Hooniverse Asks: Does the U.S. Need a Long-Distance Road Race?

Epic road races like Paris to Dakar, Mille Miglia, and the Carrera Panamerica, are the ultimate test of man (or woman) and machine. Italy is home to the Miglia and the historic Targa Florio was run in neighboring Sicily. The Carrera meanwhile ran the length of Mexico. What is it about Latin countries and long-ass races? 
That’s not the question for today however. No, what we want to know today is your opinion on whether the U.S. could stand an epic long distance road—and maybe off-road—race. Like soccer (Football), WRC Rally Racing seems to be far more popular elsewhere than here in the States. Could an ambitious multi-state race change that? Where might such a race be run?
Image: route66guide

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15 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: Does the U.S. Need a Long-Distance Road Race?”

  1. neight428 Avatar

    I feel compelled to be a wet blanket realist on this one. Unless you figure out a way for the feds, states and local politicians to saturate their money sponges through the thing, it’s not ever going to happen. Motorsports aren’t nearly as popular as the stick and ball sports that depend on using public resources for private benefit in their business model. Without that widespread popularity, every elected goober along your route will block your efforts until your “fees” are paid in full. The county judge that stood in the way of a car race that no one has heard of isn’t going to lose his next election (or more importantly, his influential benefactors) like the guy who said no to the stadium deal, but there might be something in it for him if your pockets are deep enough, otherwise no upside. But it would be fun.
    A semi-realistic alternative would be something like Hot Rod’s Drag Week or Power Tour using a series of road courses across the continent for the competition and a reasonable but challenging pace required to get from one to the next. I think that has been done before, perhaps in C&D’s One Lap of America, though I’m not sure if the concept was the same.

  2. Eric Rucker Avatar

    I’m thinking some sort of constraint on the vehicles used would make it more interesting.
    The legendary long distance races are legendary because they were tests of endurance first and foremost, and they put state of the art automotive technology to the test. They were also used as advertisement by the automakers in the races.
    Also, long distance races need to be on public roads, and running something like the Cannonball Run won’t fly. There is One Lap of America, but it gets little attention.
    So, I’m thinking there’s a way to do it, although I suspect it won’t get much attention: a cross country electric car race. Use some sort of classification system to level the playing field (maybe price and passenger/cargo capacity-based?), and have a few rules.
    Those rules would be:
    A ticket for a traffic violation is disqualifying
    Radar detectors forbidden
    All charging must be performed at brand-non-specific charging stations – 120 volt outlets, NEMA 14-50s at campgrounds, public J1772s, CHAdeMO, and CCS are legal, Tesla HPWCs (even if you have a non-Tesla and are carrying a HPWC to J1772 adapter) and Superchargers are not, to ensure fairness (so Teslas don’t get an unfair advantage) and safety (because nobody’s certified a HPWC to J1772 adapter)
    No battery swapping
    No outside assistance – the car must only move under either its own power, or the power of its crew, except as necessary to remove it from a dangerous position (so, if it stalls in the middle of a roadway, outside assistance can be used to remove it from the roadway, but any further is disqualifying)
    First car through every checkpoint and at the finish line wins, with one exception – if a competitor cannot charge due to another competitor, a time credit may be awarded to the competitor that could not charge

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      How “constrained” do you want the vehicles to be?

      1. crank_case Avatar

        That is class! I guess the car equivalent is trying to do the event in something like a Trabant or Fiat 126, where the speed limit becomes a target rather than a limit, or if someone could figure out a loophole to road register cyclekarts as “quadricycles” or something. https://d39a3h63xew422.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/20183936/cheap-fun-and-fast-you-re-going-to-want-a-cyclekart-1476934635405-1000×750.jpg

    2. onrails Avatar

      Agreed with this and Tashanomi (I’ve participated, however briefly, in a 50cc run around one of the Great Lakes). No way it’s going to happen unless it’s transparent enough that if the public wasn’t informed about it, they wouldn’t know it was going on. Brutal effiiency in everything but rate of travel is the name of the game.

