How Did All This Get Started?

In 1916, Erwin G. "Cannonball" Baker and W.F. Strum drove a Type 53 Cadillac V-8 roadster from Los Angeles to New York City in a record seven and a half days. The distance was about 2800 miles. (If you can’t tell where the roads are, who can be sure about the distance). Their average speed was about 16 mph.

Fast forward 55 years to 1971. Brock Yates and Car and Driver magazine sponsored the first of nine annual clandestine cross-country automobile rallies. They named it after the hero of the 1916 dash - "The Great Cannonball Baker Sea to Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash".

The participants left New York at discrete intervals and arrived in Long Beach some time later. The choice of vehicle was completely open. The choice of route was completely open. The choice of driving style was completely open. There was in fact only one rule. The lowest elapsed time won.

Although routinely reported as a rally style event, it was in practice a cross-country race. The elapsed time worked its way down to 33 hours - an average speed of around 85 miles per hour. My long distance driving experience tells me that you have to routinely drive 120% of your average speed to make up for pit stops, towns, and traffic control devices like stop signs and traffic lights (assuming that you pay attention to such things). That would mean routine cruising is excess of 100 mph. Clearly some major speeding was going on! And this was in the days of the federally mandated 55 mph speed limits.

The last event was run in 1979. It was decidedly politically incorrect. It had the attention of law enforcement officers countrywide. It became increasingly difficult to explain the winning elapsed times without admitting to speeding somewhere along the way. ("I crossed Nevada in 15 seconds" was not acceptable.) Too flagrant, this nose thumbing at the laws of the land.

The event was reorganized in 1984 as the One Lap of America. In the inaugural event, the competitors left New York, drove a specified route to the four corners of the country (a distance of about 10,000 miles), and returned to New York about a week later. No real time constraints, no need to speed. The car that clocked the closest to the specified (but secret) target mileage won the event. Legal. Dull. The greatest challenge was not killing your co-driver for offensive behaviors brought on in part by being confined in a small space for a week and in part by the consequences of a road food diet.

In 1991 the event moved to its current format. Since then, the One Lap of America has evolved into a demanding event extracting the most from the cars and the drivers.

As it exists today, the One Lap of America is patterned after the famous and grueling Tour de France FIA competition reported in Second Strike Volume 2, Number 2. (Not the bicycle race, the car race.)

The competitors completed a 4,200 mile lap of the United States in seven days. Each day, they competed in one or more timed trials at a track facility along the way, then drove to the next track. Altogether, there were a total of fourteen timed events, twelve speed trails and two drag race events.

It is truly becoming a world class event requiring power, handling, braking, reliability, and economy of operation from the cars and skill and stamina from the drivers.

Click on "One Lap 1999" to continue...



One Lap 1999




Pikes Peak





Final Results