Note: A bug in the GPS software inverted the overall and moving averages.
After this paragraph, you’ll have the chance to read nearly 6,300 words about the fastest transcontinental drive in history. Most of the important stuff is near the top; the rest of it is a detail-oriented interview with Alex for the community of fans across the country who live and die for this sort of thing. A personal disclaimer: In my opinion, having the “transcontinental record” is an accomplishment roughly on the same level as having the most awesome fox suit at a furry convention. But TTAC isn’t a charity. It’s a business. And we need those sweet, sweet clicks. Integrity? What’s that? — jb
“I’ve always said I’d never do this again, but as a minor Bond villain put it, never say never.”
So says Alex Roy – the Doctor Evil of illegal long-distance driving events. According to Roy, women want him, and men want to be him. According to actual women, he’s got a great scarf collection, and according to actual men, he’s got…a scarf collection. He’s the same bald, fast-talking New Yorker with a fetish for German police uniforms he’s always been. He’s also former Chairman of The Moth, and winner of the 2005 reality show The Ultimate Playboy. Love him or hate him, respect him or loathe him, the self-proclaimed anti-hero was single-handedly responsible for rekindling interest in the Cannonball Run when, back in 2006, he and co-driver David Maher shattered the 23-year old transcontinental record in 31 hours and 4 minutes. That story was told in Roy’s 2007 book The Driver – which he wrote himself and I reviewed somewhat negatively – and the interviews Roy couldn’t stop giving until…
…used-Lamborghini salesman Ed Bolian and two other dudes strapped their bedpans to a raggedy old CL55 chock-full of leaking gasoline and bombed across the same route in 28 hours and 50 minutes.
For nine years, Roy had sworn that he’d let the record stand or fall as fate decreed — but like his spiritual guide Wotan, Alex was unwilling to let someone else sit upon the porcelain throne of Cannonball Valhalla. So he conceived of Projekt Panzernashorn (Rhinoceros), a cost-no-object plan to set the bar too high for even the most aggressively-catheterized to reach.
Along with a hand-picked group of journalists, hangers-on, and gold-digging New York actress/models, I was permitted to observe Alex as he basically pissed away the kind of money that would let you run for THREE YEARS IN THE TUDOR SERIES WHICH IS A REAL RACE in order to snatch the record back.
This is the story.
Comprehending Roy’s Panzernashorn requires a clear understanding of the circuitous history and larger-than-life characters within this most controversial aspect of American automotive culture. The wiki page histories for the Cannonball Run, Roy, Bolian and other record claimants illuminates the misinformation and confusion around a “sport” for which there is no governing body.
Transcontinental runs can be traced back to 1933, when Erwin “Cannonball” Baker drove from New York to Los Angeles in 53 hours and 30 minutes before the construction of the interstate highway system. Baker went on to set 160+ more long-distance driving records, but will forever be remembered for lending his nickname to what would become both a catch-all noun and verb, signifying illegal cross-country racing events and high-speed driving on public roads.
Car & Driver’s Brock Yates immortalized Baker with the 1971 inaugural “Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash” – now known as the Cannonball Run – which was, according to Yates, a symbol of both “a challenge to be met“ and “a protest against speed limits.” Yates, who made it across in 35:54 with co-driver and Le Mans winner Dan Gurney, actually quotes Gandhi and Charles De Gaulle in his 1972 C&D editorial on the subject, the latter lamenting on his deathbed of being doomed to die “in an age of midgets.”
The Cannonball grew. And grew. Time ran a cover story in 1975. The event was praised by the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. The Gumball Rally – still the most realistic fictional depiction of the Cannonball – came out in 1976. Forty-seven teams entered the final 1979 event, on which Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough crossed the finish line in 32 hours and 51 minutes. More miraculous than their time was their choice of car – the notoriously unreliable Jaguar XJ-S.
The Cannonball Run was quickly succeeded by the secretive US Express, whose organizer, technologist Richard Doherty, chose to focus on secrecy, safety and professionalism. With a field of under a dozen highly-prepared drivers, times rapidly fell through 1983, when Doug Turner and David Diem crossed the finish line on the final Express in 32 hours 7 minutes. Their car? A Ferrari 308.
Their record stood for 23 years, until Roy and Maher’s 2006 run.
