Tom Drewer has won class in his first attempt at the One Lap of America, week-long event which has its origins in the Cannonball Run of the 1970s. Article appearing in the South Australian newspaper, The Advertiser, on May 13, 2011. Click image to view entire article.
Australian international sports car star Tom Drewer has won the Vintage Foreign class in his first ever attempt at the gruelling week-long Tire Rack One Lap of America, an event that has its origins with the infamous Cannonball Run of the early 70s (immortalised by movies Cannonball Run and The Gumball Rally).
75 cars including works entries from Roush Performance, MazdaSpeed, Dodge, BMW Performance Driving School and TopSpeed Motorsports started the week long competition billed as “the toughest 8 days of racing featuring the fastest street-legal cars on America's most challenging racetracks!”.
Teams covered over 5000 miles with no support crews, beginning in South Bend, Indiana (near Chicago) down the East Coast to New Orleans and back.
Multi-disciplinary competition stages including time-trials, autocross and drag-racing were held at Grissom Air Force Base, the BMW Performance Center test-track and circuits scattered down America’s East Coast including the famed Daytona International Speedway (home of NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 At Daytona sports car race).
Drewer finished with 10 class wins and 5 top fifteen outright results to take the Vintage Foreign class win and 21st outright with co-driver Joe Browne. Continues...
Commenting on the win Drewer said;
“This was quite a special win. Many people take years to win class in One Lap and I’ve done it in my first attempt!
Not only was this event one of the most grueling and challenging I’ve ever competed in, but it was extremely satisfying to win in an unfamiliar car on many unfamiliar tracks.
The level of competition was very high and I’m proud that we took Joe’s home-built 944 and mixed it up with the factory efforts and big budget teams.
One Lap of America is something every true driver should do.”
Notable drivers in the event included overall winner, and Le Mans and Rolex regular, Leh Keen (TopSpeed Motorsports Nissan GT-R), World Challenge Mazda factory drivers Charles Espenlaub and Jason Saini and Grand-Am Roush drivers Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr.
Drewer secured a last minute drive in the Corvette LS-1 V8 powered Porsche 944 co-driven by Joe Browne after originally planning to drive with Steve Loudin in a SRT Magnum.
Having never stepped into the car prior to the first competition stage, Drewer showed his class and versatility by finishing 13th outright on the wet skid pad, out pacing both Roush entries and eventual winner, Leh Keen.
Commenting further on the event Drewer said;
“This has been an amazing week. I thought the event was all over before it had even started, and then I got the call from Joe [Browne], owner of the Porsche 944.
I’d never driven on a skid pad, let alone a wet one. And my first time driving the Porsche was out to the event. Our first result set the tone for the week, and immediately I knew if we kept it all together, and on the black-stuff, we might be in with a shot.
Summit Point was my first laps in the car on a circuit. Luckily I’d been to Summit testing the American Le Mans Panoz GT2 car so it was a case of feeling out the balance of the Porsche. But we had to tread carefully through this event– both front wheels were literally shooting out flames and molten brake material.
We managed the brakes at Carolina Motorsports Park too, and although I was first in class in the morning session, my teammate suffered from the fading brakes and had a spin costing us valuable points and dropping us to second in class points.
It was a worrying sign but we made a 3 hour detour on the transit between Summit and BMW to pick up new brake pads. With no time to change them we pulled into Daytona with the sound of metal on metal.
Daytona was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was determined to make up for Joe’s spin with my first ever laps around Daytona, and I pushed hard– flat through the banking and braking as late as I could into 1 and carrying as much speed as I could through the bus-stop.
With all the factory and high horsepower efforts I was surprised to see we were so far up in the standings, 15th overall.
The long nights of transit started to wear on me after Daytona, but with the great result I knew we could claw our way back to first. We had a couple of nights with only 2 hours sleep. Honestly being able to pull the helmet for the competition time-trials was a relief because you stopped focussing on how tired you were, the headaches, the deliriousness.
Joe had an epic performance at the drag strip and I pushed hard on the remaining circuits. It was a case of analyzing new tracks and balancing risk and reward. We dominated the remaining events, consistently bringing home top 15 overall results. But because of that spin at CMP we were behind in the points right up to the second to last day.
At Autobahn, again I just tried to extract as much as I could out of my self on two new tracks in what was still a relatively unfamiliar car. Two more class wins and top fifteen results finally gave us the buffer we needed, and all we had to do back at the Tire Rack skidpad on the final day was cruise to seal the deal.
This has been epic. While it’s not a conventional race, it’s a very special event. The level of competition and the camaraderie is outstanding, and I’ve just added another six US circuits to the CV.”
Drewer’s team mate, Joe Browne, added;
“Tom is a world-class racer. It was his first one-lap and he pulled it off with style and grace, driving fast on the track and safely on the road. We were lucky to get him on the team.
It’s been my dream to win class on One Lap and I couldn’t have done it without him.”
History of the Cannonball Run and the TIRE RACK One Lap of America.
Devised by Brock Yates, the then senior editor of Car and Driver Magazine, the Cannonball, or ‘Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash’ was a “flat out, no-holds-barred race” from New York City to Redondo Beach, California with competitors navigating US highways at speeds well in excess of the posted limits. With safety advocates hot on his heels, and a realisation it was only time before he might end up before a grand jury, Yates ended the event and turned his attention to immortalising the Cannonball by writing the screen play for Cannonball Run (1976). However, the best representation of the original event is possibly The Gumball Rally (1976).
In the 1980s Yates created a “kinder, gentler” successor, in which competitors weren’t required to speed. The Cannonball One Lap of America was born. Beginning as an endurance rally with points given for following precise instructions, the event began to take on more and speed events at the competitors’ requests. In 1992 the event found its current format, near 24 hour driving each day with competition stages held as time-trials on race tracks throughout the United States.
Learn more at www.onelapofamerica.com