2003 One Lap of America

Team Iron Butt – Norman & Michael Babcock



Procrastination is a good thing, as long as you look at it from the right point of view. It’s an ideal way to condition oneself into thinking on ones toes in panic situations… albeit self-induced. If you think about the concept of procrastination in the context of driving on a racetrack, you realize that it applies in nearly every aspect. Late braking, late turn-in, and late apex are all standard practices on the track that are supposed to make good things happen, and they all imply waiting until the last minute to do something. Using that logic, one could argue that it might actually be a competitive advantage to apply the procrastination theory to every day life. That said, it’s no surprise that the final hours prior to departing for the 2003 Cannonball One Lap of America were scheduled with a heavy to-do list. I was in the middle of wrapping up final exams, and father Norm had his hands full working with Champagne Motorsports in efforts to get our MTM Hoppen Audi S4 back into shape for the 20th running of the One Lap. The decision to run this year was even relatively sudden… made less than 4 weeks earlier on the final day of the Open Track Challenge in Las Vegas, where we were sitting 3rd in our class, and had a lock on the AWD Cup. The primary reason we were even competing in the OTC was the fact that we both had made prior commitments that conflicted with the Cannonball. Fortunately, both of those commitments managed to dissolve… which resulted in the following chain of events:

Wednesday-Thursday (4-30 & 5-1) -- The Cleveland Connection

Since the geographical relationship between my father and I tends to be less than convenient (Colorado and Arizona respectively), simply making the rendezvous point is the first logistical challenge that faces us on one of these events. We had successfully negotiated this obstacle on the 2001 Cannonball by meeting in Cleveland… so there was no sense in deviating from what worked. I hopped a red-eye Wednesday night, and found my father sneaking a power-nap down in baggage claim, early the following morning. He’d spent the last few days towing the Audi from Colorado… stopping along the way to visit with friends and family. We had a 300 mile drive to the Lodge on the Greens motel in Painted Post, NY… a small town near Watkins Glen International Raceway, and the official One Lap of America headquarters. We arrived that afternoon, unloaded the Audi… and began to sort through the contents of the trailer to decide what we thought we should bring along. Though similar events, the Open Track Challenge and One Lap of America have a few key differences… one of which being the use of support vehicles, and the latter does not allow them. The S4 would be our home on wheels for the next week, so a carefully balanced mix of tools, spare parts, and clean underwear were loaded into its tail section.

Friday (5-2) -- Painted Post, NY -- Event Registration

We awoke to a steady drizzle of rain… normally a delight to an Audi pilot, but alas… today was only tech inspection. More and more competitors began to show up throughout the day, and the speculation as to who and what would be the pace setters in each class began to grow. The classing structure is fairly open, in so much as a team entered in say… an Audi S4… could mean anything from a bone stock 250hp unit, to a 500hp monster with a nitrous system and JATO bottles strapped to the deck lid. The S4 is placed in the Luxury Sedan class, (sedans and wagons over $35k) amidst other models from marques such as BMW, Mercedes, and Jaguar. Only Audi and BMW would be playing in the Luxury Sedan class this year however… with the BMW M5 of Roy Hopkins as the reigning class champion. In the Audi camp, we had the Baron Rene Von Richthofen in his 2000 S4, and Trevor Frank in a 1993 S4.

We knew Rene from previous events, and caught up with him and his co-driver John Wyllie early that morning. He was introducing his newfound partner to the glory and mystique of the Cannonball… by having him apply the event sponsor decals to the car in the pouring rain. All this while Rene supervised the entire process from the shelter of his motel room doorway… barking out commands to John in a thick, German accent. "Nooo… not zat one dare, poot zee ozer one dare! Oh look… eet’s cwooked!" Rene really is a nice guy… but he does require a certain amount of effort, understanding, and a demented sense of humor. No co-driver has ever returned for a second round with the Baron.

Later that afternoon, the skies finally cleared up. We were able to complete the prep-work on our car, and sailed through tech inspection without incident. We got back together with Rene and John, and went into town for dinner. The four of us had a great time BS’ing over a few drinks and good food, and we came to know John and Rene as good friends. All in all, a stellar evening.

