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Cannonball One Lap of America   

…A Week of Torture

 

D

ellis has run the Cannonball One Lap of America races three times in his Lister Corvette: 2000, 2002, and 2011.

2000

In 2000, the car was borrowed from Chuck Beck without Beck’s 14:1 Donovan, and Dellis had to build his own small-block Chevy for it.  Dellis built an 11.25:1 full-iron 388-cu-in motor, and dropped it in three days before departing Huntington Beach for Michigan where the event started.

The engine was broken in on a carburetor after which the SDS-managed fuel injection system was installed.  Time for engine mapping was non-existent prior the first run at Gingerman Raceway, AND the in-tank fuel pump failed after signing the track waiver.  So, before the flag even dropped, the Dellis-Martin team had to remove the fuel cell, surgically extract the fuel pump, and install an external Pep-Boys generic pump before it could run a lap.

That same first day of competition, the team trekked to Michigan International Speedway (MIS), and mapped the fuel injection system on the way to the track.  With barely an hour on the new motor, Dellis proceeded to set the Fastest Time of Day with the dry sump system leaking oil onto the car’s right-rear tire which made going sideways on the banks very easy.

There’s a shot of Dellis looking out at the darkening skies as he contemplated how the journey to Road Atlanta would be without roof, wipers, or mufflers…a long night, indeed.

Dellis ponders trip from MIS to Road Atlanta without wipers, heater, or roof as the skies are darkening fast.

Dellis ponders trip from MIS to Road Atlanta without wipers, heater, or roof as the skies are darkening fast.

 

The REAL insanity was yet to unfold.

After leaving Sebring en route to Virginia International Raceway (VIR), the black skies opened up.  Dellis said, “It was like a fireman was standing on the hood and spraying us.”  After getting swamped by an 18-wheeler on Hwy 27, the team could only drive by the faint red glow of the truck’s taillights since a white-out ruined any chance of seeing through the windshield from tire spray.

Realizing their impending doom, Dellis was already unbuckled and propped up out of his seat looking over the windshield with his face stinging from the pelting rain.  What Dellis didn’t realize was that his co-driver, Greg Martin, wasn’t agreeing with him as Dellis yelled “We’re gonna die!  We’re gonna die!” to which Martin yelled back, “Right! Right! Right!”  Martin was instead trying to get Dellis to realize that a gas station was to the right…a refuge.

So, Martin reached over and yanked the steering wheel just in time.  As #007 went through the drainage ditch, it thermal-shocked and stalled.  Luckily, the car has enough momentum to coast up to the pumps upon which Dellis/Martin proceeded to unfold a green tarp that fellow competitors handed them at 50 mph earlier on the road.

It would be some 14 hours later driving through the night that the Dellis/Martin team arrived to a standing ovation while everyone had lunch at VIR after the first run group made their runs.  Practically speaking “in tongue”, Dellis attempted to recount the night’s journey to a listening Tony Swan of Car & Driver magazine.   An hour later, Dellis set the 2nd-fastest time of day in #007.

In the end, the Dellis/Martin team would be awarded the event’s prestigious Cannonball Baker Award which goes to the team that survived the most adversity and pressed on regardless.

It would be another two years before Dellis got the nerve to run the event again…this time, with a roof and the helpful hands of co-driver Jim Dupuy.

2002

In 2002, Dellis received the car again just days before leaving.  So, zero time was available for sorting the new motor and car.  The result was two motor pulls during the week-long event, but only after setting the 1/4-mile record that held for eight years…on a botched launch, no less.

2011

In 2011, Dellis and his co-driver did not finish as his co-driver fell ill.