The Pikes Peak International Hillclimb is by far the most popular hill climb competition in the United States. However, it’s not the only one. Every three years there’s a competition held at Mt Washington in New Hampshire that’s similar to the famous Pikes Peak, only it’s more raw and possibly even more dangerous. That’s because rather than the entire course being a paved road, the Mt. Washington course is half road, half gravel. And as you’ll quickly notice, the roads appear to be a lot skinnier with less margin of error. But that didn’t stop the unofficial king of action sports, Travis Pastrana, from setting a new record time this past weekend behind the wheel of his purpose built Subaru WRX Sti.
There’s no question that Pastrana is very talented no matter what he’s doing, but for him to set a new record at Mt. Washington is a major achievement. I say that because the previous record of 6 minutes 9.09 seconds was held by none other than the Rally specialist, David Higgins, who was also behind the wheel of a Subaru. And Pastrana didn’t just beat the record, he destroyed it by an unbelievable 24 seconds. Since Higgins specializes in this type of racing, beating him by even a half second would’ve been impressive. So you can only imagine the shock, and excitement Pastrana must’ve felt when he got his time slip and it read 5 minutes 44.72 seconds. Higgins also competed this year and was in the midst of a blistering lap time himself, but unfortunately suffered a massive wreck just two miles from the finish line. Luckily he didn’t suffer major injuries.
The “Climb to the Clouds” Mt Washington event is one of the largest motorsports attractions in the northeast as well as being one of the oldest auto races in the country. The first race was held back in 1904, which actually predates even Pikes Peak and the Indianapolis 500. The course if approximately 7.4 miles long which means that Pastrana was averaging approximately 77mph over the entire course. And that is so impressive considering the conditions of the roads.
Pastrana’s weapon of choice was of course, the Subaru WRX Sti. And this particular example was built and tuned by Vermont SportsCar. Apparently, he must’ve had his sights set on the record from the beginning because his STi was set up specifically for this course and the changing road surface. Vermont SportsCar managed to pull 600hp out of turbocharged four-cylinder and all that power is sent to all four wheels. While there are many things that are different about the Climb to the Clouds race, one of the most significant is they don’t allow co-drivers. That means it’s strictly up to the driver to both navigate and pilot the vehicle at breakneck speeds up the skinny mountain roads.
Check out a few short clips of the record run provided by Subaru Rally Team USA and Mt. Washington Auto Road, as well a brief clip of Higgins crash.
Subaru has just released in-car footage of Pastrana’s full record run that I’ve included. It’s even more impressive than I first thought!