• Sep 17, 2010
Frank Sprongl in his 1983 Audi Quattro

Frank Sprongl would like to chat with Travis Pastrana. You see, we recently reported that Mr. Pastrana established a new record for driving up the Mt. Washington Auto Road. Travis' time of six minutes and 20.47 seconds in a rally-prepped Subaru WRX STI bested the previous time laid down by Sprongl. In 1998, Frank Sprongl and his 1983 Audi Quattro S2 attacked the Auto Road and set an official record time of six minutes and 41.99 seconds. Technology has advanced quite a bit in the 27 years since Sprongl's Audi Quattro was new, as well as the 12 years since he set the record.

"It's unofficial to begin with... it's basically just a test day and he did it with a co-driver and pace notes," states Sprongl. He adds, "The course has 76 turns and I ran it with no co-driver or notes, I memorized every turn." He further notes that the Auto Road had longer gravel sections when he made his official run. It has since received more paving. In Frank Sprongl's opinion, this run is simply Red Bull and Travis performing a stunt for advertising. He does say that he believes Travis put in an amazing effort and it was certainly an excellent run... but was it official or not?

Continue reading...

[Image: Mount Washington Auto Road]

Regardless of what Travis did (and we at Autoblog think it was an excellent run), Frank Sprongl's run is just as if not more remarkable. He took on a challenging road in a 15-year-old car – and he did it very quickly. Pushing the gas pedal of his 500+ horsepower Audi Quattro S2 is akin to a "raw stick of dynamite going off; it's brute power combined with limited and aged technology." Tackling the Mt. Washington Auto Road in a rally-spec 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI is one thing, but doing so in that Audi is another. "That road is very unforgiving and it deserves a lot of respect... if you're an idiot out there, you can die," says Sprongl, "Above the tree line, it's a long way down."



After chatting with Mr. Sprongl, he wanted to reiterate that he felt Travis Pastrana had an excellent run up the Auto Road. We pressed him to see if he thought he could go faster in that Subaru. Without missing a beat, he replied that he could – after all, he has over 10 years of mountain road racing experience and can tame a car that would make Pastrana's Subie feel like a Lexus by comparison.

Frank Sprongl is a driving legend in his native Canada. He has won the Canadian Rally Championship, Canada's longest running motorsports series, six times. Sprongl has achieved Grand Master status in the Canadian Association of Rally Sport – a title bestowed upon only 12 other drivers. He continues to race in events around Canada, and was recently seen running his beautiful Audi Quattro in the Targa Newfoundland.

As for the record? Well, Frank Sprongl is 100-percent right. Travis Pastrana's six minute and 20.47 time is not an official run, but merely a timed test session performed for the Red Bull Speed Chasers project in conjunction with Vermont SportsCar. It is an excellent display of driving that will also serve as a great promotional tool for the 2011 Climb to the Clouds on Mt. Washington, the first time the race will have been run in 10 years. We hope Travis returns to try and beat that time officially.

We also hope Frank Sprongl is there to defend his place in the record books. He can still lay claim to having the fastest official time up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, and we would love to see these two square off.


Frank Sprongl's record run up Mt. Washington in 1998


Travis Pastrana's "record run" up Mt. Washington in 2010


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 42 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      "We pressed him to see if he thought he could go faster in that Subaru. Without missing a beat, he replied that he could"
      With all due respect, I'd like to see him put his money where his mouth is. Hey Redbull, let him borrow the Subaru and let Travis take another run without a co-driver. After that, the loser just needs to put up and shut up.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If Sprongl is still as good of a driver as he thinks he is, I'm sure he'll get some other Rally company to lend him a whip for the run.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The Audi.....
      The top picture is indeed Franks 83 Quattro and the lower picture is the record setting 92 S2. Frank though has been competing at Targa in a 3rd Quattro an 83 Factory prepared car that if memory serves me was Michèle Mouton's ride in 83.

      As for the record. Has a new fastest time been set? yes. Is it a record? No. Is Frank's current record due to fall? In time yes, and lets hope that next years event is not a one off.

      I have seen both Travis and Frank compete as well as JB and many many others. Frank and Travis are both top competitors but my vote goes with Frank in 2011.
      • 4 Years Ago
      How young and underobservant must you be, for no one commenting here yet to note that, besides the obvious huge disparity in the cockpit of the two cars, the Subie has the auto-shift stick that makes for zero clutch delay, vertical brake handle, and all the newest mods that Euro Rally cars are set up with? The Audi is actually being shifted, which takes 1-2 extra seconds of one-handed steering every shift? Would any of you care to steer one-handed on the upper slopes of this mountain?
      I have yet to see Pastrano or any hotdogging American put a dent in the World Rally scene in the recent era, so why are we supposed to worship his untested talents? So far the approach in the States seems to be to over-hype, over-pay, over-stage the "events" for glorified ad copy, and not much else. Robbie Gordon taking 2nd or 3rd in the Baja or Paris-Dakar is far more impressive, and puts it back into real competition, not stunts.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have a great respect for Sprongl and Pastarana. But Sprongl does come off as abit butt-hurt in his comments. Fact is Pastrana bested the standing record time. Its kind of splitting hairs and adding Astrix's if you want to say "it wasnt an official event, he had a more modern automobile, a greater portion of the road was paved, he had a co-pilot, etc". So if thats the case Pastrana holds the current record for "Fastest ascent of Mt Washinton in a 2011 rally-prepped Subaru WRX-STI with a co-pilot" and Sprongl holds the Fastest for an 83 Audi Quattro sans-copilot.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've been involved with the Mt Washington Auto Road for nearly 30 years - let me give you my perspective on the Climb to the Clouds races held in the 90s as well as the recent very fast run to the summit by Mr. Pastrana.