Yates declared the theoretical end of any such attempts in his 2002 book Cannonball, where he stated, “A 36-hour trip…is within the realm of possibility, but chopping off an extra six hours would border on the miraculous…30 hours borders on the impossible.”
As I expected and feared, Roy had so much to say about the run, before, during (via phone) and after, that it took me the better part of an afternoon to chop it down to what you read below. Those of you who don’t find the below transcript sufficient, have no fear: we’ll be running additional articles about the car and the experience later on in the week, along with plenty of evidence.
“I’ll always love my E39 M5, but in light of the lessons of Bolian’s 2013 run, it was clear that technology had moved past 144A’s ability – regardless of modification – to break 28:50. Also, everyone knows the car, and I couldn’t risk it being recognized by a cop who reads Jalopnik or watches /Drive. A long search ensued. I called upon everyone I trusted to help analyze the performance and fuel economy of every appropriate car. To quote the wonderful intro monologue from the video game Homeworld, ‘the clans were united…[this] would demand new technologies…and new sacrifices.’ Bolian and Black had set an incredible time. An incredible car was needed. An utterly innocuous-looking car. A car that would become the ultimate Q-car for a new generation. And I found it in Polizei 144i: a highly modified 2014 Infiniti Q50, unquestionably the finest illegal cross-country race car ever constructed.”
“Clearly, anyone who knows me knows that, whatever I do, good, bad, home, work, in, out, I must go all the way. Since going sober (Roy entered a program two years ago and achieved sobriety, much to my relief and the relief of others) and finding my faith, I recommitted to setting a new bar. Adding a second steering position and GT-R driveline to the Q50, well, that was just the beginning.
A short but incomplete list of upgrades & extra equipment. Bold indicates first-use on a cross-country record run:
Driveline Swap-out w/2014 Nissan GT-R
654 Horsepower on Mild Tune, 850+ on Full Boost
55 Gallon Fuel Cell for Total 75 Gallon E85 Capacity w/Twin Feeds
Range: 1000-1200 miles
Duplicate Steering Wheel/Pedal Set in Front Passenger Seat For On-The-Fly Driver Swaps
Custom Ceiling-Mounted, Electrically-Actuated, Gyro-Stabilized Observation System w/Roof Pass-Through, including Helmet w/FLIR & LL Overlay to Optics For Rear Passenger
Custom Magnetorheological Self-Leveling Suspension System
Brembo Carbon Ceramic brakes
3x FLIR Night Vision cameras
4x Low-Light Video Cameras
2x Vertex Air-to-Ground Radios
1x Aircraft Proximity Warning System
3x Valentine 1 Radar/Laser Detectors
1x Custom-Built Laser Diffuser/Jammer System (Front/Rear)
5x Garmin GPS Units with XM Traffic
4x iPhone 6 Cradles & Chargers
2x iPad Air Cradles & Chargers
2x iPad Mini 3 Cradles & Chargers
3x Satellite Tracking Devices
2x Uniden Police Scanners w/External Antennas
2x Uniden CB Radio
2x Chemical Smoke Generators
Anti-Laser Headlight Coating
“For the record, the car is owned, registered and insured through an offshore company in the Channel Islands whose shareholders must remain anonymous, for obvious reasons. It will, however, be on display at several auto shows this year, starting with the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance on May 30th. It will also be participating in the hill climb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in late June. Maybe.”
The Second Steering Wheel & Driving Position
“I was always a fan of the six-wheeled Tyrell F1 car. I’m also a fan of the McLaren F1. In my dreams I had a vision of a third seating position dead center in the rear seat of the whatever car was to replace 144A. I also had a dream of installing TWO extra steering wheels, allowing for any one of the three team members to take over driving without having to stop the car. This required a car with both A LOT of extra room (i.e. width) for the third, rear-mounted driving position, and a full steering-by-wire system. Given the difficulty in finding a car with both, I settled on two driving positions. The only cars available with steering-by-wire were a Porsche 911 and the Infiniti. As soon as I learned that a GT-R drivetrain would fit in a Q50, the choice was clear. No one at Nissan Japan believed me when AI Design, my Westchester-based installer, tried to buy the second steering system. I even got on the phone and tried to explain why we needed it. Sadly, my Japanese is limited, so I had to buy the system from a salvage car.”
