words: Bill Cho, photos: David Ogburn, Michael Trevor, Bill Cho
Editor’s Note: The abridged version of this article originally ran in the Q3_2022 issue of quattro Magazine. If you would like to subscribe to quattro Magazine, please join Audi Club here.
From a Puppy to a Big Dog
One Lap of America in the #teamcannonball4kq
As I sat on the very narrow shoulder with tractor trailers barreling by inches away, I thought to myself, “One Lap hasn’t even started yet and I’ve broken down twice in 10 miles. What have I gotten myself into?”
That into was the 2022 One Lap of America. It all started a couple of months ago when Josh Paashaus, owner of Nothing Leaves Stock, called and told me he was buying the 1985 Audi 4000S quattro Brock Yates Cannonball edition from Ed Bolian, founder and CEO of VINwiki and Cannonball Run record breaker in 2013. The way Josh worded his call was that he was leaving me no choice but to join him and Ed in taking a 37 year old Audi on an 8 day, 4,500 mile journey around the Midwest, hitting a total of 9 different tracks and 18 events.
The car in question was an Audi 4000S quattro. Back in 1985, the Brumos Porsche Audi dealership, in partnership with Brock Yates, created 12 special Cannonball Edition Audi 4000S. Out of those 12, only 2 are known to still exist (#1 and #11); Josh’s is #1 (ed. note- please see the links below for the Unfair Advantage podcast/VINwiki YouTube history of this car). Ed bought it in 2016 and ran it in the Coast2Coast run. Josh wanted it to run in One Lap as a tribute to Brock and Brock Jr.. I wanted to drive it because I’ve always wanted to participate in One Lap, and what better way than in the slowest car in the field? It was the perfect storm.
Day 0 – We set out Thursday in a convoy of 2 MKV VW GTIs, a pickup towing a 1984 VW Berg Cup kit 07K-swapped GTI, and myself in the Cannonball 4000. We were headed to Cincinnati to stay at another co-driver’s house before the Friday meet at the One Lap hotel in South Bend, IN. Two hundred miles into the 550-mile trip, the 4000 started bucking and stuttering. I radioed ahead and we all pulled into a gas station.
Let me explain a little about the condition of the 4000 at the beginning of the ordeal. The odometer showed 171k miles, but it had stopped working even before Ed bought it. The gas gauge never read full nor empty. The OEM temperature gauge was inoperable so Josh had installed a digital Celsius motorcycle temp gauge. The front passenger window was wired in a way that the up button meant both up and down. Occasionally, it was difficult to find reverse and 1st gear. The engine ran hot but it was very manageable.
After filling up and grabbing snacks, I came out to find the 4000 gushing coolant. Josh replaced the upper radiator hose and we hit the road. Ten miles later, I found myself on the side of the highway. The car lost power and was bucking again. The fuel pump was buzzing so loudly that I heard it through my AirPod Pros and the not so stock exhaust. We moved the 4000 to the trailer and were now headed to a shop outside of Cincinnati.
Our original plan for sleep was out the window as it took us 4 hours to repair the Audi. Josh and Ricky pulled the gas tank, cut the top off, and gutted the inside to find almost 4 decades of gunk and rust. They wire-wheeled, scraped, cleaned out the tank, and welded the sump area and tank top. After reinstalling and refilling the tank and fixing the hoses, we got a couple of hours of sleep for our 7 am departure for South Bend.
Ed Bolian met us in South Bend and we headed to Tire Rack’s HQ. There were 84 cars in this year’s One Lap ranging from exotics (McLaren 720S, Porsche 911 GT2 RS) to American muscle (Dodge Charger SRT, Shelby GT500) to Japanese models (2021 Supra, Honda S2000) to the everyday (Chevy HHR, Toyota Corolla). We were in the Vintage class which included a 1988 BMW M3, the Berg VW GTI, a 1983 Porsche 911 SC, a 1994 Mustang Cobra, and a 1986 Porsche 944.
Day 1 – The 1st event was the wet skip pad at Tire Rack’s massive test course and headquarters. Ed tackled the pad and scored a .719, good enough for 19th place. It was a sight to see the quattro leaning and almost up on 3 wheels as he snarled around the course. We then headed south to Grissom Air Force base for the autocross. This was to be my 1st event. Let me explain; before One Lap, I had never autocrossed, been on a road course, nor have drag raced and all those were now on my list of upcoming events. To say I was a puppy was an understatement; puppies are One Lap 1st timers, big dogs are One Lap veterans. I ran the course 3 times; each time, 2nd gear would pop out when I needed it most, but I managed times of 1:04, :59, and :57. To give you an idea, the quickest time was a 2019 Corvette ZR1 with a :41. Still, I managed to not come in last but rather 83 out of 84…I count that as a victory.
Early in our transit to the next track (367 miles to Nashville Super Speedway), we realized that wringing the 4000 in a circle multiple times and an autocross at full throttle had done something to our cooling system; it ran HOT. Our temporary solution was to run the heat full blast to keep it around 100C. This would last for several days and through the 90+ degree heat of the South; it wasn’t pleasant.
Day 2 – The One Lap running order is that the fastest cars would start 1st while the slowest cars ran last. After a couple of days, teams knew where they were and when they would run. Being in the slowest car, we waited for hours for our go at laps around the NASCAR oval. Ed ran 1st, scoring 4:32. I ran the 2nd , coming in dead last at 5:04.
The day ended with a 432 mile transit to Carolina Motorsport Park in Kershaw, SC…with the heat on full blast roasting our feet.
