The US road network is only getting busier, and yet the Cannonball record has been broken once again. Well, not so much broken as obliterated.
Arne Toman, Doug Tabbutt and Berkeley Chadwick departed New York on 10 November, arriving in Los Angeles 27 hours and 25 minutes later. Just over a day to travel 2826 miles by car. Before you reach for your phone’s calculator, that’s an average speed of 103mph. The previous record - set in 2013 - was 28 hours and 50-minutes, which smashed the 31-hour, four-minute run from Alex Roy and Dave Maher in 2006.
This doesn’t happen all that often, in other words, even though more people attempt it than you’d expect. For this latest record, Toman drove a modified 2015 Mercedes-AMG E63 saloon, with its V8 pumping out 700bhp thanks to bigger turbochargers and breathing modifications. A high-capacity fuel cell was installed in the boot, while strategically-placed tape at the rear made the super saloon look as nondescript as possible.
The car was also packed full of electronic gear to help avoid any run-ins with law enforcement. Tabbutt took charge of radar detection equipment, a laser jammer plus an aircraft collision avoidance system to help spot any police aircraft overhead. The car even has kill switches for the brake and tail lights.
The endeavour went much further than the three men in the car, too. 18 spotters were recruited along the route, who’d travel along big chunks of it to check for any issues.
Perhaps the most impressive thing of all is the time the trio spent stopping for fuel - just 22 and a half minutes. Anyone with children would kill to just do one stop on a long journey in that kind of time…
All of this is unofficial. With an average of 103mph, itself higher than any posted speed limit in the USA, going even faster for long stretches was inevitable. Speeds over 160mph were regularly achieved from the sounds of it, and an image of the journey data - seen in a VinWiki video - seems to suggest the E63 at one stage hit 193mph.
A Cannonball record involves breaking a lot of laws, so it simply can’t be officially sanctioned. It prompts mixed feelings even within petrolhead community - impressive though Toman and co’s run was, there will inevitably be questions about safety. He told Fox News: “Anyone who’s done it realizes how safely it can be done,” adding, “We’re not passing on the shoulder. You try not to negatively effect [sic] anybody on the road. Drawing attention just gets you called into the police.”
These runs do have quite a back-story, though. The high-speed tradition can be traced back to Erwin Baker’s 11-day coast-to-coast run on a motorbike in 1915, which the bike and car racer got down to just 53 and a half hours in 1933 using a Graham-Paige ‘Blue Streak’. That record stood for 40 years.
In the 1970s, motoring journalist Brock Yates founded the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash road race, cementing the idea into automotive culture.
Will this latest tribute to the Cannonball run be bettered? It’s a tall order, but some will certainly try.
Sources: VinkWiki, Road & Track