Thanks to Steve Williams – the Oracle of all things compliance – from TruckUK, Tachoblog has learnt that John Coupland, who has been a regular sight at Truckfest’s in the UK for several years in his Peterbilt rig with a fully chromed engine and cab interior has just returned from taking part in this year’s Cannonball Run Europe.
John’s day job is owning and running Castle Recovery on the outskirts of the Dorset town of Ferndown so he’s used to heavy trucks but his Peterbilt is something special. This beast, and there is no other word for it, is 25′ long, 8′ wide and over 12′ high – quite different from the type of vehicle you’d expect to see on the Cannonball Run.
That said, this year’s winner was driving a Fiat 500 (honestly) as the ‘race’ is not won by getting to the finish line first. A good job for John as, according to Cannonball Run Europe’s website, he (and wife Aileen) only made it on time to dinner twice. However, the site is quick to point out that his entry was most definitely in the spirit of the event – a fact proved by John and Aileen’s runner up spot for the ‘Spirit of the Cannonball’ trophy.
The Cannonball name originates from the die-hard adventurer Erwin G. ‘Cannonball’ Baker, the greatest cross-country record breaker of them all. Baker set 143 American distance records, including a 53½ hour coast to coast solo drive averaging over 50 mph in 1933! He died a hero in 1960.
Inspired by the great man and in defiance of the then introduced 55 mph US speed limit, rebellious journalist Brock Yates launched the ‘Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash’.
An account of his tale in Car & Driver Magazine lit the Cannonball fuse. Four subsequent races were held, the climax being the 1979 event – the fastest of them all – which attracted 26 entries and was won by David Heinz and David Yarborough, who completed the entire course in just 32 hours and 51 minutes at an average of nearly 88 mph. The legend was established.
Of course everybody remembers the subsequent Cannonball movies and great fun they were too. Whilst Yates was involved in the creation of the first, he felt the real spirit of the event was lost in the translation to film and professed his disappointment at the creative, if not financial outcome.
And so the rally ceased existence until Tim Porter brought it back to life in October 2002, when an astonishing 69 cars and 140 new Cannonballers stepped up to be counted when Cannonball Run Europe threw down the challenge of a European revival. The machines may have been more modern (save for the 1970s Fastback Mustang), the rules refined to take account of a more modern age, but the spirit of the event has not been diluted with the passing of time.