You're cruising in your Camaro out in the middle of nowhere. Just you, the thumping of your V-8, and mile after mile of sweet beckoning asphalt winding through nothing but desolation. That's about the time when you start to think, "Man, I would love to open her up and see what she can do." But then the buzz kill of reality kicks in and you consider all the bad things that can accompany a triple-digit speeding ticket. So there you are with all that power and clipping along at 65 mph, maybe 70 if you're so bold. If this sounds painfully familiar then we've found the solution to what ails you: It's called open road racing and it's a way for you to put the hammer down on genuine public highways. Best of all, it's perfectly legal and a whole lot safer.
The Event The Nevada Open Road Challenge (NORC) is held every May and is identical to its more famous cousin, the Silver State Classic Challenge, which has been taking place each September since 1988. The basic concept is simple. A 90-mile stretch of desert highway is closed to all traffic while racers are sent out at 1 minute increments to tackle the tarmac. For most racers it isn't about how fast you can go, instead it's about precision driving where time, not top speed, is the key to claiming one of the top spots. The cars are broken up into speed classes that range from as low at 95 mph to as high as 180 mph. For example, let's say that you're in the 120-mph class. Your goal is to average 120 mph over the entire 90-mile route. Some math is done and a time is established for each class. In the case of the 120-mph class, the goal would be to cross the finish line with a time of exactly 45 minutes. Think of it as a 90-mile bracket race, but you're allowed to be over or under in regards to time. Of course, like any race, there are rules. In addition to your target speed there's also a "tech speed" assigned to each car. This speed is determined by the tech inspectors and factors in the car's safety equipment and the driver's skill level. During the run a driver can't go 30 mph slower than their target speed and never faster than their tech speed. Too fast or too slow will get you a big, fat DQ next to your name. So, for the 120-mph class where the car was tech'd up to 145 mph, that driver can't go below 90 mph or faster than 145. Simple? Well, not so much.
Since the race is started at a dead stop, a car is already all upside down on the whole "average speed" deal. Plus there are some areas, like the narrows, that generally require a slower speed. That's where the navigator comes in. It's the nav's job to use landmarks, typically mile markers, to make sure the driver crosses the finish line at the right time. To keep track of everything, the navigator employs a variety of tricks, including stopwatches, a GPS, and most importantly, course notes.
Everybody seems to have their own team strategy. Some bank time so that they can slow down for the narrows. Others try to keep their average the whole distance. Some drivers don't even run with a navigator. Regardless of the tactics employed, the goal is still the same: To hit the magic number when the finish line beam is broken.
Any car on four or more wheels can run the race provided they pass tech. Ferraris, Hondas, 'Vettes, and even trucks have run in the event. Cars are sent from the starting line beginning with the 150-mph class and work down to the 95-mph group. After that, the course is inspected for debris and then the unlimited, 180, and 160-mph classes are sent southbound.