Being the only member of the BMWBLOG staff whoʼs a Lap Dog (will explain in a minute) I figured today, the start of the Tire Rackʼs One Lap of America, would be good time to write about what its like to run as a driver. You see, a Lap Dog, is well deserved term given to a veteran of One Lap. First timer? A lap pup of course!
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One Lap of America is the spiritual descendant of Brock Yateʼs insane Coast to Coast Cannonball Run. The Cannonball Run was a highly illegal timed race on public roads from NYC to LA and was run four times in the 70ʼs. Perhaps the best line from any participant was from Dan Gurney: “At no time did we exceed 175mph.” It was so crazy it they made two movies about it in the early 80ʻs, The Cannonball Run and Cannonball Run II and stared Burt Reynolds. Brock Yates published a pretty cool book about it to, “Cannonball! Worldʼs Greatest Outlaw Race” published in 2003 – a great read.
One Lap of American is much different. Itʼs more a marathon eight day non-stop road trip from race track to race track where you get just 5 laps. One warm up/recon lap, three hot laps, and a cool down lap. The three timed laps are all from a standing start, so my 3.2 L M3 was seriously mismatched. The total distance of the 8 day event has ranged from a cumulative distance of 3600 miles to as long as 10,000 miles. The only exceptions to the 5 lap rule is at the skid pad or a drag race. The higher you place the more points you get and the earlier you run. If you have a mechanical issue or donʼt make it to the track in time you donʼt get any points.
Whereʼs the tie in to the Cannonball Run? Weʼll Brock Yates and his son Brock Jr run the event! They started it in 1984 and since Brock was at Car and Driver at the time they stepped in to be the title sponsor. Car and Driver sponsored One Lap up until 2006 or so. Tire Rack headquarters in South Bend, IN is where the event starts and ends and they are now the title sponsor. The only points you can earn are from timed events on closed tracks. So no racing on public streets and no points for anything on a public road.
There arenʼt many rules for the cars except they must be legally able to be on the road. Meaning they must have lights. Windshield wipers are optional. Seriously, if you can get it licensed and insured in your state, you can run it. The other main rule is about tires. You get one set for the entire event. They must have a tread wear rating of greater than 140, no R comps. Lest you think I competed in the same class as a full blown Nascar Race Truck of Ron Addeeʼs youʼd be sort of right and sort of wrong.
There are a ton of required sponsor decals to apply to your car, so even though you may have a sponsor like we did, one must save space for the mandated One Lap decals. These get applied at the checkin and they check for the appropriate placement before they let you out on the wet skid pad, One Laps first event.
Horsepower, handling and the driver. If youʼve got the best in each of these youʼll win. Top teams bring top tier talent. The likes of Hurley Haywood, winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Mike Renner. James Clay. Need I say more? Then there was our car. A doctor and a lawyer. We were seriously out gunned in horsepower and track talent! Racing suits, helmets, and a current race license are all required.
All cars must have two drivers. To have just one driver would be unsafe given that you are constantly either on track, unpacking the car to get on track, or driving to the next track. Most top cars had a “ringer” and a transit driver. Ned and I wanted to drive each track and thus split the driving duty. Though it decreased our overall position to do so, it made the event more fun for us.
Thereʼs your overall position but thereʼs also the rank you are in your class. The race truck went in the pick up category and we were in Sports GT cars under 3.5L displacement. The engine displacement is what the car came with from the factory. If you want to do a motor swap, its allowed. Now while that did weed out the Nascar Race truck of our class, it did mean that Chin Motorsports Rolex series Acura NSXʼs were in our class. So you can surmise they killed us and they did. They have added a Stock category since I ran in 2005. “where an unmodified car is at often at a disadvantage, we will recognize those that are willing to compete with an unmolested vehicle. The class will be self-policing and all entrants must commit at the start. Wheels, tires and brake material are open, the rest of the car must remain stock.” The stock class as well as Luxury sedan class is where our BMW Factory team from Spartanburg will be competing.