Saturday (5-3) -- Watkins Glen International Raceway -- Watkins Glen, NY

No rain this morning… but it was windy and cold, and the skies were threatening. We made the short 35 mile hop over to Watkins Glen about 7am to find the garages open… and filling up fast. We managed to grab one of the last spots, and unloaded the car. Pops would be handling the driving today, as he’s had much more seat time on this particular circuit.

After setting the tire pressure and a few minor adjustments on the Shade Tree PDA… I began to check out the competition. There was a Dinan turbocharged BMW 540 that looked like it could be tough, an older M5, and of course the Hopkins M5 that dominated the class last year. The Baron could also be a problem, however the S4 of Trevor and Christopher Frank had not shown up yet.

Pops took his place on the grid, and the waiting began. The event officials sent the first run group out on the track, shortly before 9am… and the fastest of the fast go first. Normally, the cars are sent out from pit lane, in groups of seven, at about fifteen second intervals. That group of cars takes one practice lap, and comes to a stop in single file at the start/finish line. Each car in the group then takes a green flag standing start (approx. 15 seconds apart), and runs as fast as they dare until they take the checkered flag… (usually 3 to 4 laps). Once the checkers fly, a cool down lap followed by pit lane exit… and the whole thing starts all over again.

Roy Hopkins had earned a spot in one of the first run groups with his performance last year… and we both watched in horror as he piloted his M5 around the track... passing two Corvette Z06's inside of three laps. That HAS GOT to be difficult for a Corvette driver to swallow! We both agreed that we were going to keep our cool, aim for 2nd place, and see if attrition was on our side. Many things can happen on the Cannonball… and if there was a Corvette Lynch Mob out there somewhere… we had a pretty good idea as to who they’d be looking for. Dad turned in a couple of solid runs on the day to give us 2nd place in class, and 25th overall… right where we hoped we'd be.

Putting the procrastination theory to the ultimate test, Trevor and Christopher Frank finally showed up mid-morning in their 1993 S4. They’d drove the car in from California, slapped on event sponsor decals right over the top of the dead bugs, and passed tech inspection in time to make their first run. Rene took 3rd in Luxury Sedan in the morning, and Trevor took 3rd in the afternoon.

Sunday (5-4) -- Indianapolis Raceway Park -- Indianapolis, IN

We rolled into IRP feeling pretty good. The weather was nice and cool, and we were able to clock about 3 hours of sleep the night before… and a shower. I was to drive today, so my stomach was in knots. Rene was kind enough to point out all the concrete barriers around the course... "Looook et all zees cement volls…", he said. "You muzt dwive vewy zlowly zo you do not heet zem untz veck yo fahzers cah…". The man has no shame. I took my spot on the grid and put down what felt to be a fairly clean set of laps. Translated: I deed not veck zee cah…!

At lunch, the times were posted for the first of the two sessions for the day. Much to our surprise, we finished 10th overall... and 1st in class... beating out the M5 by a little over a second. Suddenly, the one-day-old plan of playing it smart and letting victory come to us had swung too far over to the conservative side. We might just have a good battle on our hands!

On the second session, I was only able to improve by 3 seconds total, and dropped to 12th overall. The M5 trimmed 8 seconds and grabbed 10th… sort of brought us back into the earth’s atmosphere, but there was a new attitude in the Audi camp. On to Road America!

Monday (5-5) – Road America -- Elkhart Lake, WI

It had rained most of night on the way up to Elkhart Lake, and showed no signs of letting up the following morning. We probably should have been doing back flips over the weather conditions, but the overwhelming reality of the situation left us both a bit apprehensive. Road America is very long, very fast, and was completely foreign to us both. That, coupled with the rainy conditions and the thick layer of pea-soup fog that blanketed the last half of the front straight was more than a little unnerving… AWD or not.

