Speeds increase as drier conditions prevail, David Higgins sets possible
The second day of practice at the revived Mt. Washington Hillclimb, one of America’s oldest auto races, was completed this morning under improving weather conditions. Competitors, including both professional international drivers and local racers, enjoyed better road conditions after a rainy Friday practice session yesterday. Low visibility at higher altitudes kept the practice contained to the bottom half of the serpentine 7.6 mile Mt. Washington Auto Rd. for a second day. Competitors have been left with no practice time thus far on the upper half of the course. Multiple time rally champion David Higgins remained the pace setter at the wheel of a 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Higgins was just over fifteen seconds faster than Todd Cook of Tempe, Arizona in his open-wheeled TCE/Wells Coyote hillcimb car.
Referred to as the “Climb to the Clouds,” the Mt. Washington Hillclimb was first run in 1904 making it one of the oldest auto races in America. It was revived this year to help celebrate the Mt. Washington Auto Rd.’s 150th Anniversary. An impressive 70-car competition field with some of the best drivers and most unique racing cars from around the world are all competing for the “King of the Hill” title.
David Higgins struggled on his first run after the throttle on his Subaru rally car temporarily failed. On his second run Higgins drove flawlessly and reach the halfway mark in 3 minutes 29 seconds, he was 15.8 seconds faster than his closest challenger Todd Cook. “It felt good, but this was our first run in the dry and we can now make some adjustments to the car based on what we learned today,” explained Higgins. “If conditions are right tomorrow things should be very good.”
If the rapid pace of Higgins and Cook are any sign of things to come then the Climb to the Clouds course record may well be broken on Sunday. The current course record of 6 min and 41.99 seconds was set thirteen years ago by rally driver Frank Sprongl, who withdrew his entry in the competition after struggling to find a suitable race car to drive.
Rally veteran and former Climb to the Clouds record holder Tim O’Neil of Whitefield, New Hampshire experienced a severe engine failure during practice. O’Neil, who was expected to be among the top five finishers, may not be able to make repairs and his participation tomorrow is now in jeopardy.
A tight battle is brewing behind Higgins with Todd Cook, Jon Kemp in a Mitsubishi Evo VI, Paul Choiniere in an all-wheel drive Hyundai Tiburon rally car, and Paul Tingaud in his Audi-powered “Super Chicken” Hillclimb car all posting bottom half times within five seconds of each other. The seventy car entry list includes high-powered open-wheel cars, a vintage class filled with cars steeped in motorsports history and a first for the event; Mike Ryan’s 1,950hp Freightliner Cascadia Race Truck.
Racers will each get two full course runs on Sunday starting at 9am. Results will be based on each competitors’ fastest run. Live results will be posted to www.climbtotheclouds.com throughout the day on Sunday.
Complete day 2 practice results can be found here: http://climbtotheclouds.com/general-info/results/
About the Mt. Washington Hillclimb
The Mt. Washington Hillclimb, known as the Climb to the Clouds, is considered 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 Indy 500 and twelve years prior to the inaugural Pikes Peak Hillclimb. The 2011 Mt. Washington Hillclimb will be held June 24-26 at New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington Auto Rd. The 7.6 mile Auto Road is one of the ultimate challenges for driver and automobile, the serpentine tarmac and gravel road is lined with trees and dramatic drop-offs as it winds its way to the 6,288 foot summit of the Northeast’s tallest peak. The Mt. Washington Auto Road’s history goes well beyond just the Hillclimb as it celebrates its 150thanniversary this summer.