Monday, Jun. 14, 2010

Cannonball Run

Yes, yes, we all know the movie of the same name, starring Burt Reynolds and the great Dom DeLuise. But there were actual Cannonball Runs — great road rallies from the East Coast to California. They were illegal, they were dangerous, and they were awesome — mad, speed-obsessed, automotive odes to America. Inaugurated by Car and Driver writer Brock Yates (who made the first coast-to-coast dash in 35 hours 54 minutes), the Run ran for several years before getting shut down. Various successors came along, including the U.S. Express, the participants of which set a record in 1983: 32 hours and seven minutes.

The aura around the event hasn't faded for some, however. It prompted Alexander Roy (above) to set a new record in 2006 — 31 hours, 4 minutes — behind the wheel of a 2000 E39 BMW M5 specially equipped with reserve fuel tank, racing clutch, and special brakes. He had some help, of course: night vision, GPS units, several radar detectors, a laser jammer, a CB radio, and even a plane flying overhead to help him avoid speed traps and traffic jams.