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Mount Washington Hillclimb Auto Race facts for kids

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The Mount Washington Hillclimb Auto Race, also known as the Climb to the Clouds, is a timed hillclimb auto race up the Mount Washington Auto Road to the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. It is one of the oldest auto races in the country, first run on July 11 and 12, 1904, predating the Indianapolis 500 and the Pikes Peak Hillclimb. The event was revived in 2011 and was held again in 2014 and 2017.


The Mount Washington Hill Climb Auto Race was held off and on from 1904 to 1961, then not again until 1990, when Howie Wemyss, manager of the Auto Road, Robert Brotherus, a Finnish rally driver, and 11-time Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) ProRally champion, John Buffum, brought the race back.

Originally created by early auto manufacturers to showcase their vehicles, the Auto Road was chosen to prove the ability of these "horseless carriages". The inaugural "Climb to the Clouds" featured many makes of cars including Rambler, Mercedes, Oldsmobile, Stanley Steamer, Pierce, and a single Daimler, which were placed in categories based on their price. Although the Daimler and the Stanley Steamer driven by F. E. Stanley were favored, Harry Harkness drove to victory in a Mercedes, which ascended the 7.4-mile (11.9 km) course in 24 minutes, 37 seconds. This was quite impressive compared to the 2 hours, 10 minutes it took the first automobile to climb the Auto Road in 1899, a Stanley Locomobile. The course runs from an altitude of 1,604 feet (489 m) at Glen House to 6,260 feet (1,908 m) at the summit, for an average gradient of 11.8%.

The event was won by Erwin "Cannonball" Baker in 1928 with a time of 14 minutes, 49.6 seconds, driving a Franklin. Ab Jenkins won in 1930. Baker won again in 1932. Carroll Shelby drove a specially prepared Ferrari roadster to a record run of 10 minutes 21.8 seconds on his way to victory in 1956. In 1961, Bill Rutan drove a Porsche Carrera-powered Volkswagen to set a record time of 9:13.0, which stood until the race returned in 1990. Upon the race's return, Tim O'Neil set a time of 7:45, driving a VW Golf rally car. The current record is 5 minutes, 44.72 seconds, set in 2017 by Travis Pastrana driving a Subaru WRX STI; this broke the previous record of 6 minutes, 9.09 seconds, set by David Higgins of the Isle of Man, also driving a WRX STI, in 2014. The fastest speed ever clocked was 113 mph (182 km/h) by 6-time New England Hillclimb Champion Jerry Driscoll of East Randolph, Vermont, driving a 600 hp "Hillclimb Special" in 1999. This record held until 2011 while driving the same car, he broke his own record clocking 114.6 mph (184.4 km/h) 2 days before his 69th birthday.

In 2004 the event was restarted as a historic event, with emphasis placed on vintage cars.

Prior to the event's return in 2011, the last fullblown hillclimb race was in 2001, won by Paul Choiniere with a time of 4:59.73 on a weather-shortened course in his 500 hp methanol-fueled, all wheel drive Hyundai Tiburon.

The 2014 running of Climb to the Clouds included the first electric race car to compete in the history of this event. EVSR, the fully electric racecar created by Entropy Racing, was piloted by Tim O'Neil, former overall hill record holder, to a time of 7:28. O'Neil bested his previous overall hill record by 16 seconds and put his mark onto Mt. Washington once more by setting the fastest electric record.

Year Driver Vehicle Time Notes
1904 Harry Harkness Mercedes 60 h.p. 24:37.6 sec July 11/12.
1905 William M. Hilliard Napier 60 h.p. 20:58.4 sec Passenger Frank Townsend
Stanley T. Kellogg Indian motorcycle 3 hp Twin 20:59.2 sec July 17/18. Event held during Glidden Tour
1923 Ralph Mulford Chandler 17:00.0 sec
1928 "Cannonball" Baker Franklin 14:49.6 sec
1930 Ab Jenkins Studebaker President 8 14:23.0 sec
1932 "Cannonball" Baker Graham eight 13:26.0 sec
1934 Al Miller Hudson eight 13:20.6 sec
1935 J. Rueter Ford V8 Special 12:46.4 sec R July 7
1936 L. Quimby Willys 77 13:45.0 sec July 26
1937 B. Collier Jr Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 14:50.5 sec July 11
1938 L. Ladd Ford V8 Special 12:17.6 sec R July 28
1939 John Ewell BMW 12:53.1 sec August 26
1940 Lemuel Ladd Ford V8 Special 12:34.4 sec August 25
1953 Sherwood Johnson 10:46.6 sec R August 15/16
1954 Sherwood Johnson Jaguar Special 10:44.8 sec R August 15
1955 August 14
1956 Carroll Shelby Ferrari 375 GP 4.5-litre 10:21.8 sec R August 14/15
1961 Bill Rutan Porsche Special 9:13.0 sec R
1990 Tim O'Neil VW Rally Golf 7:45.0 sec R
1991 Paul Choiniere Audi Quattro 7:09.61 sec R
1992 Frank Sprongl Audi Quattro 7:08.61 sec R
1993 Paul Choiniere Audi Quattro 6:46.62 sec R
1995 Paul Choiniere Hyundai Elantra 6:45.22 sec R
1998 Frank Sprongl Audi Quattro 6:41.99 sec R
2011 David Higgins Subaru WRX STI 6:11.54 sec R
2014 David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew Subaru WRX STI 6:09.09 sec R
2017 Travis Pastrana Subaru WRX STI 5:44.72 sec R
2021 July 8–11. Postponed from 2020 due to COVID-19.

Key: R = Course record

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