The “Spy Hunter” Modification
“There was much internal debate about the wisdom of the smoke generator. My former therapist (to whom I’m engaged) brought key insight into the conversation: ‘Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” I’ve always felt this way about firearms and was instantly convinced, and so ordered installation without informing my teammates. Upon their unhappy discovery of the device, we agreed upon a usage protocol that was satisfactory to all: We would only deploy the smoke dispenser to create a smoke screen if traffic behind us was at least a mile away, in daytime, and a police vehicle was in pursuit, such that we could slow the pursuit and make an escape. Three NORAD-style keyed safety switches were installed, one beside each team member. TWO such switches had to be enabled simultaneously in order to deploy the system.
“I budgeted for an oil slick dispenser, but this seemed to cross a moral line beyond even my low and flexible standards. In my mind we would only deploy the oil slick in the event NO civilian traffic was behind us for one mile AND a police vehicle was in pursuit, with no restriction for night-time use. My primary concern was that someone might be driving a Morgan 3-wheeler somewhere behind us. Or worse, a Polaris Slingshot.
“The smoke generator was only used once. Effectively.”
The Co-Drivers: David Maher & Greg Ledet
“Maher is a professional. Banker by day. Porsche SCCA track instructor on weekends. A man whose few words are in inverse correlation to his driving skill and determination. The first and last man in my life allowed to call me a coward to my face. When we’re doing track instruction, it’s true. I wouldn’t go cross-country without him.
“Greg Ledet was the newcomer. We’d been talking for two years before this run, but we met only once before last week. Once I came to accept Maher’s criticism of my focus on 31:04 on technology and caution, I knew I’d have to put my foot down on the next attempt. I needed a third driver whose expertise today surpassed my own in 2006, and whose experience and judgment was at least as good as my own. That man was Greg Ledet, the unheralded holder of the third fastest cross-country time ever – 31:17 – now the fourth fastest. Ledet, an effusive network engineering consultant from Columbus, Ohio, proved himself the right choice.”
On Having Three Drivers
“Numerous teams on both the Cannonball and Express events had three drivers. Our duplicate steering/pedal layout added additional convenience and time savings. Three drivers are safer at any speed, and especially at higher speeds. Anyone who questions this is a coward who doesn’t know his illegal cross-country racing history. To anyone who wants to discuss it, I say nyah, nyah nyah, nyah nyah, nyah. First has a place all its own. You are all cowards.”
On Having Three Spotter Planes
These were used primarily for shooting footage for my next documentary, First Has A Place All Its Own. Other than the footage shown privately, all information about the aircraft and their crews must remain confidential for at least ninety days.
26:28 By The Numbers
“In the spirit of avoiding any debate over distance and route, I very reluctantly agreed to Maher and Ledet’s demands that we duplicate the route used by Bolian and Black, with one minor change of less than a mile:
March 28-29, 2015
Departure: Red Ball Parking Garage – 142 East 31st Street, NY, NY 10016
Arrival: R10 Social House – 179 N Harbor Dr, Redondo Beach, CA 90277
13 states – NY, NJ, WV, PA, OH, IL, IN, MO, OK, TX, NM, AZ, CA
2811.5 miles in 26 hours, 28 minutes, 13 seconds
106.21 mph Overall Average
23 Minutes 17 Seconds Stopped
107.79 mph Moving Average
3 Fuel Stops: 8m13s, 11m29s and 3m35s
70 Gallons Fuel Capacity
~230 Gallons of E85 used
“Much ink and much breath has been wasted on the topic of routing, but in the spirit of remaining contrarian, I decided I wanted something to talk about with Bolian and Rawlings. Moving the finish line one mile from the traditional Portofino finish seemed like precisely the bait someone would take once we went public. That is, if someone wants to pretend a one mile difference at any speed other than stopped would change our position in the eyes of posterity. That’s a big if…most likely posed by a very, very insecure man. I look forward to some entertaining conversations. In the spirit of Austin Powers…allow myself to repeat myself. To anyone who wants to discuss it, I say nyah, nyah nyah, nyah nyah, nyah. First has a place all its own. You are all cowards.”
A New Support Team
“Whether or not you believe the Gumball 3000 is a race, (I fucking don’t — JB) there are people who treat it as such. The most important lesson of Team Polizei’s participation from 2003-2007 was that money does NOT get you everywhere. If people like you, they will help you. If people want to be part of something, they will show up. If you show gratitude, you will will earn their loyalty. Showing up in a fake police car, letting kids sit in it and giving away T-shirts and hats generated more support than the $100k some teams would burn on staff who couldn’t have cared less if their employer’s F50 burnt to the ground.”
