Wednesday, July 9, 2014

David Higgins and Craig Drew dominate the 2014 "Climb To The Clouds" by setting new record time.

Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew won their third consecutive Rally America National Championship rally at the Mt. Washington “Climb to the Clouds” in Gorham, New Hampshire on June 26-29, and set a new hill climb record in the process. Photo Lars Grange / Subaru Rally Team
Their resounding victory added a larger buffer to their overall points standings lead at the midpoint of the Rally America National Championship season, and against their main rival and teammates Travis Pastrana and Chrissie Beavis. Higgins and Drew drove a flawless Hill Climb to take the lead after the very first stage with Pastrana and Beavis just 2.9 seconds behind. Pastrana stayed in attack mode until a massive Stage 3 tire puncture ripped through the body work of his car to lose nearly 30 seconds. On Stage 5, Pastrana was down on power and lost another minute to Higgins before salvaging a second place finish. On stage 5, Higgins bested his own 2011 Climb to the Clouds record of 6:11.54 with a time of 6:11.24 despite having a heavier, less powerful car! With a single stage left, Higgins found more speed to destroy the record he previously set that morning by at least 2 seconds with a time of 6:09.09. “It was a great event and we put in a big effort for those few seconds,” explained Higgins. “There is so much history here and it’s great to be a part of it again for Subaru. This was a big challenge this weekend as we had Pastrana and our old record staring us down. But Craig (Drew) was perfect on the notes and Subaru gave me a car that was perfect.” The team was uncertain the record would be attainable with a less than ideal hill climb car. But the possibility of breaking the record materialized when the team found that Higgins was a second slower off his 2011 record when combining his best Friday and Saturday stage times from the lower and upper half runs.
"We knew it was going to be tough to catch David here," said Travis Pastrana at the podium celebration. "It's great for the team to go one-two and lower the record again. It was a close fight on that final run and our Subaru was just a blast to drive here" Travis and co driver Chrissie Beavis will be back in pursuit of their first victory together when the compete at the New England Forest Rally in Maine on July 18th and 19th.
The Climb to the Clouds will be a memorable event for Super Production’s Dillon Van Way and Andrew Edwards who took third overall and their very first Super Production Class victory. Amazingly, Van Way has podiumed in every event he has entered in the SP Class, but until this point, never landed in the top spot. “Our first class win of the season feels really great!” exclaimed, Van Way, “It feels like a long time coming because we've been so close so many times this season. We really just had to have a clean run after Nick's off on the stage 3, so really we are most excited for our third overall. Personally for me sharing a podium with Travis Pastrana was a life long dream come true!” Van Way’s victory comes at an important juncture in his battle with class rivals Nick Roberts and Rhianon Gelsomino in the points standings. Not only does Van Way remain second overall in the overall standings, but he also increases his SP points lead by 14 over Roberts.
 FY Racing’s Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze suffered car issues at the start of the rally event that immediately forced the team into service and reenter the next day with time penalties according to Super Rally rules. This placed Yeoman in the back of the pack when he normally challenges the podium, but with the limited stages the team did not have a chance to jump back to the top.

