An RS America on the 2008 One Lap of America

By Paul “Lap Dog” Pigman

..............let the lapping begin!!
The Pittsbugh team RSA ... ready to do some laps.

What exactly is this “One Lap of America” thing?

In the early 1970's Brock Yates, senior editor of Car and Driver Magazine created the now infamous Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash; a flat out, no-holds-barred race from New York City to Redondo Beach, California. Setting out to prove that competent, well trained drivers can indeed safely navigate the American highways at speeds somewhat in excess of the posted limits, Mr. Yates created a spectacle reminiscent of the days of the barnstorming pilots. But after five successful events with none of the slaughter and mayhem predicted by the safety nazis; five events where the continent was ultimately traversed in 32 hours 51 minutes, Mr. Yates decided that he had made his point and it was now time to cash in with writing the screenplays for Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit II. (And, to be honest, Yates recognized that it was only a matter of time before some militant, safety-crazed prosecutor would bring him up before a grand jury.)

The event, as it always has been, is foremost one of endurance and vehicle preparation. No support crews are allowed. The tires that are used on the street are the same ones that are raced on (one set per team). Although scoring is based on performance at the race tracks, the vehicles and their drivers must survive over 4,000 miles of driving interspersed with the finest meals available at gas station convenience stores. Personal hygeine takes a holiday and friendships (sometimes marriages) are stretched to the limits as these competitors battle fatigue, weather, traffic and the demands of high-speed competition with both unknown amateurs and seasoned professional drivers like Parnelli Jones, Price Cobb, John Buffum, Elliot Forbes Robinson and Hurley Haywood.

So ... what does it take to run in the Tire Rack One Lap of America? A car of course (and there's a competition class to fit every automobile). The entry fee ($3000). A minimum of two drivers who have each had some racing experience (and/or two drivers' schools) - and, the willingness to confirm your parents' suspicion that there has always been something wrong with you.

FOR EXAMPLE - the map above shows the route for the 2013 TIRE RACK - One Lap of America event ...
4,000 miles - 12 competitive events ... in Seven days!

The 2008 Event

In 2008 the Pittsburgh team of Paul Pigman and Scott Schober drove a 1993 Porsche 911RS America in the 4,100-mile TIRE RACK - One Lap of America, one of the most demanding endurance events in the country and inspiration of the film, Cannonball Run. The following is a summary report of their adventures.

Scott S of PA's unsuspecting RS America prior to running the One Lap of America event

The 2008 race format for the One Lap of America was same it had always been: race all day at the track, pack up the car and drive overnight to the next venue, unpack the car, race all day, pack up the car and drive overnight. This race is unique in the fact that it's 24 hours a day for 8 days. The team is constantly on the move and precious sleep is merely a distant dream!

Points are given based on your combined times during the time trails and drag races. The team that has the most points wins. The second to the last stop of the event, May 9th, will be at a local track, BeaverRun, just north of Pittsburgh.

Day 1 (Saturday 03-May):

Start at the World Headquarters of Tire Rack in South Bend, Ind. If you ever wondered where all those tires live, I now know. Huge property. Party atmosphere at the start lots of press and photographers. We feel like rock stars. Photo ops then first event. Two laps around a wet skid pad then pack up and drive 273 miles to Elkhart Lake, Wis. Traffic through Chicago was a mess and added an hour to the trip. Amazingly, most Chicagoans didn't ever look our way. You would think a Bright Red Porsche with decals every where would get some attention. Not even a wave.

Once in Wisconsin, though, more friendly folks who at least waved. Elkhart Lake is in the country and is a beautiful place. The track is 3.9 miles and has many blind corners. Scott decided to drive this famous track. The drill is: on recon lap. Standing start then two full timed laps. Scott started well and completed one lap then he never came around again. I was concerned he may of had “an off” (a racing term for an“oops”). Scott came in early because he thought he saw the checked flag. If you were following us on the site you would have seen we had a DNF (did not finish) at Elkhart. Scott was bummed that his basic addition skills were failing him and he received the appropriate amount of ribbing. He was vindicated however, when we found out yesterday at our next track, Mid America Motorplex in Iowa that he did receive an early flag.

The drive from Elkhart Lake to Mid America was 570 miles. We arrived at 3:00 am!!

No room service?? ..... that's the pits!!!.

