The 40th annual One Lap event is coming around corner. As we get ready for this grueling week long race, wed thought it would be appropriate to look back on how this blend of man and machine trying to shrink time and distance came to be. For this, we need to step back in time to a different dimension and a different world.
The year was 1971, when Richard Nixon was president, the war in Vietnam was winding down and you could still purchase a brand new 426 HEMI® Challenger R/T from your local Dodge dealer.
That same year, the inaugural Cannonball event came to be. This event was simply known among a small group a speed crazed participants as the Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. The Cannonball event, was the brainstorm of Brock Yates, then senior editor of Car and Driver Magazine. The objective was to go flat out, pedal to the metal, no-holds-barred from New York City to Redondo Beach, California. The idea behind the event was to prove a simple point, that competent drivers can run at speeds well above the posted limit and arrive at their destination with no incidents.
Were sure iconic films of the day like Vanishing Point and Two Lane Black Top had some influence over Brock and his band of high-speed junkies. As the 1960s gave way to the 70s, they saw the demise of the American car culture and began to organize the Cannonball event albeit ever so underground.
This eclectic mix of amateur and professional drivers (Dan Gurney co-drove the 1971 event with Brock Yates) along with maverick, thrill seekers created quite a stir among both the local constabularies and state police. Their 2, 900 mile trek across the continent in roughly 33 hours while averaging almost 90 mph made them heroes among their fellow enthusiasts hated among the establishment.
In 1972, Brock Yates purchased a white Challenger Rallye and had NASCAR engine builder Cotton Owens sprinkle some of his magic upon its 340 small-block. The mojo must have worked as Brock finished in second in the 1972 event and third in 1975. The romance of eluding the Smokies on the open road was captured in the pages of Car and Driver Magazine and eventually led to numerous movies including The Gumball Rally (1976), The Cannonball Run (1981) and The Cannonball Run II (1984). Even though Brock Yates wrote both Cannonball movies, fans feel The Gumball Rally truly captured the true spirit and essence of the original Cannonball events. There were a total of five Cannonball Runs across this great nation of ours (1971 (2), 1972, 1975, 1979) and each one had its full share of mishaps and misadventures from the participants. By the 1980s, the nations consciousness had started to frown at these high-speed jockeys who drove at three-times the posted speed limit on public roads and highways. The media painted them as reckless outlaws rather than counter-culture heroes and thus these clandestine speed trials came to an abrupt and screeching halt.
The One Lap of America was born to fill the enthusiasts need for speed but in a safe and controlled environment. The times had changed and America was in a different place and Brock knew this. He wanted to keep the One Lap a grassroots movement without constantly looking in his rear view mirror. Our gang of high-octane fueled SRT engineers have been active participants in previous One Lap events and even scored some victories. Were ready to hit the ignition on this years 40th anniversary event, so stay tuned as we head down the highway for another blast!