“In 2007, on our last Gumball 3000, more off-duty police showed up to help Team Polizei than civilians. The police in the London gave us the numbers of their friends en route to the Chunnel, and then France, and Belgium. They were literally asking me if we needed help refueling, or an intersection temporarily blocked, or a competitor delayed, if not arrested.”
“I should have known then that treating law enforcement as enemies was a mistake. After Bolian’s run, I decided to test my new theory. Cops are people too. Most of them, at least. I gambled that if I could find just one cool cop in NYC, he’d know another in NJ, then PA, and on and on westward all the way to the Portofino. Given my reputation, I was able to convince more than one of the following: 1) I was going to go cross-country, 2) No one could stop me, 3) It’d be safer if they helped me, 4) if a set a record that was unbreakable, no one would follow in my wake. Miraculously, I was also able to convince nearly thirty, spread out between NY and California, each with the same goal. Help us avoid the cops who ‘didn’t get it.’’
“Logic would suggest that for every extra person added to an illegal act, the likelihood of a leak doubles. But, once again calling upon Saint-Shiftikus, the Patron Saint of Non-Violent and Unprofitable Automotive Crimes, I had a vision. My vision told me that if the volunteer is a young, off-duty cop who reads Jalopnik, the chance of a leak is in fact quartered.
“It sure pays being Alex Roy.”
“Only one other person was aware of the exact nature of our volunteers prior to the run: my attorney. Everyone else on the team believed I had merely gathered a large group of eager car guys who just so happened to have intimate knowledge of weather, traffic and police activity. They were also very helpful in staffing our refueling stops, which were both hilarious and terrifying, but that’s another story.”
The weather was perfect. Literally. Perfect. The entire way.
“You don’t need to be Nostradamus to know that the first issue we were going to have was construction around Newark, NJ. Luckily, Team Polizei’s newest intern – who must go by his World of Warcraft character name, Prediktikus – happens to work for the NJ Turnpike Authority. Not coincidentally, this was the same job held by J.F. Musial in 2005/06. Once again, such intelligence was critical in deciding the date and time of our departure, allowing us to greatly exceed our driveplan.
Our first waypoint was 96 miles into the run, where I-78 merges with US-22 just outside Allentown, PA. We were hoping to make it there in under an hour, but with the construction and traffic, it took 1 hour and 5 minutes. Our western PA spotter car notified us of a stationary speed trap near Washington, PA, but – at the speed we were travelling – Ledet calculated on-the-fly that we’d be in West Virginia before the officer was capable of intercepting us.
Traversing West Virginia at speeds that would make Ed Bolian become an atheist, we approached the Ohio border. As Brock Yates said in 1981’s Cannonball Run:
“Think of the fact that there’s not one state in the 50 that has the death penalty for speeding… although I’m not so sure about Ohio.”
As in 2006, we sought to cross Ohio as quickly as possible. Indiana flew past in what appeared to be mere minutes, during which Maher joked that a new law might prevent me from using a bathroom anywhere in-state. We picked up the pace and hit Illinois, where we realized the 1200 mile range we hoped for was unrealistic.
Because the Infiniti was tuned to run on E85, we couldn’t stop at any standard gas station. We pre-positioned refueling crews along the route at approximately 1100 mile intervals. Each five-man crew was equipped with eight 12-gallon NASCAR-style dump cans. Although 144i could only carry 70 gallons of fuel, we had to ensure sufficient backup in case of spillage or the loss of one or more cans at (or prior) to a stop. Can drainage averaged 15 seconds, so to speed up refueling two crew handled fueling whilst two handled the 85lb cans in-series. The fifth crewmember checked fluids, washed the windows and cleaned the optics and sensors. The Barstow crew carried four dump cans rather than eight.
Our first fuel stop occurred 964 miles from the NYC, on the side of the road just west of St. Louis, MO, near the intersection of I-44 and I-270. The first stop took just over eight minutes, including slowing down and getting back to speed. The first leg’s 13 MPG was significantly lower than the 16-17 we’d planned for.
Our average speed to the Will Rogers Turnpike Tollbooth, the site of my M5 fuel pump failure in April of 2006, was 105.2 MPH.
