The time is reportedly 26 hours and 38 minutes, but running during a pandemic is highly dubious to say the least.
In 1971, legendary auto journalist Brock Yates embarked on the first Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. That inaugural running featured just one vehicle, piloted by Yates as well as other legendary journalists Steve Smith and Jim Williams.
Yates’ son Brock Yates Jr. also joined the team on the adventure, though at age 14, he was relegated to being a spotter for law enforcement. Their vehicle was a 1971 Dodge Custom Sportsman van known as Moon Trash II, and the trip was made in 40 hours, 51 minutes. The average speed for the van was 70 mph.
Now, it appears a new Cannonball Run record is set, but for obvious reasons, it’s fraught with caveats. The scribes at Road & Track have a comprehensive report on the matter, and apparently Ed Bolian of VINwiki fame had some intel on the run as well. Being a former Cannonball record holder, Bolian spoke at length about this current run, which allegedly involves an Audi A8L completing the traditional journey from New York’s Red Ball Garage to California’s Portofino Inn in just 26 hours and 38 minutes. The exact route isn’t known, but 2,800 miles is a good approximation for distance. That places the Audi's average speed at around 105 mph.
Is it reckless? Absolutely. The first Cannonball’s average speed came at a time before the national 55 mph speed limit, and many roads in the western U.S. didn’t have speed limits at all. Traffic was also lighter, and though the Yates Cannonball era ultimately saw a record time of 32 hours 51 minutes, average speeds were still well under the century mark and achievable through steady speeds in heavier traffic, with higher sprints when the roads were clear. Holding an average of 105 mph surely means running faster speeds in areas where it’s particularly dangerous for other drivers on the road.
Is it ill-timed and selfishly opportunistic considering the Coronavirus pandemic currently gripping the entire country? Many would say most decidedly yes, especially with the vast majority of U.S. states currently imposing stay-at-home orders save for essential travel. As such, this currently unknown team not only violated speed laws, but laws in place to try and stem a national emergency.
Is it also extraordinarily hypocritical to talk about the morality and legality of a no-rules, illegal cross-country race? That would be a resounding yes, and it’s a subject mentioned at length by Bolian in his video and touched on in Road & Track’s article, the latter of which includes quotes from several post-Yates-era Cannonball veterans with opinions on the matter.
Legality aside, there’s a general sense that this new record time won’t be acknowledged because it’s not representative of real-world driving conditions in modern-day America. That's why – at the very least – this alleged feat will be mired in additional controversy over and above the moral implications. There were apparently several mentions of the time on social media accounts that have since been removed. Those few posts showed some random images with one being a shaky view of a tablet taped into a car, displaying a time of 26:38:48.41 – 26 hours, 38 minutes, 48.1 seconds.
It’s unclear whether the folks responsible for this sprint will make another claim in the weeks to come, when conditions in the U.S. aren’t as uncertain as they are now. We’ll simply advise everyone to stay safe, stay home if possible, and do your best to help others during these trying times.