  3. Lokki Avatar

    One Lap of America is realistically about as close as you can get to this in today’s world
    The old Cannonball Baker Sea to Shining Sea Memorial Throphy Dash was the real thing but it got too popular so nobody does it any more.
    Cannonball Baker remains a role model for me though.

  4. crank_case Avatar

    WRC isn’t a long distance road race, it’s a series of short closed road/gravel stages. Mainstream Rallying hasn’t been an endurance discipline since the 1960s really when larger cars could win just by holding up or offering driver comfort to improve concentration over the distance and navigation (as in figuring out the route on the fly not shouting pace notes) could win you the event as much as simply being a fast car to fling through the stage. You can see that change in the cars that won, in the 50s, solid stuff like Volvo PV544s or Mercedes 220s could take the European championship (WRC did not exist til the 70s) but in the 60s/70s, stuff like Escorts, Porsches, Alpines start dominating.
    Closed road rallying wasn’t allowed in most of the mainland UK for quite a period, only allowed again a year or tow ago, rallying there was all forrestry stuff or special stages on private estates/parks/racetracks, where in Ireland, with a much smaller population (we could all fit in Manchester, never mind London) and an incredible amount of rural road in relation to land area, it was pretty easy to keep tarmac rallying alive. Still stage rallying though.
    Mille Miglia isn’t technically a race, but the the eh.. enthusiasm of the local police force allows it to be one. Certainly not as fast as the original event though.
    There are long distance events such as HERO LeJog (Lands End to John O’Groats) for vintage vehicles, but these tend to be regularity trials which can be held on public roads without closing them. Technically speaking, you never need to break the speed limit. The goal is to arrive at a each checkpoint exactly on time, not early, not late, there is no pre-defined route. It’s very much like old school rallying, apart from the “regularity” aspect and can be tough on the cars. You win by being consistent and precise, so navigation, a precise driving style and reliability are more likely to win the event than raw speed. Still a great event though.

  5. JayP Avatar

    I’ve been amazed by Targa Newfoundland.
    The locals seem to be happy to close off local roads, their driveways, whatever and have speeding cars careen 2 feet from their houses.
    I cannot imagine this happening in the US. I’d love to know the community who would welcome such an event with open arms.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Yesterday I attended the Targa Tasmania stage through George Town in Tasmania. The town has around 4000 residents, and gets quite a boost from all the people who come and spend money. Not bad for half a day’s disruption, and it is a good way of promoting tourism in general.

  6. P161911 Avatar

    I would have a hard time coming up with a public road suitable for truly long distance racing. They would all be either heavily populated and congested or insanely flat and straight. Sure you could come up with a few 50-100 mile circuits, but a solid 500-200 miles, no way. Anything out West would be for 200+ mph supercars only.

  7. engineerd Avatar

    I’ve actually thought about this before. One of the thoughts I’ve had is organizing a Targa Newfoundland type event in Michigan’s UP. People up there seem the type to allow cars driven in anger down their streets.
    The other one, and I’m surprised nobody has ever organized something like this, is a Deadhorse, AK to Ushuaia, Argentina test of endurance. The only section that cannot be done on the Panamerican Highway is the Darien Gap in southern Panama. A ferry service would have to be provided to competitors. Or leave it up to them to figure out how to get across.

  8. CraigSu Avatar

    Well, what’s the closest the US has to having its own Isle of Man? A TT event like that could work as long as the locals are on board.

  9. Krautwursten Avatar

    A big road race doesn’t fit the pattern for popular motorsports in the US. Whenever a motorsport is popular in the US, it’s because there’s an extremely cheap and widely available entry level of it for anyone to try themselves in. Drag strips are everywhere. Little dirt ovals are everywhere. You can’t exactly recreationally do road races as an average person.

  10. salguod Avatar

    There’s the already mentioned One Lap and the Hemmings sponsored Great Race. Both are staged, endurance sort of events. One lap is a series of track events with a lot of driving in between, the Great Race is a timed rally for pre-1972 cars.