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Year Driver Car Record Time
1899 F.O. Stanley Stanley Locomobile 2 hr. 10 min.
1903 L.J. Phelps Phelps 1 hr. 45 min.
1904 Harry Harkness Mercedes 24 min. 37  3/5 sec.
1905 W.H. Hilliard Napier 20 min. 58 2/5sec.
1923 Ralph Mulford Chandler 17 min. 0 sec.
1928 “Cannonball” Baker Franklin 14 min. 49.6 sec.
1930 Ab Jenkins Studebaker 14 min. 23 sec.
1932 “Cannonball” Baker Graham 13 min. 26 sec
1934 Al Miller Hudson 13 min. 20.6 sec.
1935 John C. Reuter Ford Special 12 min. 46.4 sec.
1938 Lemuel R. Ladd Ford Special 12 min. 17.6 sec.
1953 Sherwood Johnston Jaguar 10 min. 47.6 sec.
1954 Sherwood Johnston Jaguar “C” 10 min. 44.8 sec.
1956 Carroll Shelby Ferrari 375 GP 10 min. 21.8 sec.
1961 Bill Rutan Porsche Special 9 min. 13 sec.
1990 Tim O’Neil VW Rally Golf 7 min. 45 sec.
1991 Paul Choiniere Audi Quattro 7 min. 9.61 sec.
1992 Frank Sprongl Audi Quattro 7 min. 8.61 sec.
1993 Paul Choiniere Audi Quattro 6 min. 46.62 sec.
1995 Paul Choiniere Hyundai Elantra 6 min 45.22 sec.
1998 Frank Sprongl Audi Quattro 6 min. 41.99 sec.
2010** Travis Pastrana 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX STI 6 min. 20.47 sec.
2011 David Higgins 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI 6 min. 11.54 sec.
2014 David Higgins 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX STI 6 min. 9.09 sec.
2017 Travis Pastrana 2017 Subaru Impreza WRX STI 5 min. 44.72 sec.
2021 Travis Pastrana 2020 Subaru WRX STI 5 min. 28.67 sec.
**Time set during a private run, outside official competition.


a vintage photo of a truck

1954 Climb to the Clouds, Sherwood Johnston on the way to a new record.


Now billed as 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 500-mile race at the Brickyard in Indianapolis and 12 years prior to the inaugural Pikes Peak Hillclimb in Colorado. Run sporadically throughout the years, many famous racecar drivers and automobile manufacturers have competed in the event through its colorful history.

In 1904, the first year of the Mt. Washington Hillclimb, Freelan E. Stanley from Newton, Massachusetts, co-creator of the famous Stanley Steamer, drove his 6-horsepower, 800-pound steam-powered car to the summit of Mt. Washington only to be beaten by Harry Harkness from New York. Driving a 40-horsepower Mercedes that weighed 2,200 pounds, Harkness posted a winning time in 1904 of 24 minutes, 37 and 3/5 seconds.

Since that first year of competition, many well-known drivers have competed and won the Climb to the Clouds such as “Cannonball” Baker in 1928 & 1932 and the legendary Carroll Shelby in 1956. Driving a Franklin in 1928, Baker raced to an amazing time of 14:49.6 seconds. Carroll Shelby, driving a specially prepared Ferrari roadster in 1956, posted a record-setting run of 10:21.8 seconds on his way to victory.

In 1961 Bill Rutan from Connecticut drove his Porsche-powered Volkswagen to another new record time of 9:13.0 seconds that would stand for 29 years—until the return of the race in 1990 when a Rally driver named Tim O’Neil from Franconia, NH drove his 300+ horsepower all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Rally Golf to the summit in an amazing time of just 7 minutes and 45 seconds.

Following the return of the Mt. Washington Hillclimb in 1990 after a 29-year hiatus, the event was run annually as part of the Mt. Washington Auto Road’s summer event schedule until 2001. During that time, several new records were shared between 8-time Sports Car Club of America National Rally Champion Paul Choiniere from Shelburne, Vermont and multi-time Canadian Rally Champion Frank Sprongl from Mississauga, Ontario. Sprongl’s 1998 record time of 6 minutes, 41.99 seconds driving his Audi Quattro S2 was to remain unbeaten for the next 13 years.

In 2011 Vermont SportsCar brought back this legendary race in grand style as part of the Auto Road’s 150th anniversary celebration. The 2011 edition of the Climb to the Clouds was seen by many as one of the crowning celebratory events of the summer’s Sesquicentennial. David Higgins, driving a Vermont SportsCar prepped Subaru WRX STI shattered the old record with a stunning run to the summit taking just 6 minutes, 11.54 seconds—all the more impressive given that the last 1/2 mile of the track was obscured with varying degrees of fog.

In 2014 David Higgins came back to defend his title, again driving a Vermont SportsCar prepped WRX STI and set a new record of 6 minutes 9:09 seconds with co-driver and navigator Craig Drew. Rally car navigators help the driver “see” around the next corner with notes on where to turn and what to look out for.

The Climb to the Clouds returned in 2017 with much anticipation and excitement. David Higgins was back to defend his title without his co-pilot but made a costly error on a turn in what would have been a record-breaking run—he clocked the fastest speed ever recorded on the Auto Road at 116 mph—and flipped his car at the infamous Cragway turn. But his Subaru USA teammate Travis Pastrana, who had tackled the Auto Road and set a record outside of competition in 2010, crushed the six minute mark on both of his full timed runs up the mountain with the second time at a palm-sweating 5 minutes and 44.72 seconds. Pastrana was driving a specialty prepared 600 horsepower Vermont SportsCar Subaru Impreza WRX.

With an additional year hiatus due to Covid-19, what will 2021 bring? In the 4 years since the last race, the Auto Road has paved a few additional sections of gravel, and repaved the first quarter mile. Drivers and machines have only the mountain on which to test their true mettle.