Pastrana’s Mt. Washington hillclimb record testament to extreme aero development

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Subaru Motorsports USA driver Travis Pastrana recently set a new record of 5 minutes, 28.67 seconds at the 2021 Mount Washington Hillclimb, on the way to an overall victory at the wheel of the Airslayer STI, his 862hp Gymkhana 2020 Subaru WRX STI. The new mark cut more than 16 seconds from his winning time at the 2017 race up the treacherous 7.6-mile (12.2km) course, with his time over 45 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor.

The Mount Washington Hillclimb, traditionally held every three years, is one of the most challenging motorsport events in the United States and the oldest hillclimb in North America. The tallest mountain on the East Coast brings unpredictable weather and a mixed-surface road, forcing drivers to contend with grip levels that shift suddenly from tarmac to gravel and back again in the middle of the climb. It runs at an average grade of 12% coupled with an uneven surface bounded by serious drops above the tree line.

Subaru Motorsports and Vermont Sportscar conducted an extensive aerodynamic development program on the car to increase performance compared with its winning 2017 iteration. CFD and scale-model wind-tunnel testing were undertaken to refine the package, which built on foundations developed in rallycross while taking full advantage of a relative lack of regulatory constraints. As seen in the video above, the wind-tunnel program considered the vehicle not only at different ride heights and yaw angles but also ‘in flight’, with stability in the air a vital consideration given the type of running that is required of it.

Commenting after his winning run, Pastrana said, “This car is the perfect machine to do it. I really wanted to set a new record here to show what the car could do in the right environment. Luckily, we really had good weather this year and I knew if I could get a clean run in, I’d have a great shot at the 5:44 time. So much fun and I can’t wait to do it again next time!”

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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