Road
The Mt. Washington Auto Road is considered by many hillcimb racers to be extremely technical with a narrow road surface that averages just over 16 feet wide. In addition to being very narrow with precipitous drop-offs that vary from side to side, the road is also incredibly steep, with an average 12% grade and gaining slightly more than 4,600 feet in total elevation change from the start line to the finish line. The road surface is mostly tarmac with approximately one mile of gravel and contains more than 100 turns and switchbacks as it snakes its way to the 6,288 foot summit of the Northeasts tallest peak.
Utilizing the same 7.6 mile road as the original 1904 event the 2011 Climb to the Clouds Hillclimb will play a key role in the Mt. Washington Auto Roads year-long 150th anniversary celebration as the oldest manmade tourist attraction in the United States.
The 2011 Climb to the Clouds will take place at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road in Pinkham Notch, NH June 22 through 26, 2011. Further details regarding the event, including competition classes and entry information will be available early this fall. The event will be organized by Vermont Sportscar and sanctioned by RallyCar (formerly Rally America).