In America, the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash holds a special place in our automotive culture. The creation of esteemed auto journalist Brock Yates, the event was run just five times, in direct protest of the nation’s draconian 55 mile per hour speed limit. The event record for the New York, NY to Redondo Beach, CA run was set by Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough in 1979, driving a Jaguar XJS. The pair completed the cross-country run in 32 hours and 51 minutes, averaging some 87 miles per hour.
The Cannonball Baker was called off at the end of the 1970s, as the event’s (mostly) spotless safety record couldn’t last forever. Since then, unofficial “Cannonball” events have appeared all over the globe, most with one common theme: get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, with utter disregard for speed limits (and in some cases, safety) along the way. Not all Cannonball events follow this format, and the Cannonball Ireland is a good example of an event that doesn’t require you to bring bail money and have an attorney on retainer.
The Cannonball Ireland, in fact, is a charity event meant to raise money for Barretstown Camp, which caters to children with cancer and other serious illnesses. Rather that terrorizing the populace, Cannonball Ireland participants bring their rolling party with them, involving the locals at each night’s stop. There are still plenty of Ferraris and Lamborghinis involved, and I have no doubt that speed limits are broken, but the event is more about charity and camaraderie than it is about outright velocity.
Adding interest to this year’s event is a Nissan Leaf, sponsored by ESB ecars. An electric car isn’t the ride of choice for most Cannonballers, but that’s the whole point behind ESB’s entry: to prove that electric cars are a viable alternative for both short and long-distance travel. The Leaf will use existing charge points located along the 600-plus mile trip, which runs from September 9 to September 11. Although not specified, the car will likely use both fast-charging (Level 3) and conventional charging (Level 2) stations en route.
The Nissan Leaf becomes the first electric car to enter the Cannonball Ireland event, and as far as we can tell is the first battery electric vehicle to enter a speed-based rally anywhere on the planet. We wish the team from ESB the best of luck, even if we’re not ready to enter a Nissan Leaf in the 2012 One Lap of America just yet.