In the Two-Wheel Drive (2WD) category, Andrew Comrie-Picard and Ole Holter dominated in their Ford Fiesta ST to take their second victory this season. Troy Miller and Steven Harrell kept the race close before engine failure claimed their race on stage 5. Miller was hoping to continue his success following his first 2WD victory at the Susquehannock Trail Rally earlier this month. “What a fantastic event! I've never done it before and it's an incredible challenge,” said Comrie-Picard, “Team O'Neil and Ford Racing put together an amazing package in the Fiesta ST. BFGoodrich set us up with a track tire that worked perfectly and Ole was perfect on the notes which was crucial. The result is a huge leap ahead for our championship and we're looking forward to the New England Forest Rally!”
Nick Roberts and Rhianon Gelsomino had an exciting, yet disappointing Climb to the Clouds. The team was locked in a tight battle with Van Way until they lost their left rear wheel from striking a rock on Stage 3 and forcing the team to reenter the rally on Sunday with time penalties under Super Rally Rules. Roberts and Gelsomino more importantly still finished the Climb to the Clouds to take second in class. Their thirteenth overall finish does not help their overall points standing, but the team still keeps the SP Class points race close with Van Way.
Bill Petrow, founder of Broken Motorsports, has been competing in cars since 2009, but the Mt. Washington Climb to the Clouds would be his most prestigious event to date. Things got of to a tough start for Petrow and co driver Jeremy Neyhart, " our first stage, at checkpoint 7 we encountered unusually low grip conditions resulting in a scary, high-speed spin that left the car still intact, but on the edge of the road near a very large rock that would have ended the weekend in a hurry!" explains Bill. The team would have to re enter the even under rally rule, and throw caution to the wind in a bid for the fastest 2WD time in the rally class. In his own words Bill Petrow explains his record breaking run on Sunday. "We decided that if we brought the fight on the first stage of the day and were close in times to Andrew Comrie-Picard and Cameron Steely, that we would go all out and try to get the fastest climb of the rally 2wd cars. 1st run we were only .4 seconds behind ACP and within 2 seconds of Cameron. It was on for the second stage! We were going to fight for the R2 win! Reset some tire pressures and off we went in to the second run. The notes were on point and my memory was serving well. Less shifting and better lines were in order and we were focused to make it up the mountain in great fashion. Instead of drifting in some spots as we did on the first run, we kept the lines tidy and power down. On to the dirt we still had a hard time getting traction but were faster than previous runs. Into the Cragway we went wide, but used the berm of dirt and gravel like snow banks in Sweden to straighten the car and up the next incline we went spinning tires and banging gears. L4 onto tarmac and back on the hunt. Trying to keep moving as straight as possible the cut lines became dangerously close to throwing us off the mountain, but we had the speed to at least match our rivals. In the pedal and over some crests, we were catching small air and getting the car sideways as some of the crests were on turns. Up the last bit of the stage and not lifting over the crest and the finish line, again the car stepped out next to 1000ft cliff. We had made it!!! We knew we had a killer run and immediately were screaming and yelling in the car! Even if we had lost to our rivals we knew we drove the pants off that thing and it was something for both of us to be proud of. As we get out of the car, Cameron and Preston pull up and seemed to have similar reactions. They were in the fight with ACP as we were, but they were more concerned with beating ACP and did so by only 1/10th of a second to run a 7:13.28! A new Front Wheel Drive record on the hill! They celebrate as they were able to check times on their cell phones. I ask “Hey what did we run?” and Preston says 7:20, me and Ryan both looked at each other and were kind of down that we had lost by so much after such an insane run. Preston says “Wait!!! You guys suck! You ran a 7:09.95!!! What the hell!” and we all went crazy! Not only did we bring the fight to the Rally 2WD class, we were able to beat our rivals by nearly 4 seconds setting a new Rally 2WD class record as well! Other very notable accomplishments set were the 3rd fastest 2WD machine on the mountain for the weekend, we broke into the top 10 overall out of some 70 competitors, and were 4th fastest overall Rally time up the crag beating both Super Production competitors in their AWD Subaru’s and only following the open class monoliths of FY Racing, Travis Pastrana and the new record holder yet again, David Higgins!"
The only women racing at Mt.Washington Hillclimb 2014."In the half runs we got a chance to use the notes we wrote at speed and get a better understanding of where we could carry speed up the mountain which really helped us on our full runs" says Detota. Erika and Mary improved by 15 seconds on their second full run up the mountain. “It all came together in our try where we posted the time of 7:50.09 which beat our personal goal of under 8:00! I know we still have room to improve using the same set up and we are hoping to come back in the future to improve this time." says navigator, Mary Warren. "I am proud to have come and made our way up the mountain so quickly. It was a new type of race for us and we learned so much in just 3 days. It was completely different event than any other we have ran so far. We also had the opportunity to bring attention to the causes we work for, Keep-A-Breast and DriveSafer. We look forward to coming back and trying to beat our time.” adds Detota. Team RallyErika placed 4th in 2WD class and 9th overall in the final national classification of the rally portion of the event. “Even though our car is not perfect for the 2WD class, we were glad to show that Subaru’s also do well in this specification. We will look into some options of running more Rally America series events soon.” says Erika. Current Mt. Washington record holder David Higgins broke his existing course record of 6 minutes 11.54 seconds by just 3 tenths in his first full-course run to post a time of 6.09.09 in the second run up the mountain. Team RallyErika is supported by Ruge’s Subaru of Rhinebeck, NY, Keep a Breast Foundation, DriveSafer, Flat Out Automotive, Spy Optics, Exedy Racing Clutch, HMS Motorsport, DBA USA and Whiteline.


In 1990 Rally driver / instructor Tim O'Neil set the record for  the Climb to the Clouds in a Group A Volkswagen Golf, his time back then on a much less paved road was 7 Minutes and 45 seconds. Fast forward to 2014 and Tim tackles the hill in a 2014 EVSR [electric car], Tim's best time in the little yellow silent racer was 7:28:92. O'Neil competed in the Open class, finishing 24th overall.

Sources; Rally America, Photos Neil McDaid / Lars Grange