One of the United States’ oldest automobile races, the historic Mt. Washington Hillclimb, will be returning to the Northeast’s tallest peak July 9-12, 2020 and I, for one, plan to enter. No, seriously. So move over Ken Block and I’ll gladly let you by.
Pinkham Notch, NH — Officials with the Mt. Washington Auto Road in Gorham, New Hampshire and the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire announced today that one of the Nation’s oldest automobile races, the historic Mt. Washington Hillclimb, will be returning to the Northeast’s tallest peak July 9-12, 2020.
Organized and sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire, the 2020 Mt. Washington Hillclimb will serve as a 3-day motorsports festival that will include an 80-car field filled with some of the best drivers from North America and the world—as well as a contingent of rare vintage race and rally cars.
“We’re incredibly excited to once again welcome back the Climb to the Clouds event! This race has been a part of the Auto Road scene since 1904 and we’re proud of this racing tradition and our place in automotive history,” mentioned Mt. Washington Auto Road General Manager, Howie Wemyss. “We love the action, the fans and the drivers with their teams—it’s such an amazing and colorful weekend filled with individual stories and drama. And we’re always happy to see competitors test themselves and their machines while they go for a win or the chance of a new record!”
Also known as the “Climb to the Clouds,” the Mt. Washington Hillclimb is one of North America’s oldest motorsports events, first run in July 1904, seven years before the first 500-mile race at 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. Since the 2011 event, the Hillclimb has taken place in 2014 as well as 2017. The 2020 Mt. Washington Hillclimb will celebrate 30 very active years of growth and popularity since it was brought back in 1990.
“The Sports Car Club of New Hampshire is delighted to once again partner with the Mt. Washington Auto Road to host the 2020 Mt. Washington Hillclimb,” stated SCCNH President, Nick Wilson. “Formed in 1955, the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire has a long history of successfully organizing and hosting a variety of top-level motorsports events and is proud to be the returning organizer of the Climb to the Clouds, the oldest motorsports event of its type in North America.”
Above: Travis Pastrana negotiates the serpentine “6-Mile” section of the Mt. Washington Auto Road, where the edge of the asphalt drops away into the steep ravine of the Great Gulf. Following his 2017 hillclimb victory, Pastrana enthusiastically stated to the media:
“I’m not saying the time I set can’t be beat . . . but Ken Block, Rhys Millen, get your butts out here and let’s have some fun! The next time they open this mountain, bring what you’ve got!”
The current record time of 5 minutes 44.72 seconds for the 7.6 mile course to the top of Mt. Washington was set by multi-time X Games Gold medalist, Nitro Circus creator and 5-time US Rally Champion Travis Pastrana at the 2017 Subaru Mt. Washington Hillclimb. Driving a Subaru Rally Team USA / Vermont SportsCar-prepared 2017 Subaru WRX STI rally car with over 600 horsepower, Pastrana crushed the previous course record time of 6:09.09 which was set in 2011 by his Subaru Rally Team USA teammate, David Higgins from Wales, by nearly 30 seconds! Averaging close to 90 miles per hour along the 7.6 mile course in 2017, Pastrana also recorded speeds in excess of 130 mph above tree line.
Following his record-setting drive, Pastrana stated “This record means a lot to me. To get the record here at Mt. Washington is real close to everyone’s heart at Vermont SportsCar and Subaru Rally Team USA. To go up there with nearly double the horsepower (600 hp) by yourself, without a co-driver, having to memorize the 150+ turn course has taken months of work and memorization, it means a lot, it’s really cool.”
Pastrana went on to say “I would love to see other drivers and manufacturers come over and see what they can do against us because I think we have the best car right here. This Subaru is the best car I’ve ever driven! That run up the hill is going to take some work. I’m not saying the time I set can’t be beat . . . but Ken Block, Rhys Millen, get your butts out here and let’s have some fun! The next time they open this mountain, bring what you’ve got!”
There’s truly no question that the 7.6 mile Mt. Washington Auto Road is one of the ultimate challenges for driver and automobile alike anywhere in the world. 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. The drivers selected to compete in the 2020 Mt. Washington Hillclimb will race on the very same road as the original 1904 Climb to the Clouds competitors. Of course, the surface has changed a lot since those early years with nearly 90% of the road now covered with asphalt and a mere 10% of the road’s surface remains hard-packed gravel.
For 2020, the Mt. Washington Hillclimb will also retain the same competition classes that were developed for the 2017 event which include the extremely popular Unlimited Class as well as Open, Prepared, High Performance Showroom Stock, America’s Rally Cross (ARX), 2WD & 4WD Rally, Modified Electric, Stock Electric and Vintage. Other event-specific details, such as competitor registration, entry fees, car construction, safety rules, event schedule and volunteer information will be shared in the coming weeks on the event’s official website, www.ClimbToTheClouds.com
Above: Legendary automotive icon Carroll Shelby nudges up to the starting line of the 1956 Climb to the Clouds in his Ferrari 375 GP. Shelby went on to conquer the historic Auto Road that year, with a record-setting time of 10 minutes 21.8 seconds. That record has been reset 11 times in the years since, most recently in 2017 by Travis Pastrana with a blistering run of 5 minutes 44.72 seconds. Can anyone beat that pace in 2020?
About The Mt. Washington Auto Road
The Mt. Washington Auto Road is considered by many racers to be extremely technical with a narrow road surface that averages just over 20 feet wide. In addition to being very narrow with steep drop-offs that vary from side to side, the road is also incredibly steep, with an average 12% grade and gaining slightly more than 4,600 feet in total elevation change from the starting line to the finish line. The surface of the 7.6 mile Mt. Washington Auto Road is 90% tarmac with approximately 10% gravel and contains well over 150 turns and switchbacks as the road winds its way to the 6,288-foot summit. First opened in 1861 as the Mt. Washington Carriage Road, the Mt. Washington Auto Road is the country’s oldest manmade attraction. Located on Rt. 16 in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire, just north of the Mt. Washington Valley and minutes south of Gorham, the Auto Road has a long and winding history, much like its 7.6 mile trip up to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast. Learn more at www.mtwashingtonautoroad.com
About the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire
Established in 1955 by a group of longtime sports car enthusiasts from throughout New Hampshire, the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire (SCCNH) is a 501-C7 non-profit organization open to anyone interested in automobiles or automobile-related activities – whether they are a New Hampshire resident or not. Today the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire is proud to host a membership of more than 225 active enthusiasts from across New England with a variety of vehicles and varied interests in the sport. For more information, visit the Club online at www.sccnh.org