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Monday, June 27, 2011

Amongst the Clouds

The Mt. Washington Auto Road is one of the scariest, most treacherous places to hold a picnic, nevermind a hill climb.  With rain, fog, and wind ever present throughout the weekend, disaster for not just the seventy competitors but the entire event would seem to be an inevitable result.  However, the combination of hardy locals, drivers trained for adverse conditions, and a well organized event crew resulted in an exciting and spirited atmosphere better than any weather that was thrown at the 2011 Climb to the Clouds.

Climbing from an altitude of 1,527 feet to 6,145 feet, drivers face 7.6 miles of tarmac that's interspersed with gravel sections, rises with an 11.6% average gradient, and can barely fit two cars side-by-side.  While the auto road's statistics make it a window maker, seventy drivers managed to conquer the mountain while three set new records.

David Higgins, driver for Subaru Rally Team USA, is the official record holder having broken Travis Pastrana's unofficial time of 6 min 20.47 sec and Frank Sprongl's official 6 min 41.99 sec.  Higgins destroyed those times with an amazing 6 min 11.54 sec run which was celebrated up and down the mountain.

In a no less impressive feat, Jerry Driscoll drove his hill climb special, The Patriot, to a mind-blowing record top speed of 114mph on the straightest quarter mile of the twisting 7.6 mile course.

If purpose-built rally cars and hill climbers aren't your thing, Mike Ryan may be your kind of racer.  His crowd pleasing Freightliner Cascadia race truck is a 10,000 pound behemoth which packs 1,950 hp and 3,400 lb-ft of torque from its diesel fueled turbo'd six.  It ran the mountain in 8 min 4 sec, a new record for the truck class.

Enjoy the rest of the sights from the weekend.

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