      With increasingly larger sponsorship help from Audi of America, we were able to get in an 11 year run of the CTTC in the 90s. Very exciting to watch the 1961 record set by Bill Rutan drop from his 9 min, 13 seconds to Tim O'Neil's new time of 7 min, 45 seconds in 1990. Bill still says he holds the fast time on an all gravel road since so much paving was done between 1961 and 1990. Sour grapes? No, just the reality of the passage of time and improved "track" conditions. The record went back and forth from there on with Paul Choinere setting a new record one year only to be beaten by Frank Sprongl the following year. Frank's CURRENT record still stands at 6 min, 41.99 seconds even though there were full blown races held over the next three years. When Audi dropped their sponsorship in 2001 that was the end of full competition for that era as the race had become too expensive with too little public exposure to justify its continuation. Along comes the Mt Washington Auto Road's 150th birthday celebration in 2011 and the desire to resurrect the hillclimb even if only for one year. Talks with Vermont SportsCar indicate that they were very interested in helping us with that return and making it one of the signature events next summer. One problem - we had no really exciting film footage to help promote the return of this historic event. The solution came with the closure of the Auto Road for one day to capture some race footage from the "modern" era. That filming adventure quickly morphed into a major undertaking backed by Red Bull, BF Goodrich and Vermont SportsCar and the filming of what turned out to be a very fast run to the summit. The intent was for Travis to go for fastest time ever to increase the buzz about the race next year as well as get the great footage needed to promote the race. If you carefully read our press releases, we do not make Travis's time out to be a new record - simply the fastest time to the summit by automobile. Semantics? Maybe. But Frank still holds the record until broken during an organized competition. As an aside, NBC's World of Adventure Sports is going to run a 30 minute program on Travis's September 8th run that is now tentatively scheduled to air on Nov. 14.

      A word about this co-driver/ no co-driver business. Since the first Climb to the Clouds in 1904 passengers in many forms have been allowed. At first it was the mechanic who might be needed to fix the car along the way. Later, with proper seating and restraints passengers were allowed if you didn't mind the weight penalty. During the 90s, several competitors chose to have co-drivers after complex pace notes were drawn up - never to their advantage I might add. So Frank would have been free to have a co-driver had he wished when he was setting those already fast times.

      Both Frank Sprongl and Travis Pastrana are wonderful gentlemen. Both have been extremely helpful and giving of their time. I sincerely hope to see then both here to compete June 22 - 26, 2011.

      Howie Wemyss
      General Manager
      Mt Washington Auto Road
        • 4 Years Ago
        JZno11 - yeah, it seems that it might be the same weekend as Pikes Peak, which is unfortunate. Our scheduling on that last weekend in June was totally set by the available dates that would mesh with the rally schedule. It's too bad that it ended up on the same weekend but I'm not sure we would have had much option for a different date given the rest of our schedule here at the Auto Road.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Shoulda, coulda, woulda, didn't. Get your old ass out there and beat it then, "officially". I hate whining ass old men that think everything new is either a loophole or just not how it was done in the horse and buggy days.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Technology has come along too far for this record to not be broken.
      Official or not, the record is going to be beaten, soon.

      Honestly, it's party Sprongl's fault it's going to be broken.
      Obviously he's complacent with the record and is making no attempt to push himself further and harder.
      Want to keep the record? Compete.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wah wah wah Sprongl. Way to show some dignity.

      While they are some valid points, it's inevitable that his record would be beaten someday. Enjoy the fact that you still, in reality, hold the record for that particular day and road conditions. In the mean time Pastrana still has your time beaten, there's no way to deny that. If you want to show you're better, go beat his now solo.
      • 4 Years Ago
      1983+23=2006???? it's 2010

      2010-23=1987??? It's was an '83 quattro

      Maybe I'm from the future or autoblog can't add or subtract?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Could be a little of both...are you John Titor?

        Yes, we suck at basic math.
      • 4 Years Ago
      he sounds to cocky for me.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Shouldn't good drivers be a little cocky?
      • 4 Years Ago
      What did he expect that no-one would ever beat his time? I mean its still pretty impressive that it lasted as long as it did.
      Sprongl, if you are so butt-hurt that your time got beaten, step up with a new vehicle, a codriver, and beat Pastrana's time.
      • 4 Years Ago
      umm....so using this logic, all the pikes peak records are now null and void?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Only if they weren't set by Sprongl.

        If Frank set the record, then, if must be "official".
        • 4 Years Ago
        Pikes Peak records weren't done with a co-driver.
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