Will Wright is the designer of the hugely popular life simulator video game, The Sims, in which you can command your virtual characters to eat, sleep, defecate and even play other video games, but the one thing they can’t seem to do is drive a car. Ironic then, that Wright was enough of a speed nut to compete in the US Express, the early 80s successor to the Cannonball Run. Competitors set off from Brooklyn, New York and headed for the finish in Santa Monica, California with only one rule – get there first. Not only did Wright compete, he won the inaugural illegal coast-to-coast race in 1980 with his electronically pimped Mazda RX-7.
Festooned with every gadget imaginable on the day disco died, the Mazda was Wright and co-pilot Rick Doherty’s mobile command center and could have served as the inspiration for Jackie Chan’s Subaru in the Cannonball Run movie. Stuffed into the 2-seater was a CB radio, radar speedometer control box, dash mounted computer for distance and fuel calculations, police scanner hidden inside the glove box, fuel cell that could fill the stock tank on the fly, refrigerator, night vision scopes, a radar detector, and a backwards mounted radar jammer to set off competitor’s radar detectors.
With an arsenal rivaling the Pentagon’s, the duo won the outlaw cross-country dash in 33 hours, 39 minutes, despite taking a longer route to avoid the fuzz while driving regularly at 120 mph. Keep in mind that because of the fuel crisis, the nationwide speed limit, regardless of state or straightness of road, was a strict 55 mph. Clearly, some moving violations took place. Needless to say, with today’s sensitive and litigious climate, the chances of an organized race on this scale happening again are nil. Wright’s escapades are part of the upcoming movie, 32 Hours 7 Minutes, named after the record time set in 1983.