1. Sports/GT cars over $50,000 – Engine displacement 3.5L and over 2. Sports/GT cars over $50,000 – Engine displacement under 3.5L
3. Sports/GT cars under $50,000 – Engine displacement 3.5L and over 4. Sports/GT cars under $50,000 – Engine displacement under 3.5L
5. Mid-priced sedans and wagons $20,000-$50,000
6. Economy cars under $25,000
7. Luxury sedans and wagons over $50,000
8. Sport Utility vehicles and pickups all price ranges
9. Classic American: All domestically produced vehicles built prior to 1989, including street rods, specials, etc.
10. Classic Imported: All types built prior to 1989
11. Alternate Fuel class-including hybrids, electric, diesels, etc.
12. Retro: Vehicles intended to reflect past trends or models, Minis, etc.
If you can run with the big dogs, you get to get on track first and leave the track first. The slowest cars have to wait for 79 others to run. Every day is full of multiple timed events usually one track in the morning, then boogie hundreds of miles away to the next one. Rarely there was an exception to this like at VIR. The sooner you get on the road, the more time you have to catch some ZZZʼs in a hotel. On our trip, we would some timescheckintoahotelforjustafewhours. Checkinat3or4amonlytohavetoget up at 7am and head to the track. Trust me, you get so damn tired even a few hours on a cheap crappy hotel bed and a shower is well worth it. Sometimes I even slept on the ground at the track. Thereʼs no way to accurately describe what multiple days of sleep deprivation feels like and driving like hell to get to the hotel only to miss the exit.
What I ran:
Our steed for this event was of course a BMW. One of my favorites ever, an 1998 E36 M3 sedan. Where as the e36 was produced from 1992 – 1999, the M3 sedan was available just in 97 and 98. Only 7760 of the M3 sedans were sold and 47% of those had an automatic tranny. The sedan and coupe had the same curb weight of 3175 lbs, they also shared the same 106.3 inch wheel base. We didnʼt do much to my M3 sedan for One Lap, just coil overs, Hawk HP+ pads, light weight SSR wheels, UUC Short Shift and Michelin PS/2ʼs.
My theory was less mods = less things to break. The car was full of electronics too – radar detector, CB radio, cell phones, Garmin, a radar gun, assorted chargers and of course Motorola hand radios. Next to the radar detector, these hand held Motorolaʼs were are most used item allowing communicate to our traveling mates in the blue E46 M3, crazy Tom and Steve. Blow by truckers in a pack of stickerʼd up cars and they are pissed, so donʼt do that.
Red Bull and Beef Jerky:
What you quickly realize when pressed for time to get between track and track is that you put less thought into what you should be eating. Subsequently we found Red Bull and Beef Jerky and fast food to be our week long staple. Track food really does suck. The only exception to this is a Virginia International Raceway which is like a friggin country club and I had a Caesar salad with grilled chicken.
One Lap of American is run hell or high water. We experienced both. Some of the participants even had to get through snow to get to the event in 2005! I had no experience driving on track in the rain and it showed. Since a light car runs better on track, you unpack everything form the car. There were even crazy people pulling seats out of cars at each track! Fortunately my running mate, Ned is a serious organization buff and he had purchased plastic tubs to cram all of or stuff in so loading and unloading was quick. This was especially important when you are late getting to a track and don’t want everything soaked.
I at Roebling Road in torrential rain.
You can bring what ever tools you want, just know that you will be packing and un- packing them twice a day at least. If you have a mechanical failure, short of towing your vehicle to the next track, you can do whatever it takes to fix it. There were a lot of all nighters pulled by guys repairing stuff at a shop and then barely making it to a track or even missing a full day of the event and then rejoining.
Are There Cheaters?
We just did it for fun and we didnʼt cheat by using more than our tire allotment or a support vehicle. Really those are the two biggest no noʼs. However, this is racing after all and some people take it crazy serious and our year 2005 was no different. The NSX Rolex race cars were from Chin Motorsports and they had a silver Ford Van full of parts and techʼs that mysteriously was at every track the first 4 or 5 days until Brock Jr finally made them leave. Note these guys were not very smart, I mean subtle, as they left their Chinmotorsport decals on their support van!
The NSX guys also ran so much negative camber in the rears that they corded then flatted their tires. Claiming it was a safety issue, they got a fresh set of rears.
Hereʼs the schedule of events starting at Tire Rack May 5th 2012 – Brings back great memories.
I always loved looking at the map, before, during and after our event. It really makes a big impression on those who arenʼt car nuts. “You did that? All in 8 days?”
For me, I had the most fun hanging around 24/7 for eight days with like minded car nuts. Was funny to see us get to a parking lot of a hotel at 3am and see other competitors just looking at each others cars. We hooked up with other BMW and Mini guys and traveled in packs between tracks and in doing so, made some life long friendships along the way.
2012 One Lap has eleven BMWʼs and a MINI, quite a showing. From 1Ms to X5Ms and of course the BMW NA sponsored Brand New M5!
Good luck 2012 One Lappers!
Follow along on BMW social media channels as well as here for results.