Day 2 (Sunday):

3 hours of sleep then a cold shower (we are not staying at the Ritz) then off to the track. Beautiful day: Sunny and 72. The Mid America track was fun, I drove in the morning and Scott in the afternoon. On the road at 2:15 pm for a 817-mile run to Texas World Speedway.

Riding through Kansas the rolling plains went on as far as you can see. Any trees left standing looked ripped apart due to tornados. They looked like tooth picks with green sprouts.

Mid America Motorplex the dry.

Day 3 (Monday):

Arrived College Station Texas 3:06 am. There seems to be a pattern developing and we are getting really good at packing and unpacking the car. We also figure out quickly that truck headlights shine directly into the side view mirrors of a low-riding Porsche. Not fun when it is 2 in the morning and your eyes are burning. So it becomes a game of pass and get ahead, slow down and cruise before the next pass.

After another 3 hours of sleep we wake up to rain. Lot's of rain. In fact, it hasn't stopped and it is almost lunch. Scott is in line to run his laps in the rain. My turn is this afternoon.

Trying hard to smooth things out and not spin at Texas World Speedway.

Meeting many interesting people from all over the world who are participating. Lots of characters from all walks of life: Physicians, business owners, retirees, students doing the One Lap as a project from Rice University. Most of them have run this event multiple times. Since this is my first, I am known as a “Lap Puppy.” Everyone is safe and most are great drivers.

I thought is was always sunny in Texas! It rained non-stop all day. Texas World Speedway is an “old school” high-banked oval with a road course running in the infield and outside of the track. First time for Scott and I to be on banking. It is amazing how steep it is. Both of our run sessions were in driving rain storms, so our goal was to keep it safe and very smooth.

On the banking at Texas World Speedway ... in the pouring rain.

Many other competitors had big and multiple spins. We did not. During down time, we met and talked to Tony Swann, senior writer of Car and Driver. He and his wife are running the One Lap and writing about the adventure. Another interesting competitor is Amanda Hennessy. She is a professional driver and is sponsored by Dubler Chocolat of Sweden. In fact Mr. Dubler himself is also driving.

Due to the rain, the drag race event was cancelled for the late afternoon and evening, so we were able to leave for Donaldsonville, near New Orleans. Only a 365-mile drive, so we made it to our hotel by 11:00 pm for some welcomed sleep.

Day 4 (Tuesday):

Warm and dry. The name of the track for today: “No Problem Raceway”. An appropriate name, given its location in the middle of nowhere surrounded by oil refineries.

Good track day and we also added drag racing at the end of the event. For those of you who ever dreamed of racing that guy next to you when you're stuck in traffic on the Parkway .......... you have to try drag racing!

Left “No Problem” for the longest road run of the event - 800 miles non-stop through Mississippi, Georgia and ending in Camden, South Carolina. We have become experts in sleeping in a bolted up, non-reclining race seat. We try and stick to a 2 1/2 hours on, 2 1/2 off. I must admit, after a little more than 12 hours in the car, it wasn't too bad.

We all arrived in Camden about the same time: 3:30 am. With 77 competitors all leaving at different times, some driving slightly above the speed limit, others drive aggressively, we all end up at the same place with 15 minutes of each other. We have confirmed - although it may be fun to be the “Hare” - the “Tortoise” makes it just the same, without the drama.

It is getting scary how comfortable we are getting driving long distances. Today, we drive about 435 miles (Ha!! ......Babyfood).

Day 5 (Wednesday):

We are now at Carolina Motorsports Park, Kershaw, SC. Country clubish for gentleman racers; 2.9 mile road course; sunny, warm and windy.

Carolina Motorsports Park was sunny and warm.

Both Scott and I had a good track day at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, SC. This is a place I would come back to. The second event of the day requires a 157 mile drive to the BMW performance center in Greer, NC. I must admit we are getting a little punchy and our backs are getting sore.

The BMW folks set up a rally course on their test track. They invited the public and their employees to watch us run the course, so we had a crowd. It was cool to see all the latest greatest vehicles from BMW in one place.

Another 253 miles to Danville Virginia and the VIRginia International Raceway.

Taking the checkered flag at Carolina Motorsports Park.

Day 6 (Thursday):

VIR is truly the country club of tracks. There is a beautiful lodge and spa on site and three separate track configurations. We ran all three and had a blast.

Now we are now heading 481 miles to BeaveRun Motorsports near Ellwood City, north of Pittsburgh. Since we are close to home, we are going to be able to sleep in our own beds. Yee Ha!!

