Having lived in the western United States our entire time on the planet, we forget how actually close things in the eastern half of the country things are. For example, although it was exhausting, we thought nothing of driving from the East Bay to Portland, which is the next major city after Sacramento up I-5. And that's over 700 miles. So when Scotto drops the science that it's 650 miles from Virginia to the next stop on the One Lap of America in Indiana, it gives some sort of geographical pause. Meanwhile, Block, somehow unfazed by the madness, continues with his off-road antics.
BZZZZZ. The hotel alarm clock sounds like the low-oil-pressure buzzer on my old '84 Rabbit — and evokes that same desire to smash it into little pieces, then douse it in kerosene and, um, well, you get the point. I need a Red Bull. It's 7:12 a.m. and I really want to just sleep in, but VIR is a very technical course and Ken needs to learn the track. He has the ability to memorize 'em very quickly; it's sorta Rain-Man-creepy. I guess just being allowed to see the track before you run it is a privilege unknown to a rally driver. Which is a good thing, 'cause we don't get a chance to walk the course and Ken is going in blind.
The starting grid for the day's first event on the South Course looks like a Super Street shoot-out. Aside from our Subie, Top Speed's STi, AMS's Evo and a Crawford-built STi — that owner Kevin admits was purchased after seeing the Gumball STis — are all waiting for the wave of the green flag. The time trials use a standing start format. "I would never stall a start," Ken assured me earlier that day. He revs while waiting to launch and makes me a believer, as all four wheels chirp and spin as he heads up the front straight. VIR goes left, right, up, down, under and over, so my perspective is limited. As usual he seems fast through the turns I can see, but it's evident on the straightaway that the other cars are pulling way harder, not to mention none seem to be pushing in the turns. The truth is, aside from new rims, graphics and the $15,000 WRC Prodrive wing (yes, you could trade it in for a Scion and get change), the STi is running the same set-up from the 2005 Gumball 3000 and had never seen a racetrack before Saturday — let alone actually been tested on one. The chunked front tires prove this. If the STi had a theme song, it would be Salt N Pepa's "Push it."
A 13th-place finish out of 90 cars is welcomed with milk and cookies. Now it's time to kick ass on the North Course. As would be expected, ya boy KB is up to his usual hijinks — hooking, cutting and just generally trying to get as much dirt on his tires as possible. Then, while entering the notorious Rollercoaster section, the STi pushes right off the track. "He never lifted," laughs a spectator who witnessed this in all its glory. "He started to spin and just kept on the throttle...it was fantastic!" Later on, Ken will admit that he was surprised how bad the Michelin Pilots' grip were on the grass. You can't help but smile when he says this with all seriousness. Damn rally guys!
With a three-hour break until the final event — a full-course race; 3.27 miles — we find wireless and play catch-up. My Managing Editor at RIDES Magazine is gonna kill me if I don't get her copy, yet I keep writing these blogs (Yo Ro, Hiddy Ho!). This is the first time all of the drivers have had some downtime at the same time, so the war stories start. Everyone is waxing poetic about how they got out of triple-digit speeding tickets, except for our buddy Gabriele, who got arrested in Louisiana - apparently for not stopping. He claims he was looking for a safe place to pull over; we believe him.
We release another five psi out of the front tires and bump the rear dampening all the way up, with the hopes of calming down the STi's desire to understeer at every turn. C'mon what's a rally driver if he can't get sideways? Not that Ken really wants to go off-track again. I hope.
"Did you hear about the Noble?" asks JD (the rib guy's name) as Ken is pulling forward to the line before a run. "It hit the tire wall by the 'Coaster head-on at 90 mph. The driver is cool though." Yikes, I doubt it will slow Ken down though, unfortunately a motor hesitation does a good job at that and Ken finishes 21st overall and 5th in our class. Of course, a little engine hiccup doesn't stop the boy from covering the track in dirt and putting on a good show.
The next stop is Putnam Park back up in Indiana, and for those who can't point this state out on a map, it's a good 650 miles from VIR. It's time to start hauling, but the wireless sucks us back in like meth to a fiend or cake to a fat kid. We finally get going at 5 p.m. We are the last One Lapper to leave. In desperate need for shut-eye, I let Ken take the first shift. When I wake, I am somehow even more tired and Ken's tales of the great roads I missed while I was sleeping only make me grumpy. My turn to steer—Ken sleeps while I battle fog and rain. Joy!
Scotto on last year's Gumball [Rides]
More of Scotto's One Lap [Internal]