Over the next few weeks, we are going to take you from the genesis of the endurance road trip to the modern international road rally. Each day we will share a bite sized history lesson about the development of this motorsport. We hope that you’ll join us for this absolutely fascinating ride.
Humans have an inherent need to understand invention. Whether it be existence, their favorite dish, or an engine - we all crave the knowledge of blueprints. Modern day, long distance, road rally events are no exception. These endurance rallies mark their inception back to a key inflection point. His name was Erwin ‘Cannonball’ Baker.
Baker was born in Indiana in 1882. After finding a knack for motorcycling, he went on to win the first ever race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway held in 1909. Baker’s next step was to race passenger trains from city to city. Not surprisingly, he won most of the time. Shortly thereafter, he made his first 14,000 mile motorcycle trip at the age of 30. This trip went on to be the catalyst for 143 driving records over the next 20 years.
In 1914 he made the first Pacific to Atlantic transcontinental run on an Indian motorcycle in 11 days. 98 years ago. This was six years after the first Model T Fords were sold. Roads as we know it did not exist. Try to fathom how difficult that trip must have been.
After his record-setting transcontinental drive, he received the nickname “Cannon Ball” from a New York newspaper writer who compared him to the Cannonball train of the Illinois Central railroad. This name would stick with him over the five million miles he would ride. His stories of outrunning forest fires and overseas rides would become motorsport legend.
Cannonball could not describe why he was so passionate about these trips. Yet by the time he died in 1960, at 78, his influence on motorsport was widely recognized. Still, he could not have imagined the inspiration he would have on car fanatics for years to come.
Tomorrow, we will discuss the 1970’s Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. See how this is already beginning to connect?
- Wikipedia- Erwin Baker: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Baker
- AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame - Erwin Baker: http://www.motorcyclemuseum.org/halloffame/detail.aspx?racerid=15
- Crown Hill Cemetary - Erwin Baker: http://www.crownhillhf.org/docs/CannonBallBaker.pdf
- Finding Cannon Bal’s Trail: http://www.cannonballproject.com/content/