When Travis Pastrana’s “Airslayer” Subaru was first unveiled ahead of Gymkhana 11, some of the more savvy motorsport fans quickly figured out that this was more than just a Gymkhana build. Subaru, Vermont Sportscar, and Pastrana had built a wicked powerful machine for climbin’ hills, kid. Pastrana is a speed demon of the highest order, and he’s always looking for the next death-defying stunt to tackle. That’s why he’s so obsessed with the Mount Washington Hill Climb. It’s sketchy as shit, and he’s managed to master it twice. Last weekend he took the Airslayer to the mountain and destroyed his own outright hill climb record.
Imagine any tree-lined twisty turny mountain road you like. Maybe you’ve got one local to you that you rip around in a sports car on Saturday mornings before the traffic gets too bad. Okay, now imagine you were able to average 83 miles per hour on that road. I can’t even do it. I can’t physically imagine it. That’s so fast! Pastrana is literally on another level of talent when it comes to this stuff, and he’s on another level of cognitive dissonance when it comes to the danger he faces should something go wrong.
Over the weekend Pastrana set a new record of 5 minutes 28.67 seconds up the hill in his 862-horsepower WRX STI. The 7.6-mile Mt. Washington Auto Road is a treacherous and daunting strip of pavement with plenty of hazards to traverse across the length of the course. The road is only shut down once every three years to run this hillclimb, and you only get one shot, so it’s not like Pastrana could just come back to try again next year if he didn’t make the record. It was all-out from the get go. His new record is more than 16 seconds faster than the record he set back in 2017.
This is actually Pastrana’s third time setting a record up the mountain, as he first ran a 6 minute 20.47 second run in 2010 during an un-sanctioned record attempt just to see if he could do it. The Climb To The Clouds event hadn’t been run at that point in twelve years, so he set out to break Frank Sprongl’s 1998 record, which he did by more than 20 seconds. David Higgins beat that record when the hillclimb re-started in 2011 and lowered it again in 2014. Pastrana broke into the 5-minute realm in 2017 with an even faster run of 5 minutes, 44.72 seconds.
“New record in the books!” said Pastrana on Sunday. “This car is the perfect machine to do it. Coming off a second-place finish at Goodwood 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!”
The Airslayer certainly brings a new level of performance to the Mt. Washington field, as traditionally the competition has raced in little more than de-restricted Group A rally cars or whatever. Built from a Rallycross-based chassis, Pastrana’s ride for 2021 had over 200 horsepower more than his 2017 record setting car, and significantly more downforce. Subaru and the build team for the car also worked diligently to get the curb weight down as low as possible and fit it with some seriously trick suspension. I’m more than a little bummed we didn’t get to see this car run at Pikes Peak this year, honestly.