FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2002
Contact: Jesse Mosston
P.O. Box 278, Gorham, NH 03581
Pinkham Notch, NH - The Mt. Washington Hillclimb auto race, also known as the "Climb to the Clouds", scheduled for June 21-23, 2002, will not be held this year. The event is a timed auto race up the Mt. Washington Auto Road to the summit of 6,288-foot Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast.
The decision to cancel this year’s Hillclimb was based on several factors, including the loss of the event’s title sponsor. In January of this year, the former sponsor announced its decision not to return for what would have been the eleventh year associated with the event. "Canceling the event was a very difficult decision for us to make", said Howie Wemyss, the General Manager of the Mt. Washington Auto Road. "We had to take into consideration the economic realities of holding the race without a major sponsor. At this late date and with finding sponsorship support for this type of event more difficult in a tight economy, we made the tough call to cancel the race. We discussed the possibility of a scaled down version of the event, but ultimately decided against it. We have set a very high standard for ourselves when it comes to events and activities - we’re just not comfortable with anything less".
Further complicating the situation is the current renovation and reconstruction of the Mt. Washington Auto Road Stage Office building where much of the event has been based. The facility is undergoing a complete redesign scheduled for completion in the fall of 2002. "The Auto Road will be open for visitors during the construction this summer and guided tour service will be available as usual, however, to hold an event of this magnitude during the rebuilding only adds to the difficulty", Wemyss explained. The Auto Road’s sister company, the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, a four season outdoor center, is also based in the facility and will continue to operate during construction.
First run in 1904 and recognized as America’s oldest motorsports event, the "Climb to the Clouds" pre-dates the Indianapolis 500, first held in 1911 and the inaugural Pikes Peak Hillclimb of 1916. The race was held on and off through 1961 and then took a 29 year hiatus. In 1990, Wemyss, Robert Brotherus, a Finnish Rally Driver, and 11-time Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Pro Rally champion, John Buffum, brought the race back to the Auto Road.
The race was originally created by early auto manufactures to showcase their new inventions. The Mt. Washington Auto Road was considered to be the ultimate site to prove the ability of these now historic vehicles. In the first "Climb to the Clouds", Harry Harkness drove a Mercedes up the 7.4 mile course in 24 minutes, 37 seconds. This was considered to be remarkable when compared to the 2 hours, 10 minutes it took F.O. Stanley in the Stanley Locomoble, the first automobile up the Auto Road in 1899. The record now stands at 6 minutes, 41.99 seconds, set by Frank Sprongl of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, driving an Audi S2 in 1998. The fastest speed every clocked at the Mt. Washington Hillclimb was 113 mph by 6-time New England Hillclimb Champion Jerry Driscoll of East Randolph, VT, driving a 600 hp "Hillclimb Special" in 1999.
The future of the event beyond this year is also under consideration. "We do not take canceling this historic event lightly. All of the drivers, car clubs, volunteers, and fans of the event are affected by this decision. In addition, everybody who works at the Auto Road really looks forward to the race all year long. We’ll continue our search for a new title sponsor and exploring the possibility of bringing the event back for 2003. We will announce our plans by December of 2002", said Wemyss.
Opened in 1861, the Mt. Washington Auto Road is the oldest man-made attraction in America. Each year, thousands of visitors reach the summit of Mt. Washington by way of the Auto Road, driving their own vehicle or taking a guided tour. For more information about the Mt. Washington Auto Road, visit www.mtwashingtonautoroad.com or call 603-466-3988.
Mt. Washington Auto Road
Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center
P.O. Box 278
Gorham, NH 03581