Legendary automotive journalist Brock Yates died yesterday at the age of 82 after a battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Yates' love for cars helped him attain fame beyond the pages of Car and Driver magazine. He created the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, better known as the Cannonball Run, and wrote a screenplay based on the race that was made into a movie. Directed by Hal Needham, the movie proved to be campy, but it featured cameos from many stars and marked the beginning of a Hollywood writing career.
The Cannonball Run, which began in 1971, was conceived as a coast-to-coast race, but the idea also encouraged speeding and the tickets that go along with it. To take the competition off the street, Yates created the One Lap of America in 1984, which features the road-trip element of the Cannonball Run with competitions at various racetracks. Today, Yates' son, Brock Yates, Jr., runs the One Lap of America.
It was through Yates Jr. that we learned of Brock Yates' death. He announced it on the official One Lap of America Facebook page. "Today, after suffering with Alzheimer's for the last 12 years, my father finally succumbed. He touched many lives, but sadly no more."
Yates was an outspoken columnist for Car and Driver, railing against automotive regulations, the 55-mph speed limit, and often the industry itself. Aside from his magazine work, he wrote several books and served as a TV commentator for NASCAR races and automotive shows on TNN and the Speed Channel.
Yates left an indelible mark on automotive journalism and the overall automotive culture. Our condolences go out to his friends and family at this difficult time.