That morning at the drivers meeting, the Cannonball officials announced a few changes to the normal format, due to the weather conditions. Rather than run one three lap session in the morning, and one in the afternoon… they would put all the cars on the track at once, and run a four lap familiarization session behind the pace car. Then we’d run a four lap competitive session to finish the day. That would get us on the road sooner… a good thing, considering the 900 mile journey that lay ahead of us that evening. The next concern was that of the "kink"… a very fast, very dangerous turn at the back of the course. The officials decided to mark a section just before the kink, and have each car do a stop-n-go on every lap. The format changes made in the name of safety didn’t seem to bother anyone, and there were wound up being no casualties at the kink. Some of the other corners on the racetrack however, were not so forgiving.

Dad had the driving duties today, and I was thankful for that. Taking shelter near turn 6, I watched several big horsepower cars as they tip-toed around the circuit. Pops turned in an epic performance, taking 11th overall and 1st in class. The Baron also ran a quick set of laps… picking up 14th overall and 2nd in class. Only one other car in the Luxury Sedan class managed to even complete the session… and it wasn’t the Hopkins M5. He ended up buried in the kitty litter on his final lap… resulting in a DNF for him, and the class lead for us.

Tuesday (5-6) – Hallet Motor Racing Circuit / Tulsa Speedway -- Tulsa, OK

We hit Tulsa, OK at around 3:30am, and we figured we’d have more sleep time if we just went directly to the track and slept in the car. A couple hours later, we woke to the business end of a movie camera peering through the windshield. There was a film crew following the One Lap competitors all over the map, gathering documentary footage for an upcoming piece on TNN. I guess we were chosen to do the drool and snore scene… super!

Today would be a warm one… we were definitely not in Wisconsin anymore. The folks in charge of the track were very friendly however… they even mowed a sign in the weeds that said "WELCOME ONE LAPPERS". The course turned out to be a treat as well, with some nice elevation changes and plenty of run-off room in most areas. As I’ve alluded previously, I’m not big on concrete barriers. We snatched 10th overall in the morning session, but the M5 finished 9th overall by less than a second. By the afternoon session, the track was getting greasy from the heat. The Quattro is absolute magic in those conditions… we chalked up an 8th place finish, and stuck one more pin into our Bavarian voodoo doll.

The final event of the day took place at Tulsa Speedway… a 3/8 mile dirt oval about 45 minutes from Hallet. Thanks to this particular venue, there’s a handful of people in this country that can honestly say that they’ve seen a Lamborghini Diablo, letting it all hang out on a dirt track. The point spread between 1st and 2nd in Luxury Sedan grew even larger, after Roy looped his M5 in turns 3 and 4. That left us with some breathing room, and neither of us had ever been on a dirt oval. We decided not to push it, and managed to take 2nd in class. Rene turned out to be a regular dirt track demon in his S4, topping the Luxury Sedan class, and taking 10th overall.

Wednesday (5-7) – Memphis Motorsports Park -- Memphis, TN

Days like today are usually scheduled to happen on Mondays. Sometimes however, there’s a disturbance in "the force", or the planets aren’t aligned quite right… and you’re handed a Monday on a Wednesday. The brutality started early, as the sleep deprivation had caught up to us both at the same time… about an hour shy of Memphis. A brief power-nap along the side of the road granted us enough life to hammer out the last few miles, but it wasn’t pretty.

We hit the motel sheets around 1am. Fifteen minutes later… the telephone exploded with a wake-up call that even Elvis must have heard. The clock was sporting a big "5:45" on it’s face... how does that happen? I opened the curtains to reveal a very soggy situation outside. Pops had run the Memphis course before… so he was elected the driving duties for the day. "Aw, shit…" he muttered, as he caught a glimpse out the window. We had a fairly comfortable lead, and our strategy had become much more concentrated on defending it. In addition, the rain makes for a miserable day in the pits… so neither of us was terribly thrilled. We arrived at the track to find there was no shelter from the downpour. As luck would have it, the rain stopped shortly after we unloaded. Then the sun came out with a vengeance and began to suck all the moisture from the ground. It was like… raining backwards!

The car had developed a problem with the shifter at Hallet. I had tried to play with the alignment adjusters, but didn’t have much luck. We’d been logging "random misfire" fault codes since Road America, but they hadn’t been noticeable on the road or the track… until today. The car wasn’t happy, the heat and humidity were ridiculous, and the track and its facilities weren’t very impressive. We soldiered through the day and managed to finish reasonably well, all things considered. Suffice to say, neither of us had any fond memories of Memphis. Sorry Elvis.

