Open-road racing-also known as "regularity rallying" or "time, distance, and speed rallying"-is a sport in which the object is to maintain an average speed over a predetermined course. In essence, it combines the elements of road racing-where power, speed, and handling are king-and rallying, which demands a superior degree of precision. Events are typically held in areas of the country that offer some seclusion, as races are generally 60-120 miles in length and take place on closed public highways. With classes that accommodate average speeds of 85 to 160 mph and an unlimited class that throws timing out the window, you'd better be able to ensure that "Farmer Joe" doesn't wander onto the road and scuttle the race. Safety is paramount in this type of event, and often there are hundreds of volunteers, numerous ambulances, and eyes in the sky to alert the ground crews of any issues on the course.
One such event is the Big Bend Open Road Race (BBORR), held on an isolated stretch of Texas highway between the towns of Fort Stockton and Sanderson. The first event was held in this West Texas community in 2002, when a dedicated group of enthusiasts, in conjunction with the aforementioned towns and their respective authorities, legally closed down the state highway for a day and turned open-road racing on its ear. The event isn't just a cruise on a flat piece of highway, but rather 59 miles each way of curve-hanging fun, elevation changes, blind curves, switchbacks, and low-flying buzzards. The challenges all add up to a speed-and-handling freak's dream-one that demands driving skill and rewards pilots and navigators with a wild ride and intense competition, all bookended by a plethora of social events.
Today's BBORR is referred to by enthusiasts and organizers alike as "The Most Challenging Open Road Race in the World," and when you show up to participate, you'd better have your game face on.
Power, speed, handling, and a cerebellum that functions at a high level-was this event tailor-made for Corvette drivers, or what? Apparently it was, as about half of the field was Corvettes! All versions competed, from C1 through C6, but the sixth-gen edition was overwhelmingly the enthusiast's weapon of choice. Z51s, Z06s, and ZR1s all went head-to-head against Cobras, GT40s, Shelbys, Porsches, Lamborghinis, Vipers, and a mind-boggling lineup of other top-notch the sports cars from around the world.
Rather than just covering the event, your author was invited to participate as a navigator in an '07 Z06 owned by Malcolm Johnson of Tucson, Arizona. Brazenly disregarding our complete lack of qualifications, we grabbed a hand timer and a set of course notes and strapped into the cockpit. After all, riding shotgun at extreme speeds is a job requirement!
Hang on as we give you the flavor of the Big Bend Open Road Race and a glimpse of the fun you could have in your own Corvette, hammering down an isolated stretch of road.