The event, resurrected this year after a 10-year hiatus, is held on the Mt. Washington Auto Road, a privately owned road surrounded by thousands of acres of the White Mountain National Forest and a New Hampshire State Park. Intermittent rain, fog and clouds made the sinuous 7.6-mile course even more challenging.
It was the first time a truck had entered the race, as Ryan, a race driver and stuntman from Santa Clarita, California raced his purpose-built 2008 Freightliner Cascadia, with a 14.7-liter engine making 1,950 horsepower, in the Hillclimb Special Class.
Ryan was an impressive 27th overall, finishing the course in 8:02.65. For comparison, the winner set a record of 6:11.54 in a 2011 Subaru WRX STI; in 49th place was a 1986 VW GTI that finished in 10:15.84.
"it was a terrifying and challenging ride to the top and at the finish I truly felt like I accomplished something," he said in a news release from the race organizers.
Ryan told racing reporter Robin YasinSac that he barely had time to familiarize himself with the course, flying in over Memorial Day weekend from his New York filming of "Men in Black III" to take a care up the route at 20 mph.
"The whole world looks different at speed so all the little markers and reminders that I thought I was going to memorize, they are just a blur at 70 or 80 mph," said the 54-year-old.
First opened in 1861 as the Mt. Washington Carriage Road, the Mt. Washington Auto Road, located in Pinkham Notch, N.H., is the country's oldest man-made attraction, according to race organizers. The serpentine tarmac and gravel road is lined with trees and dramatic drop-offs as it winds its way to the 6,288 foot summit of the Northeast's tallest peak. Considered to be 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 International Hillclimb in Colorado. The last time the Climb to the Clouds was run was in 2001.
This is hardly Ryan's first experience taking a race truck up a mountain. He's a regular at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, nicknamed "Race to the Clouds." The Colorado race has been host to several other race trucks over the years, including former Contract Freighters Inc. head Glenn Brown in the Kenworth/CFI Red Racer back in the '90s. The Pikes Peak course runs 12.46 miles through 156 turns, to reach the 14,110-foot summit, and is mostly dirt with no guardrails.
This is some great video of the Mt. Washington run just posted on YouTube, professionally shot and edited, using multiple camera angles. (If you don't see the embedded video, click here to watch it on YouTube.)
UPDATE: Freightliner sent out some more information on Ryan's custom-built Cascadia. It includes an enhanced aerodynamic package and a lighter-weight composite body, and was specifically designed to tackle hill climb races. Ryan says he works closely with Freightliner engineers to continually improve his rig.
Ryan, who participates in competitions all over the world, transports his race truck using a custom Freightliner Business Class M2 106 installed with a heavyweight Jerr-Dan 10 ton BIC carrier tow body.
Ryan also holds six Class 8 records in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and two at the Queenstown Gold Rush Hill Climb in New Zealand.