2009 One Lap of America - Day 1 - Click above for a hi-res gallery
Greetings from Joliet, Illinois, home of the Autobahn Country Club. We're on board with Brock Yates' One Lap of America, one of America's toughest motorsports challenges. Over the course of eight days, 63 drivers of all talent and experience levels will take to a range of motorsports facilities across the country in a wide variety of machinery. There's something for everyone here, from mainstream American performance iron (a passel of Chevrolet Corvettes and Camaros, along with a Mustang or two) to niche exotics (Ultima, Lotus Exige) to Japanese cars (including a nifty Mitsubishi Galant VR4), a gaggle of Porsches, and more BMW M cars than you can shake a stick at. Heck, there's even a GMC Jimmy, a stunning Nissan Altima Hybrid SEMA entrant and a Fifties rat rod.
In truth, we One Lappers assembled yesterday in breezy, chilly South Bend, Indiana at Tire Rack's massive facilities. The competitors met up to receive a driver's meeting, technical inspection, and a full slate of sponsorship decals, along with the usual final tunings and bench racing sessions. The actual racing didn't start until earlier this morning, however, where the competitors made use of the retail giant's 200-foot skidpad – with the sprinklers on. You can read all about what happened over Motor Trend (they're one of the event's main sponsors), but suffice it to say that one of the two Nissan GT-R entrants (not pictured) at this year's event stunned the assembled throngs by recording 0.953G, a handsome figure considering the soaked tarmac.
This year, competitors will travel some 3,265 miles between today and next Saturday before circling back to South Bend next Saturday. Along the way, the racers will take part in an autocross event at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky, then roll to Greenbrier, Tennessee to take on the Highland Rim Speedway oval. After that, it's off to Alabama's Talladega Gran Prix on Monday, with a long haul (over 600 miles) down to Florida's legendary Sebring International Raceway. After that, it's time for a bracket drag racing session at Gainesville Raceway, and then on to Daytona International Speedway. Come Thursday, there's a tidy 440 mile run to Kershaw, South Carolina, home of Carolina Motor Sports Park, and from there, the racers slip over to BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg. Doubtlessly looking a bit worse for the wear, the survivors will then motor 560+ miles to Pennsylvania's Beaverun Motorsports Complex. The bedraggled racers then make the final 240-mile transit back to South Bend for a final (hopefully) dry skidpad event and a final banquet and trophy award ceremony.
With just 60+ cars in the field this year (as opposed to the 80+ vehicles in years past), it's clearly a down year in terms of attendance – a development readily attributable to the economy (it's admittedly hard to ignore to overlook the substantial cost associated with mounting an entry). However, there are some ace new competitors here and a lot of interesting machinery. Further, with the absence of five-time reigning champion Mark Davia and his Porsche 996 twin-turbo (whose wife is expecting), there's sure to be a new winner this year.
Full Disclosure: Yours truly is part of one of the two timing and scoring crews (I have been participating as such since 1999), so while I will do my best to bring AB'ers closer to the action, as a crew member, I will only attend a bit more than half of the events as we hopscotch the country in order to get ahead of the competitors and prepare the timing equipment and post the scores ahead of their arrival. As such, it is recommended that you check out Motor Trend and the official One Lap Of America website for the rules and the latest updates on the races.
Well, the cars on the false grid are set to go green, so I'm gone... until next time, please check out the massive gallery of 70+ high-res images below featuring most of the competitors.