Thursday (5-8) – Carolina Motorsports Park -- Kershaw, SC

Mike Hoppen called us on the road about an hour out of Memphis to see how things were going. We told him of our woes… and he offered up some adjustment tips that we could apply with the PDA while we drove. During a fuel stop, I spent a little more time adjusting the shifter. It was still finicky going into 1st, 2nd, and reverse… but the appropriate ritual of shaking and wobbling would finally land it home. There were no rooms to be had when we finally hit Kershaw, SC… so we motored on over to the track and zonked out in the car.

We woke up later that morning to see what a nice little camping spot we had. I guess it pays to get to the track early. We unloaded, gassed up, set the tire pressure, and crossed our fingers. On the morning session, we managed to take 12th while the M5 took 10th. But the afternoon heat did its number on the track and turned the advantage our way. We took 9th in the second session to the M5’s 11th. The car seemed to be holding up okay. It sputtered a bit after each session, but worked beautifully on the track. Our lead in Luxury Sedan looked to be pretty safe… but we were sitting 12th overall… and were hoping to break the top ten. We had one more day to make it happen.

Unfortunately, the Audi S4 of Trevor and Christopher Frank had to retire from the event after the first session due to a mechanical failure. They had been running very strong, and pulled 6th in class despite missing the last day.

Friday (5-9) – BeaveRun -- Koppel, PA

It was about 2am, the car was missing badly again, we were both tired and stinky, and I must have missed the exit we needed to get us off I-79, and onto I-76 at least four times. We finally arrived at a motel, showered several states worth of mung off the anatomy, and slept in actual beds… if only for a few hours. Later that morning, we awoke to more rain… oh joy!

BeaveRun is a new facility located just a few miles north of Pittsburgh, PA. When we got to the track, we learned that the truck with the racing fuel had arrived… but they’d forgotten to bring the pump. We decided to just run 93 octane, and leave the car on the street settings. The schedule for the day was to run two sessions on the go-kart track, and one on the road course. We then had to make it back to Painted Post, NY by 10pm that evening for the official "finish".

The rain finally let up later in the morning. We managed to be the fastest Luxury Sedan on all three sessions, and were now faced with the longest 300 miles of the week. Larry Koerner from Champagne Motorsports called to tell us that we’d broken into the top ten overall, and confirmed our class win… assuming we could make it back to Painted Post, NY. Dad was fairly optimistic… or at least he pretended to be. I was an absolute wreck… the cars misfiring just kept getting progressively worse with each mile. By the time we rolled into the motel parking lot… it sounded like an asthmatic V-twin. It did however, get us to the finish… and even managed to limp into the trailer under its own power.

That evening, we enjoyed a celebratory meal with Rene and John. They managed to bring their S4 home albeit just off the class podium in 4th place. Just finishing an event like One Lap is a victory in itself… but no matter how you do, finish or not… when it’s all over, you’re left with one thought:


Cumulative Overall Points as of - Sat May 10 01:08:07 2003
 Page 1
Results sorted by position
Pos Car # Vehicle                          Class            Points

 1     2 chev             MTI  Z-07        SSGT1            6590
         Ronald Adee, John Myrick
 2     4 Chevy            Corvette Z06     SSGT1            6525
         John Boos, Ronald Marks
 3     1 Dodge            Viper            SSGT1            6515
         David Zelkowski, Brian Smith
 4     3 RUF              RGT              SSGT1            6415
         Gary Church, Paul Gerrard
 5     8 Porsche          996 Twin Turbo   SSGT1            6380
         Mark DaVia, Chuck Veth

 6     5 Toyota           Supra Turbo      SSGT1            5945
         Andi Baritchi, Clint Pohler
 7    20 CHEVROLET        CORVETTE ZR1     SSGT1            5665
         Scott Ahlgrim, Steve Ahlgrim
 8    52 Dodge            SRT-4            MidPri Sed       5595
         Cory O`Brien, Erich Heuschele
 9    10 Lamborghini      Diablo           SSGT1            5545
         Karl H. Troy, Mike Appleby
10    50 Audi             S-4              Luxury Sed       5315
         Norman Babcock, Michael Babcock

