Though the original Cannonball Run, organized in the early seventies by then Car and Driver editors Brock Yates and Steve Smith, is no longer officially run in the United States where it started, a version of the event still takes place in Europe. Amazingly, despite all of the high-power entrants into this year's race, a smart fortwo managed to take the victory after traveling some 3,000 miles. The machine was already a few years old and had been modified with a revised engine map from BRABUS along with some basic suspension goodies. Other than that, the little two-seater was basically stock. According to its drivers, David Ward and Adrian Hull, from Essex in the U.K., they were able to zoom past many of the faster moving cars due to their relatively good fuel mileage. In fact, over the course of the trip, the duo managed to average around 35 miles per gallon. Read about their trip on their blog here. Proceeds for the victory went to the NSPCC.
smart car blasts away opposition in Cannonball Run
A smart fortwo gave its high-powered opposition plenty of 'fuel for thought' when it sprinted to victory in the Cannonball Run – a 3,000-mile dash across Europe inspired by the famous 80s film starring Burt Reynolds.
Life-long friends David Ward and Adrian Hull, from Essex, beat a long list of six-figure supercars in their five-year-old, second-hand smart fortwo BRABUS, which was the smallest car in the 40-vehicle field.
The event, which started at Sandown Park and took in France, Portugal and Spain with a finish in Brighton, saw the duo awarded first place for completing the route at the exact stipulated requirement of an average of 61mph.
It was the smart's impressive fuel economy that really provided the edge for the 46-year-olds and their Union Jack-liveried smart. The performance version of the iconic smart range, which features a 700cc, 74bhp, three-cylinder turbo engine, is capable of 53.3 miles per gallon when driven on the combined fuel cycle – a factor that enabled the car to spend less time at the petrol pumps than its thirstier rivals.
"The downfall of the bigger cars was that they were forced to stop so often, so while they kept overtaking us, we eventually went past them at the next petrol station when they needed to fill up again," said David, who runs an estate agency in South Woodford. "We kept at a decent speed and still averaged around 35 miles per gallon."
What made David and Adrian's victory even more remarkable was the fact that their smart has all of its original specification apart from a re-mapping kit and upgraded suspension. Competing in their first event of this kind, they were also the only entrants without an in-car satellite navigation system – preferring a traditional European road guide instead.
"Having entered for fun and to raise money for the NSPCC, it's fair to say that we were surprised to win and I suppose there is a 'David and Goliath' element to our victory," admitted David. "I think the other drivers initially thought it was a hoax that a smart had entered but they gave us more and more credit as the week went on and, at the end, they were genuinely pleased that we won.
"Whilst I think I've converted quite a few of them to the merits of smart ownership, the event has just strengthened my admiration for the car," added David. "The ride and economy are outstanding, you can park it anywhere and there is room for my golf clubs – it's just a great little car."
David and Adrian have automatically gained entry into next year's Cannonball Run but are now planning further adventures in their smart car including next year's Gumball Rally from Los Angeles to Miami and a drive from Land's End to John o'Groat's in just 12 hours.