The second fuel stop was in the vicinity of Tucumcari, NM, the second tank only getting us 850 miles. Fuel gauge problems had begun to manifest and we’d become unsure of our remaining fuel level. We contacted the Albuquerque refuel crew and had them drive back to meet us. The car was only getting 11 MPG, but our average speed was increasing.
The final “splash and dash” was in Barstow, CA. This was actually the only scheduled stop. Although we weren’t completely empty, we were relieved to pull over. Our average speed had taken a slight hit due to traffic and fatigue, so we took on just under two cans as a precaution.
The twin driving positions made for highly entertaining driver/rear passenger swaps. I began in the driver’s seat, Maher in the second seat, and Ledet in the observer position. Ledet and I traded positions three times during the drive, whilst Maher remained in the second driving position throughout the entire drive. (Yes, he actually says “whilst” — JB) As the fastest and most experienced driver among us, Maher was responsible for approximately 51% of the total drivetime. Ledet took on 23%, and I took on the remainder.
“A famous man whose name I forgot once said “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.’”
“We are in the business of committing crimes. In many states, felony crimes, which is why there has never been – and will never be – the equivalent of an FIA for such events. Were we driven solely by love of ‘the sport’, logic would suggest we inform no one of our activities. Like the Krell, we aspire to higher forms of existence through such rash acts, but, like the Krell, the id cannot be separated from the act itself. The id compels those making such attempts to seek not only validation but recognition, whether for money, fame, or worse, and it is in that compulsion that validation, recognition and doom are intertwined.
I am as guilty of this as anyone. Guiltier, probably. But once one has gone across, and especially once one has set a record, such calculations are rendered irrelevant before the need for recognition, which, when one has committed such a crime, is synonymous with boasting of the most despicable sort. In any case, I’m bored with the false modesty of the last nine years. (Oh yeah, it’s just been one modest day after another — JB)
And I don’t care. Hats off to Nero! The spectacle of the naysayers bowing before a gesture beyond the comprehension of their cowardly, small days is worth the post-run stench from my unwashed boxers. Maher’s? Not so much. Thank Wotan I used fabric softener last week.
If any of this is offensive or confusing, then you’re probably driving a car with too much horsepower, or you’re a hypocrite, or both. For the record, I’ve had no points on my license for almost ten years, and no more than a minor fender bender (albeit in a borrowed Lamborghini) since 2004.
To the issue of proof.
“Official” recognition of any runtime requires the existence of an objective governing body whose validation processes allow for the corroboration of multiple datapoints. The indisputable convergence of multiple datapoints is the only 100% accurate method of verifying a runtime, let alone a record. As no such governing body exists, no 100% accurate validation process exists, and therefore no “official” recognition is possible.
The closest thing to a governing body that ever existed in this ‘sport’ were the Cannonball Run and U.S. Express ‘entities’ – if they can even be called such – which were no more than temporary collectives comprising one or more principals (Yates, Doherty, etc.) their immediate non-participating volunteer staff, and the participating competitors. These entities therefore used five datapoints: start/finish punchcards, hard evidence such as fuel and toll receipts, and witnesses divided between volunteer staff, entrants and non-interested third parties such as journalists.
Let us call this five datapoint standard the Yates/Doherty Standard.
Based on Yates’ 2002 declaration of the difficulty of a sub-36 hour time, I didn’t think anyone would believe we’d gone at all unless we greatly exceeded Yates/Doherty.
In the absence of competitors and non-participating volunteers, this meant gathering: 1) start/finish punchcards, 2) hard evidence (fuel/toll receipts), 3) journalist witnesses, 4) third party witnesses such as prior participants/record holders, 5) still images, 6) video, and 7) GPS data logs.
I knew that any single piece of evidence could be faked. Perhaps even two. Or three. But not all of it. The preponderance of evidence had to be enough, if only I could convince one or more major media outlets before the fact to give their blessing to the evidence we would (hopefully) deliver afterward. I begged Ernst & Young, Anderson Consulting, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times to hear me out. Only the NYT returned my call, but they still didn’t want to actually witness the run, due to liability concerns.
Ultimately, our seven datapoints, whence delivered to Wired Magazine, The New York Times, William Morris and Harper Collins (publisher of The Driver), comprised the most comprehensive collection of evidence ever gathered for a single vehicle in any cross-country event. They had nearly 11 months to fact-check our materials. Not one shred was ever questioned.