Day 3 – My old college roommate met me at CMP for a reunion. We hadn’t seen each other in years and thought that we would be able to spend the day together watching cars race. The 4000 had other plans for us, though. While Josh was out in the am session, a literal $0.89 clip broke in the transmission, leaving him with only 2nd gear. We tried calling dealers in the area but nobody was picking up their phones. Consulting Google Map, we determined that we were between 2 Audi/VW dealers with either one of them 1 hour away in opposite directions. Matt and I jumped into his car and chose the Columbia dealer. We chose poorly. They didn’t have the clips but called the other dealer and they did. We drove 2 hours, bought all they had, and rushed back to CMP.
Meanwhile, in addition to only having 2nd gear, the 4000 had another mystery pop up; it was drinking coolant by the tanker load. It wasn’t going into the oil; it wasn’t coming out the tailpipe; it was just going and we didn’t know where. During the break between runs, Josh and Ed were frantically trying to rig the transmission in a way to have more than 1 gear and constantly filling up the coolant. They were unable to fix the transmission so Ed ran the 3 laps in 2nd gear, predictably coming in last place. Not only that but we had to get to our 2nd event of the day, a short oval track in Braselton, GA 244 miles away before they closed at 7pm. Josh replaced the clip in record time and we made to Braselton with 15 minutes to spare. It took me longer to suit up than it did to run the oval but once again, I didn’t come last; beating a 2022 CT5-V Blackwing. Another victory!
We ended a very long day with a 187 mile commute to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL.
Day 4 – Tired and burnt, we arrived at the very beautiful BMP. Since it was only an hour or so from Ed’s house, he was very familiar with it and Josh had raced it before. Ed ran it in 6:55, Josh in 7:10. Once again, we were dead last in the cars that finished. By this time, cars were dropping out for mechanical issues and while the 4000 had plenty of issues, it was still going.
Next came our longest commute of 700 miles across 4 states to Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Jennings, OK. We were 200 miles into the transit when the temp gauge shot up, steam was screaming from under the hood, and a geyser of coolant gushed out. The radiator fan had finally given up the ghost. Luckily there was an AutoZone off the exit and we were able to buy a slim fit fan right before they closed. This helped our cooling problems where we were able to run the heat on 2 as opposed to 4. Also, Josh and I discovered the cruise control was working; Ed had known all along. That in addition to the replacement fan made the commute almost a pleasure.
Day 4 – After only 2 hours of sleep in a very questionable ‘hotel’, we awoke to a tremendous downpour. It stormed so hard that they delayed the am run and were almost to the point of cancelling the day’s events. I wasn’t driving that day so I was looking forward to an early start and an early arrival at the next hotel, but then the rain let up. Josh, Ed, and the quattro did well (6:32, 5:44); good enough to finish 72nd and 73rd. However, the 4000 wasn’t finished with her problems; during Ed’s run, the alternator came off and was barely hanging on by one loose screw. A quick repair later and we headed out.
That night’s commute was a short one to Heartland Motorsport Park (275 miles), but it was during the heaviest downpours I had ever driven in. Our convoy of 5 cars was broken up as we couldn’t see 5 feet in front of us. The 84 GTI didn’t have wipers, roll down windows, nor A/C, so they fogged up bad and water was pouring in through all the holes and gaps. Drenched, we all made it to the hotel in one piece.
Day 5 – Heartland Motorsports Park was supposed to have two events: the am and pm session on the Grand Prix course and the only drag race. I was looking forward to the drags as that was supposed to be my last event. It would have been hilarious to put the 4000 up against the McLaren or the Tesla Model S Plaid but alas, it was cancelled due to the rain. Josh and Ed tackled the course and ran 8:13/7:30, good enough for 73rd place.
Our transit that night was a 519 mile route to Putnam Park Road Course in Greencastle, IN. I don’t remember much of the transit as by then fatigue had overwhelmed me and I had stopped taking notes. I don’t remember stopping anywhere, where we ate, nor where or which hotel we slept in.
Day 6 – I do remember the morning: we went outside to discover that the 84 GTI refused to start. We stayed behind while the rest of the team headed to Putnam. After fiddling with the battery and wiring, it finally fired up; there are advantages of being in the last run group. The rain had followed us but what happened that day at Putnam can only be described as a miracle; Ed and the 4000 passed a competitor and almost passed another (5:53). Josh had a not-so-wet afternoon session and pulled off a 5:24 run.
From there, we had a relatively short transit (188 miles) back to South Bend and the last event at Tire Rack. As we entered South Bend, a wave of satisfaction swept over us as did fatigue…we were going to have a great night sleep in the host hotel but only after a German dinner at Weiss Gasthaus to celebrate.
Day 7 – With only one event scheduled for the day (dry skid pad), all the teams who made it and those who didn’t but still managed to limp in, gathered at Tire Rack. Josh took the 4000 on the skid pad with score a .729, but the big event everyone was looking forward to were the burnouts around the pad and the banquet lunch and award ceremony. With our times, we were not expecting to win any awards, but Brock Jr. had a surprise in store. Josh and Ed were awarded the Diamond Jim Brady Wretched Excess Award which goes to the team which spent the most effort, money, time, etc., wasted on a car to get the worst results but also finished every event. It is a badge of honor amongst the One Lap racers.
Would I do it again? Yes. Would I do it again in the #teamcannonball4k? Absolutely. After all, I’m a big dog now.
Unfair Advantage Podcast #24 with Ed Bolian, Josh Paashaus, and Bill Cho
YouTube of podcast #24
VINwiki/Ed Bolian YouTube: The most wonderfully MISERABLE week of the car hobby: One Lap of America
VINwiki: Searching for 1 of 12 Brock Yates Cannonball Run Edition Audis