|There are still a lot of open roads in Texas -- roads where you can ease down on the gas pedal and let the wind rip through the open window until the car beneath your seat refuses to go any faster. You can watch the speedometer reach and pass 90 MPH, 100 MPH, and more. You check the instrument panel to make certain you're not getting ready to blow a cylinder and just for a moment you fail to see the state trooper on the side of the road up ahead.
As you speed past him you check your acceleration -- 200 MPH and climbing - and all he does is wave at you as you blur past his position. No pursuit. No traffic ticket. No hassle.
Sound like fun? Sound impossible? Well, that's exactly what's about to happen when drivers and spectators alike flock to Ft. Stockton, Sanderson and the Big Bend country of far West Texas April 19-22 for the Big Bend Open Road Race, a 118 mile race down U.S. 285 and back with all speed limits removed. No kidding!
The field will be limited to 140 drivers and their cars in total, everything from Ferraris to Panteras, Corvettes to Jaguars, BMWs to Porsches and Mustangs. But the list doesn't stop here. There will be Volkswagens, pick up trucks, Ford Falcons, and Dodge Darts.
But wait! Ford Falcons racing against Ferraris? We had better explain.
The Big Bend Open Road Race is not just about speed. Similar to a road rally, contestants choose the speed they will average through the race. You could choose the "unlimited" class, of course. That's the exception. The fastest average speed wins. It's that simple. But unless your car can travel upwards of 200 MPH, you want to avoid that class.
But the fun comes in when choosing from the other classes. Choose an average speed target of 150 MPH, 145 MPH, 140 MPH - and down by 5 MPH until you reach the bottom class, a slow 85 MPH. And if you think averaging 85 MPH for a near 120 mile race is easy, you've got another think coming.
Regardless which class you choose, each contestant will start off a stop watch and contestants will stagger their starts throughout the race day - a positive attempt at minimizing car-to-car mishaps. The highway, of course, is closed to normal traffic, which effects fewer folks than you think this far out in West Texas. But safety is a high priority with race organizers and local officials.
Well it all seems easy enough, right? How difficult can it be driving through West Texas down a paved highway?
Race contestants would be quick to point out that this race route is one of the most challenging in America with extreme changes in elevation and a number of major curves. In fact, the last 50 miles of the course takes drivers through 59 individual turns, which can play havoc with that average speed thing. A tough course by any standard.
As far as who competes in such a race, you might be surprised. There are professional drivers that come as far away as the West and East Coasts. And plenty of Texans from every corner of the state. Many competitors are just weekend hobbyists, or thrill seekers who want to try their hand at road racing.
If you think you're boss enough to go for the unlimited class, you need to come to the table with one powerful car if you hope to win. Last year's unlimited class winner, Mike Borders of Las Vegas, NV, driving a 1999 Monte Carlo, finished the race with an average speed of about 167 MPH. That would require the driver and car to reach straight-away speeds of over 200 MPH - not for the faint of heart (or inexperienced drivers)!
The race has proven so successful that event coordinators have announced an October event this year as well, a race down U.S. Highway 385 from Ft. Stockton to Marathon.