Gathering proof for this run was easy. We duplicated all our prior methods, improved the gathering of near-seamless video footage with redundant onboard video systems, uploaded most of it, and added multiple real-time tracking devices. With seven overlapping datapoints, we set a higher standard of validation than has ever been achieved.
Although I have no doubt the Bolian/Black 28:50 run was real, I was always confused as to why Bolian – who had clearly done his research, read The Driver and contacted me multiple times prior to his run masquerading as a journalist – chose such a low standard of proof. Let’s analyze the Bolian standard: 1) Fuel/Toll receipts, 2) Still images, 3) GPS data logs. I am not the final arbiter on this, and I believe Bolian. He and Black clearly possess the intellect, skill, budget, psychology and demeanor of people who’ve made a successful run. But the Bolian standard falls short of the Yates/Doherty standard.
The History of Evidentiary Standards
7 Datapoints Alex “Der Panzernashorn” Roy
5 Datapoints Brock Yates/Rick Doherty
3 Datapoints Ed Bolian/David Black
0 Datapoints Richard Rawlings
Additionally, I was especially confused as to why Bolian didn’t gather full-time, uninterrupted video. The technology existed in 2013. But their lack of video is no longer relevant.
Richard Rawlings’ 31:59 Claim
“Rawlings reminds me of the guy on Discovery Channel who says ‘I don’t want to say it was aliens. But it was aliens.’ In this world, respect is given, not taken. Based on the Yates/Doherty standard, Rawlings never left the Red Ball. No one I know has ever seen any evidence of his run. He’s not a member of any of the private Cannonball-related Facebook groups to which I belong, which, after so many years, would be the logical place to convince others who’ve made the run to take him seriously. I’d like to see Bolian go on the record with his opinion, but Bolian is a gentleman.
“Rawlings has only one piece of evidence in my mind: his co-driver, Dennis Collins, is an honest man and a gentleman. Amusingly, Rawlings allegedly shot a segment with Jay Leno about his run, but the segment never aired. He’s also made some entertainingly defensive statements regarding the validity of 31:04. I’d prefer to let the evidence speak for itself. On a personal level, I love him. On a professional level, I love his show. Rawlings is a great guy. Maybe he lost the evidence? Maybe his dog ate it? I don’t want to say the Rawlings run was a hoax. So it must have been aliens.”
Announcing The Run vs. Releasing The Evidence: The Lesson of Afroduck
Afroduck is a fool. He posted evidence of his crimes before the statute of limitations had expired. He voluntarily handed over the raw video to police before being asked for it. He confessed his guilt, then plead not guilty. He fled the country during jury deliberations. I think he left his pregnant wife behind. Maybe she wasn’t pregnant. Either way, he left her behind. He buried himself in every interview. None of this is as bad as his real crime. He claimed in his defense that he was creating art. Claude Lelouch’s Rendezvous is art. No music. No effects. What Afroduck did was sport, and poor sport at that. Art? If one must add music to a poorly shot driving video, it should at least be good music.
Announcing The Run vs. Releasing The Evidence: The Lesson of Bolian
“Although I’ve long been a proponent of withholding any record run announcement(s) until all applicable statutes of limitations have expired, Bolian’s 28:50 press plan changed my thinking. It became clear that Bolian’s sharing of evidence with but two journalists (Jalopnik’s Matt Hardigree and Doug DeMuro) was sufficient – their ability to validate his evidence notwithstanding – for a semi ‘official’ stamp of validation and therefore publicity. Bolian’s incredible time and admission as to not having shot video was shocking to me. His refusal to share data with me, even privately, was even moreso. I kept my skepticism to myself until quite recently. It was only after he released his data and we spoke privately that I came to believe 28:50 was real. Whether or not it was, I’d long been planning another run, and I always knew I’d announce as soon as one or more media outlets had vetted the evidence. But I’m still going to hold to the one-year schedule before releasing data to the public.
Ed Bolian’s Record
“What is there to say? Massive respect to both Bolian and Dave Black. I’ve really enjoyed talking to Ed over the years, and have just started to chat with Black. I really admire them for taking the example Maher and I set, doing the research, and taking it to the next level far beyond even what I thought was possible. I always knew 30 hours was possible, but 28:50? Bless their little hearts and big stones. BIG stones. Ed was very respectful in multiple interviews in thanking me for inspiring his run. It’s only fair that I thank him in return. Without 28:50, I’d never have discovered my inner Yngwie, put him in a car, and started for California.”