11    34 Ford             Probe GT         SSGT2            5215
         Greg Hagopian, Stacey Bertran
12    63 Subaru           WRX Wagon        MidPri Sed       5200
         Luke Russell, Jeremy Snyder
13    43 Nissan           350Z             SSGT2            5180
         Carter Thompson, Jeremy Sweeney
14    73 Porsche          911              Vint For         5080
         Glen Clarke, Louis Frlan III
15     6 Dodge            Viper GTS        SSGT1            5040
         Alan Modzelewski, Tom Atherton

16    19 Mitsubishi       Evolution        MidPri Sed       5025
         frank jordan, Jon Krolewicz, Brian Dowling
17    13 Ford             Thunderbird      MidPri Sed       4915
         Ted Lyons, Mike Hurst
18    55 Subaru           WRX              MidPri Sed       4905
         Tom Hoppe, Steven Rankins
19    14 BMW              M5               Luxury Sed       4895
         Roy Hopkins, Nancy Becker
20    72 BMW              Bavaria          Vint For         4830
         Bill Arnold, Tamara Hull

21    28 Porsche          911 TT           SSGT1            4825
         Alan Tackman, Michael Curcio
22     7 Chevrolet        Corvette Z06     SSGT1            4795
         Rodney Sizemore, Rick Sizemore
23    23 BMW              M Coupe          SSGT1            4795
         Ryan Catucci, Lawrence Leff
24    60 Subaru           WRX              MidPri Sed       4725
         Stu Sacks MD, David High, DPM, Pearce Sloan, DPM
25    56 Lexus            IS300            MidPri Sed       4495
         Mark Love, Reg Riemer

26    59 Mitsubishi       Evolution 8      MidPri Sed       4475
         Mitch Farner, Ryan Farner
27    11 Chevrolet        Corvette Z06     SSGT1            4390
         George Bruggenthies, Mary Lou Haen, David Dahlin
28    24 BMW              M3               SSGT1            4355
         Greg Read, Edward Hull
29    25 Pontiac          Firebird         SSGT2            4350
         Dan Corcoran, Kyle Corcoran
30    38 Mitsubishi       Eclipse GSX      SSGT2            4160
         Todd Brown, Fred Espinel

31    67 Chevrolet        Camaro Z28       Vint Amer        4115
         MICHAEL HICKMAN, thomas bertino
32    39 Pontiac          Firebird         SSGT2            4020
         Scott Breneman, David A. Groff, Jr.
33    71 Datsun           280Z             Vint For         3985
         Bob Murray, Sheree Murray
34    45 BMW              540i             Luxury Sed       3950
         Steve Stubbs, Jason Marks
35    15 Porsche          Cayenne Turbo    S U V            3945
         Tony Swan, Mary Seelhorst

36    37 Chevrolet        Dynotech Engine  SSGT2            3880
         Mark Joppru, John McElhinny
37    51 Audi             S-4              Luxury Sed       3865
         Rene Richthofen, John W. Wyllie IV
38    53 Volkswagan       GTI VR6          MidPri Sed       3855
         Michael Potter, Raffi Kazanjian, Paul Grimes
39    68 porsche          930              Vint For         3835
         David Goodman, Keith Ibarguen
40    26 Chevrolet        Corvette         SSGT1            3790
         Jeremy Herzberg, Eric Hulshart

41    12 Cheverolet       Mallett Corvett  SSGT1            3685
         JR Amantea, Lance Mallett
42    27 BMW              M Coupe          SSGT1            3640
         Neil Simon, Woody Hair
43    62 Subaru           WRX              MidPri Sed       3515
         Jay Holeman, Dave Crockett
44    77 Saturn           SC1              Econo Car        3425
         Jamin Cummings, Dale Seeley
45    17 Chev Corvette    WINNERS CIRCLE   SSGT1            3275
         Reg Noble, Victor Regalado

