Pinkham, Notch, NH – Officials with the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire and the Mt. Washington Auto Road located in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire, announced today that the legendary Mt. Washington Hillclimb will be returning June 26-29, 2014, due in part to the generous help from Subaru of America.
Organized and sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire, the 2014 Subaru Mt. Washington Hillclimb will be a 3-day motorsports festival including a 75-car competition field filled with some of the best drivers from around North America and the world as well as a contingent of rare vintage race cars.
Also known as the “Climb to the Clouds”, the Mt. Washington Hillclimb is one of America’s oldest motorsports events, first run in July, 1904, seven years before the first 500-mile race at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway 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 1990 when it was run consistently until 2001. Following a ten-year hiatus, the Mt. Washington Hillclimb returned in 2011 as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the Mt. Washington Auto Road which first opened on August 8, 1861.
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 serve as the perfect proving ground for them 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 in 1904 included manufacturers such as Rambler, Mercedes, Oldsmobile, Stanley Steamer, Pierce and a high priced Daimler.
In the 1904 Hillclimb F.E. Stanley from Newton, Massachusetts, co-creator of the famous Stanley Steamer, drove his 6-horsepower, 800-pound steam-powered Locomobile 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 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 including “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 Carerra-powered Volkswagen to another new record time of 9:13.0 that would stand for the next 29 years – until the return of the race in 1990 when Champion rally driver Tim O’Neil from nearby Franconia, NH drove his 300+ horsepower all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Rally Golf to the summit in an amazing time of just 7 minutes and 45 seconds.
Following the return of the Mt. Washington Hillclimb in 1990, the event was run annually as part of the Mt. Washington Auto Road’s summer event schedule until 2001. During that time, several new course records were shared between 7-time Sports Car Club of America National Rally Champion Paul Choiniere from Shelburne, VT and multi-time Canadian Rally Champion Frank Sprongl from Mississauga, Ontario. Sprongl went on to set a record time of 6:41.99 in 1998 driving his 500 horsepower Audi Quattro S2 that would stand for 13 years.
In 2011, ten years after the last Mt. Washington Hillclimb was run, Subaru Rally Team USA driver and 4-time Rally America Overall Champion David Higgins from the Isle of Man came to Mt. Washington for the first time. Driving a Vermont SportsCar-prepared 2011 Subaru WRX STI all-wheel-drive rally car, Higgins set a new overall course record of 6:11.54 – smashing Sprongl’s previous record time by more than 30 seconds!
Following his record-setting run, Higgins stated “It was a very big challenge because the road was still wet in spots and would turn very slick suddenly. With the clouds the visibility was so low I could hardly see past the hood of my car,” explained Higgins. “Our Subaru was setup perfectly for a road like this but I’ve never raced here before and it was a lot of work to try to learn the course. It’s fantastic to have the record at such a prestigious event.”
Those racing in the 2014 Subaru Mt. Washington Hillclimb will be competing on the very same 7.6 mile road as the original 1904 event 110 years earlier. Of course these days the surface has changed with nearly 87% of the road now asphalt and 13% still gravel. The 7.6 mile Auto Road is one of the ultimate challenges for driver and automobile alike. The serpentine road is lined with trees on the lower half and dramatic drop-offs above halfway as it winds its’ way to the 6, 288 foot summit of the Northeast’s tallest peak – Mt. Washington.
The 2014 Subaru Mt. Washington Hillclimb will take place June 26-29, 2014 and will be organized and sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire – New Hampshire’s premier sports car club. For more information regarding the Subaru Mt. Washington Hillclimb, the Mt. Washington Auto Road or the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire, visit www.climbtotheclouds.com.