Announcing The Run On April Fools Day
“An April 1st announcement was the obvious choice. Why? It’s the first press day of the New York Auto International Auto Show, allowing me easy access to automotive and general media for interviews.”
“More importantly, Ed Bolian demonstrated that only one automotive media outlet was necessary for evidentiary validation, after which the primary story would be widely republished both domestically and internationally. Withholding evidence had virtually no effect on cross-posting, and attending the NYAIS and camping out in the press room would accelerate such cross-posting.”
“April Fools Day is the perfect cover story for a real run. In the event any law-enforcement should come looking for me, I can always say ‘April Fool’s’! Who knows? It’ll probably work. I’m Alex Roy. Let the evidence speak for itself. I’ve got more of it than has ever been gathered. This false modesty thing I was running with on my book tour was a mistake. I’m thinking of having an Alex Roy’s Not In Jail Party Friday night. Bolian had one, and I own a club that has a live midget celebrity impersonator sex show and an enema demonstration. Google ‘The Box nightclub’ and see for yourself. I’ve ascended to the top of Maslow’s pyramid. I don’t care what anyone thinks of me.”
“We’d already greatly surpassed the Yates/Doherty standard for witnesses on the 2006 run, so I knew exactly how to repeat this process. We invited six journalists from a variety of U.S and European publications, automotive and otherwise, but gave the exclusive breaking story option to The Truth About Cars. Everyone else was placed on a 24 hour embargo beyond TTAC’s publication date and time. Seventy additional third-party witnesses were invited, including multiple prior record holders. One called in sick with – unbelievably – a large black boil caused by the explosion of the subwoofer voicecoil in his gaming chair.”
“Video was shot on seven different cameras, four internal and three external, cached onboard and uploaded – bandwidth permitting – to a secure server. Video was observed by Jack Baruth and J.F. Musial & the /DRIVE staff in (thoroughly boring — JB) real-time, and will be released in its entirety online on April 2nd of 2016.”
Why Didn’t You Invite Ed Bolian?
“I like Bolian. God bless him for taking it to the next level. But he called me numerous times pretending to be a journalist, asking for information about 31:04, and then didn’t invite me to witness his run. I’ve always said 31:04 was breakable, and I always said I hoped anyone attempting a run would do so safely. If I ever thought someone was serious, safe, and qualified, I would have witnessed their departure and arrival at my own expense. I like Ed. I respect Ed. But Ed didn’t invite me, so I didn’t invite him.”
Why didn’t you invite Doug DeMuro?
“We would have, but he misspelled Cannonball Baker’s first name in his Jalopnik piece about Bolian. It’s Erwin Baker, not Edwin. He claimed Baker’s 53:30 time went unbeaten for 40 years. It was broken in 1971, which is actually 38 years. After Yates/Gurney set the 1971 record of 35:54, Demuro says “the record was slowly whittled down over the next decade.” The last Cannonball was in 1979, which is eight years. This type of story requires attention to detail. My teammates expect it of me. I expect it of them. My thoughts on Demuro? To quote Christian Bale when he was yelling at the guy on the set of Terminator Salvation…’you’re a nice guy, you’re a nice guy, but that don’t fucking cut it when you’re fucking around!’ Use Google, meine bisschen.”
“I was so impressed by the power of Bolian’s faith – in himself, in co-driver Dave Black and assistant Dan Huang, in the weather, in an out-of-warranty Mercedes-Benz CL55’s reliability, in a higher power – that I decided to abandon the internal debate between atheism and agnosticism which had tormented me for so long. I decided to reopen my search for faith by quitting drinking and smoking, and devoting myself to the most recent printings of the holy books of all the major faiths. I then turned to – as they sometimes say in King’s Landing and often do upon the Wall – the old gods. The second and fourth books in the Song of Ice And Fire series are so enlightening. There’s much to be learned from polytheism, but there’s a lot more to be learned from pagan rituals. I prayed to everyone. I prayed to the god of Japanese manufacturing, the god of interstate road maintenance, the god of cellular tower hand-off. You name it. I’m also a child of the golden years of science fiction, fantasy and horror, which I strongly feel began with Telly Savalas’ 1972 epic Horror Express (which John Carpenter utterly ripped off in The Thing) and ended with Richard Stanley’s 1990 love-story-with-a-twist Hardware. The latter included a cameo by Fields of the Nephilim vocalist and gothic rock legend Carl McCoy, whose brief presence highlighted the importance of faith and love in the midst of adversity, much like Telly’s character in Horror Express.
