Stories like this get me pretty excited.
Everybody knows about The Gumball 3000 and The Cannonball Run film. Well Gumball 3000 is named after the film, Gumball Rally and Cannonball Run is named after the actual race; The Cannonball Run or Cannonball Baker. The race, like the film, ran from New York to Redondo Beach (L.A.). It was run four times in the 1970s and was very illegal (obviously). It wasn't filmed or used for brand promotion.
Erwin George "Cannon Ball" Baker drove this journey in 1933, setting a 53 hour 30 minute record that stood for nearly 35 years. For 1933, this is clearly pretty damn amasing.
The most remarkable Cannonball Run effort was by winner of the 1967 Le Mans, Dan Gurney, driving a Ferrari Daytona. The man himself put it best: "At no time did we exceed 175 mph." It took 35 hours and 54 minutes to travel 2863 miles at an average of approximately 80 mph. At the end of the 1970s the race had gained some notoriety and was written up into a film - Cannonball Run.
So then in 1980, to remain doable the actual race changed its name to the U.S. Express. The 1980 US Express was won by Will Wright, creator of the Sims, Sim City and Spore. Wright tried using night vision once but quickly abandoned the idea. "We tried driving with the lights off in the Mojave Desert, but driving with the wheel in one hand, goggles in the other scared the crap out of me".
In 1983 this is what happened; David Diem and Doug Turner set a new record of an impossibly quick 32hours 07 minutes. See the trailer for the film below:
I love it when people dig this stuff up to make a film. 32h07 is in production. A chap named Alex Roy has just beaten the 1983 record. He was forced to abandon his attempt twice due to police chases and breakdowns. He just recently achieved a time of 31 hours and 4 minutes for the cross country behemoth. This was very hard to achieve. He had more electronic navigation equipment that the US Army and had huge difficulty avoiding detection. This will of course get harder and harder each year, so he has done very well indeed to accomplish this task. I believe he has been involved in parts of the film 32h 07. The title seems a little odd now?! I also find it odd that all the other times were set while racing. Alex Roy was racing against a legend and himself of course. It's slightly sad that that's how it had to be.
Back in my events days I was looking for some interesting projects and I had heard about the Gumball Rally (when it was called that) and before it was about fame, Playboy parties and video games. I went and met the guys doing it but was sadly disappointed. The playful abandon I had hoped for was lacking, it was all about what sponsors I could bring and what angles there were for turning it into a media empire. I obviously arrived too late. All the character had slipped away.
In 2002 I mapped out The Riviera Race which was a race along the French Riviera run, planning routes and logistics but it was all pie in the sky really, not knowing enough reckless wealthy bored individuals.
The Mint 400, the great American desert race, also looked like a hell of a lot of fun but that ended in 1988. Everything goes bad after a while, no matter what it is. The Mint 400 is being resurrected in 2008 sadly, for the money I expect.
There are night races around London as well, very much on the underground scene. I have met people in the races, several times. No one will tell you anything. Standing by their adapted Nissan Micras and Honda Civics and of course the odd Lamborghini, they say they are just taking a drive. Loose lips sink ships. Never has that phrase seemed so true.
32h07 via Laughing Squid