Cannonball Run: Coronavirus Edition
Last December, we reported that a team piloting a 2015 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG obliterated the standing Cannonball record between New York City and Los Angeles. In March, we also noted that traffic density has declined immensely as a result of the viral pandemic currently gripping the nation — with those two cities seeing larger declines than the already low national averages. You can probably guess where this is going.
Rumors are circulating that a 2019 Audi A8 was prepped to capitalize on the moment, setting a new Cannonball benchmark while (almost) no one was watching. According to Road & Track, a team of at least three equipped a white sedan with auxiliary fuel tanks and set out from NYC’s Red Ball Garage on the night of April 4th. They arrived at the Redondo Beach finish line less than 27 hours later — beating the old record with time to spare.
However, it seems the run upset some Cannonball aficionados, some of whom seemed capable of seeing the big picture.
“Do I think this is the best use of time while the country is staying in during a pandemic?” former record-holder Ed Bolian said in an interview with R&T. “Probably not, but for me to say it’s awful is like a cocaine dealer saying a heroin dealer is awful.”
It does seem silly to get bitter about the public safety measures involved in an unsanctioned and totally illegal speed run. Even the drivers who take extra precautions (like mapping out their entire journey in advance, hiring scout cars, or equipping their vehicles with an array of jamming equipment) are primarily doing so in a bid to win. They’re still slinging cars down major roadways at breakneck speeds for little more than the accompanying glory.
If the crew in the A8 are guilty of anything new, it’s unsportsmanlike conduct and not putting the nation first. Then again, what could be more patriotically American than telling the government to shove it as you climb into a high-powered (albeit German) automobile to successfully smash a cross-country speed record?
From Road & Track:
A handful of people who had driven in the C2C Express and the 2904 — Cannonball Run offshoots from recent years that featured a menagerie of low-buck, mostly vintage beaters — had planned to run a no-holds-barred Cannonball on April 4, along with some others who also had the trans-continental record bug. Among that group — self-selected for reasons of safety and to avoid publicity — it would have been open to any car, with no limit on budget, a vast departure from the cost-capped events they had run in past years. But with the COVID-19 death toll rising and more state governments calling for people to stay at home, the event-that’s-not-really-an-event was rightly scrubbed.
Debate within the group of self-anointed Brock Yates disciples raged. Was it appropriate to participate in an illegal cross-country race — or even a time trial — during a period of national crisis? When it became apparent that someone outside this group had gone ahead and completed a very successful run, regardless of high levels of national anxiety and fear over coronavirus, responses ran the gamut from “Nice job!” to “Who the hell do those guys think they are?” to “Who the hell are we to judge them?” There was talk of not recognizing the new 26:38 time set by the white Audi team as a record, due to the extraordinary circumstances.
The outlet goes on to highlight the internal fracas caused by the run and the history of the route from 1971 onwards. We imagine this run will be under scrutiny for a while. Many already believe that the new record isn’t fair, as it happened during a period that either gave the A8 an unfair advantage or somehow put the rest of the world more at risk.
Bolian, who previously mused about the prospect of a COVID Cannonball run, has also spent this week thoughtfully unpacking the legitimacy of the claimed time and everybody’s response via VINwiki. If a 10-minute video on the subject isn’t to your liking, the consensus among those who have made the run in the past is that — yes — the Audi’s time is probably valid. Still, everyone remains up in arms as to whether or not it should be counted.