This is what a man who's too tired to get out of the darned car looks like
When you've just run all 3 configurations of VIR ... and you know you'll be sleeping at home in your own bed tonight ...
...... the tired smile can't be concealed ... even by a helmet!!

A couple of thoughts on road travel so far:
  • The left lane in Texas is reserved for slow drivers.
  • Kansas has the smoothest highways.
  • On that note, we agreed never to complain about PA highways again. Compared to the rest of the country, other than Kansas, our roads are pretty good.
  • Alligators can be road kill in Louisiana.
  • The best road snack is Red Bull and beef jerky.
  • Always bring a paper road map for back up.
  • Some of the most distressing times enroute were when the two GPS systems we had decided to choose different ways to our destination and one indicated an arrival time one hour shorter than the other.
  • A word of advice: Make sure you can disable the announcer voice on the GPS. Nothing scares you more than on a long run when you are in the zone, your driving partner is asleep and a friendly but LOUD voice interrupts the relative quiet with “As soon as possible make a safe U turn”.

Day 7 (Friday):

The ride from VIR to Pittsburgh was uneventful and we ripped off 481 miles no sweat.

We were able to sleep in our own beds. Being on the road for 5 days you develop a routine of drive, gas up, (both fuel and food) drive some more, then crash (sleep) hard, wake up in a few hours, drive to a track, race and start the process all over again. A stop at home was a welcome interruption to the marathon routine.

Scott was able to take his son to school in the One Lap car (very cool for a 13-year-old) before he picked me up to make the start of the BeaveRun event. BeaveRun is our home track, so we did well. Thanks to those who came up to cheer us on.

We headed to Avon Lake, Ohio for a media event. More rock star stuff. We are now on our way back to where we started in South Bend. 110 miles to go.

Final Competitive Event (Saturday, May 10th):

Beautiful day in South Bend, Ind. - sunny and 67 degrees - for the final event of this adventure and a dry skid pad at the Tire Rack facility. Two laps (each lap is a perfect circle) clockwise and two laps counter clock wise. The goal is not to spin the car and to create as many G forces as possible as fast as possible.

Scott drove this event and did well, no spins a decent score.

After all of the competitors completed the skid pad, the overall winners and “hot shoes” (professional drivers) were allowed on to the skid pad rack to do smoky burn outs and drifting. There really is nothing quite like the sound (or the smell) of a $150,000 Porsche burning up its rear tires in a huge cloud of smoke. The most dramatic drifting was done by a prototype Dodge Challenger SRT8. This is a retro-look muscle car that is coming to a dealer near you in the fall.

We loaded up the car and decided not to wash it, leaving a nice streaked, 4,100 mile road grime patina.

The awards lunch:

The awards lunch followed with many stories and stats regarding this year's event:
  • More than $150,000 raised for various charities. Scott and I raise approximately $8,000 for our two charities, The Boy Scouts and Youth Connect.
  • The highest price paid for gasoline was $4.29 in Louisiana (ouch).
  • There was only one accident on the highways while traveling between tracks and that was in Virginia when a deer hit a car. Eighty cars traveling more than 4,100 miles with only one incident proves that those who are trained to drive on a track tend to be very safe drivers on the highway.
  • Only three speeding tickets were issued. (That either means we all drove the limit or radar detectors really do work).

80 teams - with the RSA of Team PA in row 3 - fired up and ready to do ... One Lap.

In Summary ...

Some of our observations and statistics from throughout the week:
  • Highest price we paid for gasoline was $4.09 for regular on the Ohio Turnpike heading home to Pittsburgh after the event.
  • The radar detector only went off about 20 times during the entire 4,100 mile trip.
  • The 1993 Porsche RS America was bullet proof. Most of the other competitors were wrenching and working on their cars through out the event. Scott and I set the tire pressures at the beginning, added gasoline and 2 quarts of oil to the car and that was it. Imagine taking any other 15 year old car on such a trip.
  • Believe it or not, Sparco race seats are actually comfortable road seats.

Reflecting on the past week, I will definitely do this event again. This kind of adventure is not for everyone and you definitely need track experience, a strong back, an understanding spouse and a driving partner you can get along with and trust.

We ended up 59th out of 80 cars - not bad for a sophomore (Scott) and a “lap puppy.” ... and by the way ..... just in case anybody asks ...

... I am now officially ... a “lap dog”.

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