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?
[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