46    57 Volkswagan       GTI              MidPri Sed       3040
         Yarrow Thorne, Rudy Rouhana
47    64 Mini             Cooper S         Retro            2990
         Mark Goughnour, Howard Solotroff
48    78 Volkswagen       Jetta 2.0L       Econo Car        2865
         Chris Colucci, Jordan Yakiwchuk, Dan Roncadin
49    70 Datsun           280Z             Vint For         2815
         Matt Hubbard, Gwen Hubbard
50    65 Ford             Mustang          Vint Amer        2740
         George Batejan, Steve Smotrich

51    33 Audi             TT               SSGT1            2725
         Julie Melbin, dan latham
52    41 BMW              M3               SSGT2            2690
         Gregg Evans, Russell Norton MD
53    16 Porsche          Carrera          SSGT1            2660
         Brian Dooley, Carlton Joyce
54    74 Porsche          911C             Vint For         2530
         David Carr, Mark LeRocque
55    30 BMW              M Coupe          SSGT1            2470
         Jim  Rzegocki, Francis Rzegocki

56    35 Pontiac          Firebird Formul  SSGT2            2445
         Chris Boncimino, Philip Peszat
57    82 Chevy            Blazer           S U V            2440
         Glen Dodd, Charles Lovelady, Michael Star
58    75 ford             festiva          Econo Car        2410
         Jack Ireton-Hewitt, Robert Blakemore, Brad Czerkies
59    21 BMW              M Coupe          SSGT1            2265
         Carl Stringer, Peter Stringer
60    22 Porsche          964 Carrera Cup  SSGT1            2265
         robert lynch, Matt Van Bogart

61    54 BMW              325              MidPri Sed       2215
         Victor Hall, Alex May
62     9 Chevrolet        Corvette         SSGT1            2170
         Gino Burelli, Bruce Hayne
63    31 Subaru           WRX              MidPri Sed       2015
         Bill Ellsworth, David Ellsworth
64    94 GMC              Envoy            S U V            2005
         Fay Teal, C. David Teal, Ronald Pizor
65    79 Chevrolet        Citation X-11    Econo Car        1935
         Jeff LaVoy, John Oliver

66    76 Honda            Civic Si         Econo Car        1890
         Mike Roberts, Scott Faught
67    48 BMW              732i             Luxury Sed       1780
         Bob Wickline, Michael Howell
68    40 Acura            Integra GSR      SSGT2            1765
         Matthew Zekauskas, Pete Zekauskas
69    93 Honda            Civic Hybrid     Alt Fuel         1640
         Edward Olkkola, Brian Healy
70    44 Ford             Mustang          SSGT2            1515
         Daniel Hannah, Joe LeRocque

71    66 Chevy            Caprice          MidPri Sed       1395
         Michael Demers, Richard Wells, Jon Martin
72    80 Ford             Focus            Econo Car        1345
         Robert Hoover MD, William Hoover
73    61 Chevrolet        Caprice          MidPri Sed       1250
         William Porter, Marie Porter
74    29 Porsche          Boxster          SSGT1            1185
         Sanjay Hiranandani, David Koretz
75    47 Audi             S4               Luxury Sed       1115
         Trevor Frank, Christopher Frank

76    81 Dodge Grand Car                   S U V             845
         Jay Tucker, Phil Berg
77    36 Porsche          Boxster          SSGT1             825
         Linda Cheatham, Elaine Kent
78    49 BMW              E28 M5           Luxury Sed        800
         Roy Wicklund, Eric Heinrich
79    32 Volvo            740 Sedan        MidPri Sed        615
         William Cook, Jon Dega, Richard Spicer
80    46 BMW              540i             Luxury Sed        340
         Jerry Churchill, Bill Evans, Jr., Rick Lee

81    42 Chevy            Corvette         SSGT1              20
         Bryan ODay, Chris Mackenna
82    69 Chevelot         Impala SS        MidPri Sed          0
         Howard LaFever, Mark Grzella, David Campbell
83    18 Porsche          996 Turbo        SSGT1             -50
         Leith Wain, Adam Schneider
84    58 BMW              316I             MidPri Sed       -100
         DANNY ALVIS,