Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Subarus on the Mountain

For over 150 years, the Mt. Washington Auto Road has seen hundreds of competition race cars seeking the fastest time to the summit. Nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, this historic hillclimb event pre-dates the iconic Pikes Peak International Hillclimb and has seen a recent battle between rally cars to claim the fastest time.  On September 8th of 2010, Travis Pastrana took the "Red Bull Speed Chasers" series name to new heights.  Armed with his WRX STI and codriver Marshal Clarke to guide him up the twisty road, they grappled the mountain and set their name in stone.  His timed run of 6:41.99 seconds bested the previous record by more than twenty seconds.

Fast-forward one year later.  Travis Pastrana had left SRT USA for pastures new driving a Dodge Dart and taking on NASCAR.  Enter David Higgins as the new face of the Subaru team, who strapped in and beat Travis' record with a 6:11.54 time on June 26th of 2011.  Higgins did it without a co-driver, which helped save weight in his Vermont SportsCar-prepped Subaru WRX STi rally car.  Both Pastrana and Higgins had similar setups with their cars, but their head-to-head faceoff would have to wait.

2014 would be a special year for the Climb to the Clouds event. Not only did it mean that David Higgins and Travis Pastrana would face off directly in nearly identical cars, but it also served as a special round of the Rally America National Championship.  This meant that certain guidelines of Rally America had to be observed.  Turbo restrictions and the requirement of bringing a co-driver along for the ride meant that they'd be down on power and up on weight... neither of which are promising things to add when you're looking to set a record.  David Higgins and Craig Drew were a winning pair and had several championships together under their belt.  Travis had just made his return to rallying and was with a new codriver, Chrissie Beavis.  While the battle was still close, Higgins and Drew came out on top not only to win the event, but set yet another record up the mountain.  Their timed run of 6:09.09 shaved almost 3 seconds off the previous run.  The pacenotes delivered by Craig Drew had sharpened David's attack up the mountain and made up for the extra weight and restricted power.

The battle won't stop there!  In 2017, the Climb to the Clouds event returns to the mountain and Subaru is bringing two of their most powerful WRX STIs with David and Travis to chase down the clock once again.  Higgins had mentioned before that he would "like to break the 6 minute mark" for an attempt.  With his championships racking up, that goal seems more attainable than ever, but with his teammate Travis Pastrana focusing more on rallying again, it'll be up for grabs once more!

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