Remembering the infamous ‘Cannon Ball Run’ of yesterday, automotive enthusiasts today look at competing in Brock Yates’ One Lap of America as a similar challenge that brings creative competition, both vehicles and drivers, to meet head to head in a multi-stage event across the country.
Toyota has announced that for the 2016 event, taking place next week, that enthusiasts should expect the unexpected. Everyone expects sports cars and related variants to compete, but what if a couple of the competitors were minivans?
To that end Toyota is entering two Toyota Sienna minivan concepts that to challenge the competition at tracks all over the Mid-West and East Coast – giving new dimension to minivan performance.
One Lap of America
Enthusiasts will remember the infamous ‘Cannon Ball Run’ (CBR) transcontinental race event made famous by the movie of the name. For others not so in the cult culture of the CBR, it was also known as the Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Dash, In either case it had a certain aura to it that attracted participants, challenged law enforcement and entertained enthusiasts.
In its place today is the One Lap of America competition that takes place on racetracks across America with non-competition transits happening on the highways and byways.
The 2016 One Lap of America event covers nearly 3,000 miles across a dozen states, with competitors competing on multiple road courses, autocross courses, drag strips, and skid pads. The event promises to be grueling for both drivers and vehicles as it all takes place in just eight days – that’s right, just eight consecutive days with a total of 17 timed race competitions at eight unique venues.
Do the math folks, it means competitor teams will race all day and then drive all night to the next venue.
Toyota Sienna Vehicles
Toyota relishes the challenge and opportunity to show off their R-Tuned Sienna (shown at SEMA last November) and a never before seen SE + Sienna as they face the competition across those eight days.
“What could be a better test of our amazing Sienna minivan than putting it through the rigors of one of the ultimate endurance races,” said Lund. “It’s really the best of both worlds to drive on public roads and then compete on so many unique courses.”
The R-Tuned Sienna, introduced at SEMA last November, says that the vehicle dynamics are what makes it perform. Powered by a stock engine and automatic transmission, Toyota says it runs shockingly fast on a bona fide sports car track.
The never-before-seen SE + concept takes the sporty flair of the SE and adds a little more spice with a decidedly dark and stormy treatment. The SE + adds to that aura with revised treatments to the front and rear bumpers, headlights, taillights, badges, bezels, and door handles. Black satin outside mirrors, Laser Black 19-inch wheels shod with Pirelli P Zero tires, two-tone roof rails, and a spoiler extension complete the look.
The Siennas will primarily be driven by Top Gear host, Rutledge Wood, and Grand-Am Rolex GT Champion, Craig Stanton. Andrew Lund, Sienna chief engineer, and drag racing specialist, Sean Morris, will also take part in the action.
“When Toyota asked if I wanted to go on the trip of a lifetime for One Lap of America, I said heck yes,” exclaimed Wood! “We’re taking not one, but two Sienna minivans…it’s going to be awesome.”
The Siennas, along with the Avalon, and FR-S will compete in a field of nearly 75 vehicles driven by hundreds of unique drivers from all over the nation. The R-Tuned will compete in the Truck/SUV class and will also earn points toward the overall standings, while the SE + will compete in an Exhibition class.
“I’ve always loved this race, and this was the perfect opportunity for us to challenge perceptions…we’re already seeing a huge increase in the number of Millennials buying minivans,” explained Kibo Kitahama, national manager, vehicle marketing and communications. “Toyota started the whole ‘Swagger Wagon’ phenomenon with Sienna, and our recent Sienna REAL Performance program took that swagger to a whole new level. This is going to be one epic adventure, and I think we just may shock some people along the way.”
In the spirit of conventional competition, Toyota will also field an Avalon and FR-S piloted by a team of production engineers from Toyota’s North American Headquarters.
This is the second year for the Toyota Engineering Motorsports team to compete in the race. They will field a modified TRD FR-S and an Avalon for the race with driving to be shared between six engineers during the eight-day event.
“The Toyota Engineering Motorsports team has been racing since 2008, primarily in the 24- Hours of Lemons series, said Michael Seavers, Toyota production engineering manager. We firmly believe that teamwork, problem solving, vehicle safety, and performance lessons learned on the racetrack make our engineers better, and better engineers make better cars.”
The race begins on the skid pad at Tire Rack headquarters in South Bend on April 30 and concludes on the skid pad on May 7.
More information on the Sienna One Lap program and the Toyota Engineering Motorsports team can be found at SiennaOneLapofAmerica.com. Additional information is available at the One Lap of America web site OneLapofAmerica.com, says Toyota.