Taken from the book by Brock Yates, "Cannonball! Worlds Greatest Outlaw Road Race" publised in 1972. When most of you weren't even born
Have a read:-
The following is from Brock Yates’ column in the March 1972 Issue of ‘Car and Driver’ magazine.
“I suppose half the fun of the Cannonball Baker was anticipating the indignant hen-clucking that would arise in its wake. That the expected denouncement of the affair by responsible, clear headed citizens, properly outraged by the idea of motorised Visigoths ripping over the highways of America, was going to be a by-product of the event that would offer us a rebuttal wherein the more serious motives of the Cannonball might be articulated. That wave of indignation never came. Aside from the pubescent West Coast motor sports writer whining that it was a “crime” and Sports Illustrated grumbling that certain aspects of the race were “deplorable”, very little flack came our way. In fact, praise arrived from utterly shocking sources. One highly prestigious member of the FIA called Kirk White twice to express his enthusiasm for the Cannonball Baker concept. Both Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America gave the race coverage in an effort, one producer told me, to inform the world that far from being a police state, America was still the scene of enterprising individual adventure.
Nevertheless, I think the Cannonball Baker does demand justification, mainly because we feel it symbolises something far deeper than a simple-mined dash from coats to coast. To begin with, it was not a flat out race. Surely the idea of running across the nation in 36 hours conjures visions of hammering along for hours on end at 150mph. Dan Guerney’s whimsical, rather ironic statement to the press that “we never exceeded 175mph” only reinforced this idea. We did briefly run the Ferrari to an indicated 172mph on an empty stretch of Interstate 10 in California, merely to determine the limits of the machine, but a majority of the trip was run at 90-95mph – a mere saunter for the Ferrari. The quickness of the journey was hardly attributable to outright speed, but rather good routes, rapid stops and assiduously staying clear of traffic. When Dan and I got to the Portofino, we agreed that the part of the Cannonball we were proudest was the fact that we had bothered no one – we hadn’t jeopardised that safety of anyone, including ourselves. We had driven very fast, but we had driven very cleanly, efficiently and safely.
What exactly was the Cannonball Baker trying to prove? In a purely simplistic sense, it was an adventure, a challenge to be met. On a more serious level, it was a gesture. New York to Los Angeles is the most storied route in the United States (“Get your kicks on Route 66”) and it seemed worthwhile to find out just how fast the trip could be made. But what about the cops? This question probably arose more often than any other relating to the event. Ok, what about the cops? This, if anything, was a central intent of the Cannonball: to prove the hypocrisy and futility of the speed laws in the nation today. Hopefully we added some testimony to the case that they are farcically unworkable; that they are designed to catch the wrong people and not only have no positive effect on traffic safety but maybe a contributory factor to accidents, as indicated during the period of merciless enforcement in Connecticut (which has recently been quietly suspended)
Gurney and I were arrested once. We passed a highway patrolman who was having a dawn cup of coffee in a roadside café. He never saw the Ferrari, but the rush of the sound triggered the pursuit. He overtook us when we stopped for gas – having run his Dodge patrol car up to a 140mph to make the arrest. Now then, why did he arrest us? Standard answer: We broke the law. Why are there speed laws? Standard answer: to promote safety. If we were being unsafe at 120mph – in a machine that is so eminently safe that I cannot express it to anyone who has not driven a Ferrari Daytona, then what about the patrolman careening along at 140mph, in his guissed up four door? Was he not compounding the hazard, if we accept the argument that our speed was automatically unsafe?
But is this not elitism at its worst? Here we are seeking justification for one of the worlds greatest drivers running probably the best passenger car ever built at 120mph on a public road. But not everyone is a Dan Guerney at the wheel of a Ferrari Daytona, the rebuttal goes. Of course that is true, but should we not aspire to those heights of excellence, both in car and driver, rather than settling back to accept a level of mediocrity whereby everyone is assumed to be incompetent? This is the basic objection I have to the mentality of the so called “safety” crusade of today. We are being led to standardise at a shockingly mundane level – a level which will ultimately drive the Dan Guerneys and the Ferrari Daytona’s off the road. This is akin to eliminating French Cuisine because it is too rich for the masses or suspending basic scientific because it does not have any immediate, practical applications. If we do not seek perfection in any given field, regardless of cost or risk, we will inevitably be cursed with the ordinary. Although I risk damnation from every liberated thinker to so state, all men are not created equal, and I resent the egalitarian balderdash that modern culture must somehow grovel toward the lowest common denominator to attain stability.
We are included to blame the government (“they”) and its sleazy politicos and faceless civil servants. But we are the government. “We” are “They”. In this sense, to quaver at the idea of seeking the outer limits of accomplishment – even in so minuscule an enterprise of driving from coast to coast in the shortest possible time – because “they” might disapprove, is a hopeless cop-out. Gandhi once said, “It is a superstition and ungodly thing to believe that an act of the majority binds a minority”.
I believe sincerely of the vast capabilities of individual men, especially when they are challenged. But these instincts for challenge can easily be blanketed in an over protective environment, where the comforts of status quo overwhelm any urges for change. We are becoming a nation of spectators, content to face our risks vicariously, watching other men bashing heads on a football field or pumping bullets at each other on that haunted fish-bowl known as television. De Gaulle, shortly before his death, looked scornfully at those around him and grumbled that he was doomed to die in “an age of midgets”.
To imply that the Cannonball Baker in any way advanced human spirit would be fatuous in the extreme, but its symbolism remains. Its participants were willing to depart in an adventure, risking formal and informal censure, in order to reach a goal, no matter how limited. In a broader sense, others – Gurney and myself included – were eager to make a point about individual options and enterprise, coupled with striking a blow for automotive excellence. It is so foolish to dream of a time when all good men, driving graceful, efficient machines like the Ferrari (only costing perhaps a fifth as much) can drive between New York & Los Angeles in 36 hours legally & safely? We are not advocating highway anarchy, only highway good sense and intelligence and a natural state that rewards skill and intelligence and punishes blunders. Until that day arrives we are law breakers. But before we are condemned, remember the warning of Louis Brandeis, who seemed to be talking about our highways when he said, “If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.”
Let Nader and his ilk maunder inside their airbags. The arising from the Cannonball Baker and other “deplorable crimes” is not whether we are willing to drive for speed, but whether we are willing to drive for excellence."
Oh and the book is a good read, plenty of ideas for you Gumballers