On June 26, 2011, Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins set a new record on the famed Mount Washington Hillclimb. With a time of 6 minutes and 11.54 seconds, he was nearly 30 seconds faster than Frank Sprongl’s previous record set in 1998.
British-driver Higgins also wanted to beat the unofficial record of 6:20.47 set by Travis Pastrana in another Subaru during 2010 when he did a promotional run to bring attention to the reinstated hillclimb.
Higgins did the run without a co-driver and in difficult conditions in his Vermont SportsCar-prepared Subaru WRX STi rally car equipped with BFGoodrich RC01 Rally tires.
True to its reputation, the poor weather dominated the practice days on Friday and Saturday. With intermittent rain showers and fog, the field of almost 70 competitors (in the four race classes), was limited to the lower half of the course on the first two days.
Fortunately, the weather held off long enough on Sunday for competitors to get in two timed runs on the partially paved course before its was engulfed in fog again. "It was a big challenge because the road was still wet in places and would suddenly turn very slick. With the clouds coming in, visibility was so low I could hardly see past the hood of my car," explained Higgins. "Our Subaru is 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."
Given the right conditions, Higgins is confident he could complete the course in less than 6 minutes, hoping to return next year to prove his point.
Higgins was the last competitor to race on the day, building the anticipation for a new record among the fans in attendance. On his first attempt, Higgins was able to surpass the record by more than 20 seconds. He then beat his first time by an additional 8 seconds on his second attempt, cementing his place in the record books.
First opened in 1861 as the Mt. Washington Carriage Road in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire, the road claimed to be the country's oldest man-made attraction. The 7.6-mile Mt. Washington Auto Road is one of the ultimate challenges for drivers. The serpentine tarmac and gravel road is lined with trees and dramatic drop-offs as it winds its way to the 6288ft summit of the Northeast's tallest peak.
Considered to be 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 12 years prior to the inaugural Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado. The last time the Climb to the Clouds was run was in 2001.
Organized by Vermont SportsCar and sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire, the 2011 Mt. Washington Hill Climb served as one of several events to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Mt. Washington Auto Road as the nation's oldest man-made attraction.
Located in the Presidential range of the White Mountains, known for its extreme conditions, scientists have been researching and studying weather trends on the mountain since the 1870s. Subaru of America proudly sponsors the on-going scientific research at the Mt. Washington Observatory and, as the "official car" of the Observatory, it sponsors programs like "Subaru Science In The Mountains" to educate consumers. For the adventurous, Subaru also sponsors the annual "Seek-The-Peak" mountain climb.
After his record-breaking run, Higgins and the Subaru Rally Team USA headed to Maine for the New England Rally, where he clinch the Rally America Championship points title. The team then headed to Summer X Games 17 to compete in the Global Rallycross finals, where Higgins encountered several problems and failed to reach the podium.
To watch the video of Higgins’ Mt. Washington record-setting run, click here: http://youtu.be/s4TmKodpqx8
In a second video, you can watch a highlight reel of the 2011 Rally America National Championship trophy winners, including Higgins.
To watch this, click here:
Photos courtesy of Lars Gange, rally.subaru.com