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What I Did For My Summer Vacation - the One Lap of America, Part 1

By: Jeff Littrell

How would you like to drive my really fast car on a dozen or so of the best racetracks in America for an intense week of competition?

Well, that?s what Kevin Wyum asked me last May when he proposed that I drive his car in the road racing portions of the 1996 Car and Driver One Lap of America. Your first, completely ill-reasoned response is "of course!" Then, once you?re at least verbally committed, you learn all the details, one by one.

First, there?s that half of the $2,000 entry fee that is needed immediately. OK, $1,000 to race on tracks like Road America, Lime Rock, Watkins Glen, Summit Point, and Michigan International Speedway doesn?t seem too bad. Heck, a normal track weekend at Willow costs $250 or so, right? Now you?re financially committed.

Oh, did I forget to mention that you only get to run two laps at each track? Well, yes, as a matter of fact you did. Of course, I do get practices laps, right? No???? What do you mean I get to do of a "reconnaissance lap" only? What the heck is a "reconnaissance lap" and how am I supposed to learn a track and race on it with only of a lap experience -- hell, the tires won?t even be warm! What? A standing start? What kind of craziness is this? Who ever heard of running laps at a road course from a standing start? Oh, and both of the timed laps are cumulative so a mistake in either one costs you big time.

Did I mention paying half of the consumables? Yeah, you know, tires (we can?t run R-rated autocross or racing tires so we?ll need those trick new Bridgestone SO-2s at $329 a pop), fuel (don?t forget, the car needs 115 octane race gas or we risk blowing the motor), etc.

You?re starting to get a feeling for the completely unique event that is One Lap of America. Dubbed as the successor to the infamous Brighton Sea to Shining Sea Cannonball run from the early seventies, the One Lap is organized by Car and Driver columnist Brock Yates. You might recall that Brock drove a Ferrari Daytona across the United States in a ridiculously short amount of time, during the heyday of that completely illegal organized chaos. Then he went on to make a virtual living from its intrigue. He wrote the screenplay for the movie Cannonball Run (don?t waste your time ? rent the much better Gumball Rally instead), opened the Cannonball Pub in his hometown of Wyoming, New York, and continues to milk it for all its worth by organizing the annual Cannonball recreation event, the Car and Driver One Lap of America.

The format is simple. Get a bunch of car nuts together in whatever they want to run. Arrange for about 3 hours track time at about a dozen or so race tracks around the country. Plan a route that just barely allows one to drive from one track to the next without needing to speed. Cram the whole thing into seven days time and you?ve got what has been called "An entire race season in one week."

The rules are simple. The overriding rule, as printed on the Cannonball bumper stickers, is "There is only one rule ? there are no rules." In reality, you can drive anything you want as long as it passes a simple technical inspection, runs on street tires, and is driven for the entire event. You can have up to three people in the car, you can?t have any support crew or vehicles following you, and you must run the same tires for the entire event. This year?s One Lap saw cars ranging from new Porsche 911 Twin Turbos to a chopped Chevy Blazer with Corvette suspension, to an Oldsmobile Delta 88.

But don?t think that the competition isn?t serious. Over half the entrants are One Lap veterans and they don?t spend thousands of dollars just for the privilege to sleep in their sports cars for a week. They want to win! There are factory-sponsored entries from Porsche, Mosler, Renntech Mercedes, Pontiac, Cadillac, and others, most sporting professional drivers. Kevin and I, we were just a couple guys who met on the Internet and