“Cribbing a trick from myself – first used on the 2003 Gumball 3000 – I decided to hedge my bets by purchasing eight pocket editions of the Bible (King James Edition), the Torah and the Koran, for total of twenty-four holy books. One each for Ledet, Maher and myself, one to give away as a gesture of beneficence, and four of each holy book to use as wheel chocks in case of the failure of our emergency brake. This actually happened on both the 2003 and 2004 Gumball events. Also, in the event a police officer should arrive, we had only a one in three chance of offending him upon seeing the wheel chocks. Ultimately, I chose to put my final faith in Wotan. More commonly known as Odin, I – not being a fan of The Marvel Universe – prefer the Old High German nomenclature. I’ve taken a lot of grief from my Jewish relatives over the wheel chock Torahs and especially Wotan, but results matter. I asked for good weather. And Wotan answered, proving himself far more powerful than all the other deities. Bolian’s gonna have to move to Sweden if he wants to break my new time.”
“My hero is the greatest actor of the 20th century: Matthew McConaughey. His Oscar acceptance speech at the 2013 Academy Awards changed my life:
And to my hero. That’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say ‘who’s your hero?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.’ I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says ‘who’s your hero?’ I said, ‘I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.’
“McConaughey is the absolute manifestation of the Randian philosophy that has guided me since I read The Fountainhead in 6th grade. I don’t remember it all, and I don’t even know if McConaughey has ever read a book, but that doesn’t matter. People read too much. Most of what people read is nonsense. Even if it isn’t, they usually don’t understand what they’re reading, or they infer the wrong lesson. Post-modernism should be taught before math. I was always inspired by the closing credits of Spinal Tap, when the drummer in the bathtub exclaims, ‘I believe almost everything I read, and I read quite a lot.’ Let’s take that lesson to driving cross-country. I’m constantly emailed and called by people who want to break my record, or Bolian’s, or just go across in a respectable time. Many of them have read my book, but not all of them. Even fewer have read Yates’ Cannonball. They all claim to be totally committed. Can you imagine a Westboro Baptist Church member who hasn’t read the Bible? Or an ISIS member who hasn’t read the Koran? I’ve got a trunk full of Holy Books. I’ve also got spare copies of Cannonball, and – since the hardcover’s out of print – signed copies of The Driver on my website for only $19.95. If you must read one book, read mine. Two? Read mine, and Cannonball. McConaughey will be remembered for a lot more than his acting. Mark my words. He’s the Italo Calvino of American letters. He’s the Herbert Spencer of American philosophy. He just hasn’t published anything yet.”
I can’t speak for Maher and Ledet. I could say I’ll never do this again, but that’s what I said last time. Thirty hours was once considered the wall. Then Bolian summoned a higher power, and the wall became 28:50. Now it’s 26:28. Anything is possible, but not everything is necessary. Actually, everything is necessary. I used to think professionalism was enough. Maher said I was wrong, and Bolian proved it. Everything must be ready, and everything must go right. Preparation, weather and traffic merely provide the floor. That floor is now 30 hours. Add force and luck, and you’re at 29. Add more. 28. MORE. 27. Add stupidity. 26. Having said that, I may never drive again. Except a Morgan 3-wheeler.
Perhaps someone will come along, call out to Grabthar’s Hammer and do it in 24. It’s possible. It would be difficult. Very, very difficult. But not impossible. With clear weather, no traffic, the right car, five spotter planes, improved night vision, 30+ bait cars, color shifting paint, the enthusiastic collusion of enough law enforcement and the bribing of the rest, yes, 24.
If I was going again, I certainly wouldn’t say so here or now.
Sometimes it’s best to keep one’s mouth shut.
Alex Roy’s next book, You Are All Cowards, will be released Q4 2015.
His documentary on the 26:28 run, First Has A Place All Its Own, is expected Q1 2016.
Alex Roy can be contacted at [email protected]
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