Legendary Automobile Hillclimb will be part of the Mt. Washington Auto Road’s 150th Anniversary Celebration
Colchester, VT — 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 America’s 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 Northeast’s tallest peak. Organized by Vermont SportsCar and sanctioned by RallyCar, 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 to bring the event back in 2011. We’ll 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. It’s 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 minutes and 49.6 seconds. Carroll Shelby, driving a specially prepared Ferrari roadster in 1956, posted a record-setting run of 10 minutes and 21.8 seconds on his way to victory. In 1961 Bill Rutan from Connecticut drove his Porsche-powered Volkswagen to another new record time of 9 minutes and 13.0 seconds that would stand for 29 years – until the return of the race in 1990 when Tim O’Neil, 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 the 29-year hiatus, the event was run annually as part of the Mt. Washington Auto Road’s 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 current Climb to the Clouds record of 6 minutes and 41.99 seconds 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 private test session by Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana at the Mt. Washington Auto Road, on the Climb to the Clouds course, as part of The Red Bull Speed Chasers event. The 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 Pastrana’s 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 online today here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdXJYc4CpXA.
Those competing in the 2011 Climb to the Clouds will be treated to a recently re-paved road surface below the tree-line while some newly paved surfaces above tree-line 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, bested Sprongl’s record 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, setting a time of 6 minutes 20.47 seconds. 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 Pastrana’s 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 six 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 we’re telling that story. We’re 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 SportsCar’s connections in the rally world we’re sure to have one of the most exciting races and race weekends that we’ve ever seen here at Mt Washington.”
The Mt. Washington Auto Road:
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 Road’s year-long 150th anniversary celebration as the oldest manmade tourist attraction in the United States.
The oldest man-made tourist attraction in the USA warns first-time visitors about the experience ahead — Photo by Lars Gange
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). For more information regarding the 2011 Climb to the Clouds, please send an e-mail with your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information on the event will be available at www.climbtotheclouds.com this fall.
About Vermont SportsCar:
Smith’s reputation for high-quality craftsmanship and attention to detail in the restoration business became hallmarks of Vermont SportsCar’s rally-car construction business and the company quickly formed a reputation for building the best prepared rally cars in North America. Vermont SportsCar has grown from a small four person operation in the early nineties to a unique bustling motorsports business today. Vermont SportsCar is best known for preparing the rally cars for, and management of, Subaru Rally Team USA, the factory rally team for Subaru of America. The team has won over 30 rallies since 2006 as well as helped team driver Travis Pastrana earn the Rally America National Championship four times in a row (2006-2009). For more information about Vermont SportsCar please visit www.vtcar.com.
About the Mt. Washington Auto Road: