So I get a call from this guy who says he took his Dodge Neon on the One Lap of America race. So I say, "Wow, you're lucky. I was supposed to do that one year." The voice on the other side of the phone says, "How'd you like a story on what it was like to do the race in a built Neon?" I tell the voice, "Send it out, I'll take a look at it." So here for your enjoyment is Ari's story of the race and his Neon. Yes, it's that easy.-MP
French filmmaker Jean Cocteau once said, "A car can massage organs that no masseur can reach." For many of us, that statement not only rings true, but tolls on the hour every hour. Just how many times have you taken your car for a sporty drive down your favorite road to ease the pain of the previous week. But sometimes some of us need a little more.
Car enthusiasts have turned to weekend racing as a chance to live life to its fullest, pushing the limits a bit more than the rest of the world. However, for about 200 individuals from around the globe, a weekend is not enough. What they crave is a week-long adventure.
Imagine spending an entire week in your car, traveling over 6,000 miles, and visiting more than a dozen racetracks across the country. Cool. Now imagine doing it with two or three people in the car with you. You eat, sleep (Hopefully not while you're driving.-MP), and live in the car for a week. Not so cool anymore, huh? Cool or not, it's called the One Lap of America.
A derivative of the original Cannonball Run race, the One Lap race was started in the '70s and was essentially halted for legal reasons (driving coast-to-coast as fast as you can does tend to make you want to test the limits of the law a bit).
My team was made up of Emmanuel Crouvisier, Jim LaFevers, and myself. The '98 Dodge Neon R/T you see in front of you was what the three of us used to get our race rocks off. Cleveland, Ohio, resident Crouvisier was our team captain and the cornerstone of our success. His driving abilities and proclivity for coordinating a team is what made it possible for us to do so well. LaFevers is a car nut from Chicago, and his support and driving abilities are also exquisite. They drove the car to its limits and helped show what a Neon can really do on the track (and on the highway). Oh, and if you're wondering what I did, I'm the car's owner, so it was my job to prep the vehicle.
The 1998 event had nearly 80 teams that traveled along highways and back roads to dozens of race segments that were held at tracks across the country. The event began at Watkins Glen International Racetrack in New York. The week went like this: Sunday, we had to run two time trials at Gateway International outside St. Louis, Missouri. Monday, we found ourselves in Colorado Springs, where drivers got to experience the track at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Tuesday, we raced around Phoenix International Raceway. Wednesday was a layover on our way to Memphis Motorsports Park. From there, we traveled to the Michelin test track in Greenville, South Carolina. We finished one week later back at Watkins Glen.
As teams, we were given a set amount of time to get from one city to the next. Everyone traveled at safe speeds, and we were allowed to stop for gas. At each event, you competed against cars that were similar to yours. So basically we spent our days racing and the nights driving to the next track.
We finished as the fastest Neon, placing 29 out of 80 cars overall. We also grabbed Third Place in our class, Mid-Priced Sedan, losing to a BMW 318i with an M3 engine and an Australian rally champion who was driving a Subaru Impreza.
The majority of the performance modifications were installed by Captain Nemo's Neon Performance. Nemo Foss (owner of Captain Nemo's) gave the car the extra power and performance it needed to dominate the event. The upgrades increased horsepower to an estimated 200 (most of that coming from the cylinder-head package). The Neon has great potential, you just have to know how to unleash it.
My words can't capture the experience of the race. It's something you have to experience for yourself. If you have the means (the entry fee is nearly $2,000) and the resources, I recommend you give it a shot. For more information, check out www.twingles.com/neon or www.onelap.enthusiasts.com.
Owner: Ari Jay Comet
Ride: '98 Dodge Neon R/T
Under The Hood: 2.0L DOHC, Captain Nemo's Performance race engine package (throttle body, intake manifold, cylinder head, exhaust manifold, catalytic converter), Unorthodox Racing lightened harmonic balancer, Kirk Racing exhaust, Random Technology header and intake (Iceman intake used for One Lap), Captain Nemo's urethane engine mounts, Summit Racing battery relocater, Nology wires and plugs
Stiff Stuff: Koni adjustable shocks, Eibach springs, Energy Suspension bushings, OBX upper strut tower bar, Chrysler front and rear sway bars
Rollers: (Street) 17x7 Fittipaldi Polaris wheels, BFGoodrich 205/40ZR17 Euro T/As; (Race) 15x7 TSW Blades, Michelin 215/45R15 Pilot SX-GTs
Outside: Wings West spoiler, L. Bros Performance body kit, Catz XSL lights, Rally Manufacturing antenna, Modern Image graphics
Inside: MOMO shift knob, Räzo pedals
Sounds: Clarion 100-watt subwoofer tube, G-Tech performance meter, Escort 4600 radar detector, Radio Shack 40-channel CB radio
Props: Borla Performance, Captain Nemo's Neon Performance, Eibach Springs, Energy Suspension, Junction Auto Sales, Kirk Racing Products, Knight Engineering, Koni Shocks, L. Bros Performance Fiberglass, Modern Image, Modern Performance, Nology, Random Technology, Stefan Johansson Karting Center, TSW Wheels, Wings West