When I first learned what the Dunlop Driver's Cup was actually about I thought, "You've got to be kidding." Not only was Dunlop flying us journalists out for three days of thrashing somebody else's machinery in and around Virginia International Raceway, but they were also paying the tab of the 12 average, non-professional drivers who won entries into the event. Each applicant submitted a short biography with an essay explaining why he or she should be part of the contest. That's all-no driving test, no references, and we were even told multiple times during the week that screwing up anything too badly could result in death. Dunlop clearly has the coolest lawyers in the entire universe.
So the Dunlop Driver's Cup pits these twelve combatants, plus a few tire retailers and some lucky journalists, against each other in circuit driving, off-road, karting, autocross, motocross and quads. Naturally each and every vehicle is equipped with Dunlop tires. The winners of the U.S. Regional competition-the top team of two, plus the two top individual performers, along with one member from each of the other two groups-go on to a ten-day international final.
Before you ask how I represented Super Street, let me explain that I was there for purely journalistic purposes. That's the best of my many excuses. Also, I totally suck at riding a bike. So yeah, I didn't win. But even to a seasoned, pampered journalist who is used to traveling at the expense of others, this is a pretty awesome experience. The "customer" group, as they were designated, looked like Nads after one of his "editorial meetings" with a Super Street model.
The competition started with trial runs at each event. Expert instructors were on hand to offer advice but, given the limited practice time, most of their tips focused on how to escape bodily injury. Even that didn't prevent people from flipping the quads on the short course of hills, drops, ruts and jumps that had been set up. Nor did it stop someone from sliding one of the Nissan Xterras into a tree during the off-road course, although the rain was partly to blame. Rain might have also been a factor in the numerous spins on the road course, including one spin off the straightaway at 120 mph and another mis-steer that put a Nissan 350Z into the guardrail. Despite these few bonehead moves everyone escaped unharmed.
Rain on the second day, when the competition portion of the cup started, affected everything. The quad course turned into a mud bog, the motocross course had to be routed around the standing pools of water, and the off-road course was moved to an entirely different part of the grounds at VIR. It also made autocross a total pain in the ass as everyone had to tiptoe around the course to avoid plowing straight through a turn into the cones. On the bright side, the autocross did give everyone the unique opportunity to redline a Civic Si all the way up to 4th gear from a dead stop, and that's a really special feeling.
Even with the rain, opinions on the event were overwhelmingly positive. Put yourself in the shoes of one of the competitors. Yeah, we only got two practice laps and two timed laps on the road course, but that's four more laps that you get sitting on your ass playing GT4-and that's just one event. The Dunlop Driver's Cup packs more action into three days than most people get in a year. It's like Make-a-Wish camp for retarded pistonheads. If you didn't notice earlier, anybody can take part, and unless you're really bad at math you'll notice that the people in the consumer group had a one-in-three chance to get a ten-day driving vacation through Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and North Africa. Dunlop is already taking applications for the 2007 competition, so get off your ass and send in your own essay.
Cup It Up
Do you think you have what it takes to run in the Dunlop Cup? Are you online? Well then, guess what? Aside from unlimited internet pornography access, you have what it takes to be a Dunlop Cupper! Simply surf on over to www.dunloptires.com and you can submit an application. This is even better than online porn because you won't have those recurring credit card charges-not that we know anything about that.