David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew get ready to blast off the starting line for the first of their two runs at Sunday's Subaru Mount Washington Hillclimb. Higgins set the auto road record in 2011 with a time of 6 minutes 11.54 seconds and yesterday he and Drew set a new record of 6:09:09. (JOHN KOZIOL)
Record set in Mount Washington climb
GREEN’S GRANT — As part of a record-sized field and with a record number of spectators looking on, David Higgins on Sunday did what he does best on the Mount Washington Auto Road, beating his best time by nearly three seconds in winning the Subaru Mount Washington Hillclimb.
In 2011, driving a specially modified, hill-climbing Subaru WRX, Higgins posted a record time of 6 minutes, 11.54 seconds in the race known as the Climb to the Clouds, which this year marked its 110th anniversary on the auto road.
Sunday, driving a rally version of the same model Subaru, Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew flew up the 7.6-mile course even faster, reaching the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast in 6:09.09.
Howie Wemyss, who is the general manager of the Mount Washington Auto Road, said Higgins and Drew cut three-tenths off the old record on their first run and then really turned things on in the second.
The end of the race was delayed by several spinouts, one on the mountain and one within sight of spectators at the base of the road, but there were no injuries, said Wemyss who thanked the Sports Car Club of New Hampshire for reaching out to Rally America, which brought 15 of its top teams to Mount Washington.
He also thanked Subaru, which this year not only sponsored the race but also brought its top drivers, among them Wiggins and Travis Pastrana.
In 2010, while filming a commercial for the Red Bull energy drink, Pastrana nearly set an auto road record when he made it from bottom to top in 6:20.47.
Organizers were slightly sweating bullets on the day before the registration, Wemyss acknowledged, when 4.5 inches of rain fell on the auto road. Ironically, the auto road withstood the deluge without any problems, said Wemyss, but the standing water had to be pumped off from the spectator area.
Practices over the weekend and Sunday’s race, however, were run in perfect weather conditions.
“To have three nice days of weather is unheard of,” said Wemyss, who added that with some 2,000 spectators, the hillclimb had an impact on the economy of the Mount Washington Valley as well as the auto road’s record book.
Bill Fogg, the owner of Rally America, said he was thrilled to have been invited to participate in the hillclimb by the SCCNH’s Paul Giblin, who has been the hillclimb’s event director since 1990.
Fogg noted that the course was in great shape and that the venue, unlike some others, was spectator-friendly. “Everything’s been fabulous here,” said Fogg, adding that if asked, Rally America would come back to the hillclimb in the future.