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.
Registration opens annually...
Registration opens annually in January and closes when the target number of racers is met. This year, 160 racers from across the country migrated to Sanderson, Texas, where they were greeted by BBORR Race Coordinator Kenda Furman (right) and Marissa Hall. Registration fees are based upon the division and class entered, and range from $400 to $900, plus a membership fee of $50.
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.
The Terrell County Courthouse...
The Terrell County Courthouse Square in Sanderson was the sight of early registration and technical inspections for the racers, and it served as one of the many gathering places for enthusiasts to talk about the upcoming race. The Z06 on the right was driven by Dave Carpenter of Parker, Colorado, while Scott Cardwell of Erie, Colorado, piloted the red '06 coupe. Both competed in the GS 150 category. In the middle is an '09 Nissan GT-R, the class winner in GS 140.
After registration concluded...
After registration concluded on Thursday, the Sanderson Chamber of Commerce threw a welcome party in Bicentennial Park, just across the street from the Square. In addition to some great home-cooked food-including BBQ and all the fixings handed out by Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts Troup 160 of Sanderson-the adults found time to sample a cold beer or a chilled glass of wine. Whether you arrived in a Corvette, a Mustang, a 'Cuda, or a Lamborghini, you felt like you were among friends.
Les Myrah of Flower Mound,...
Les Myrah of Flower Mound, Texas, and his '03 Anniversary Edition C5 competed in the GT 120 class and placed Second, losing by a mere 0.076 seconds to a '99 Camaro. Myrah's time delta of 0.318 was outstanding, especially since he flew solo, minus a navigator. The C5 wears Michelin tires and C5 Z06 sway bars to slice up the corners, while auditory bliss comes courtesy of a Corsa Tiger Shark exhaust.