Q & A: Alex Roy

Joshua Kristal

What made you want to try to break the Cannonball Run/U.S. Express cross-country records?
Everyone said it couldn't be done. I thought it was possible. In 2004, I came across the trailer for the movie 32 Hours 7 Minutes [about the U.S. Express record run]. That's when I realized that people still continued to try for the record into the 1980s, after the Cannonballs. I decided there was only one way to do it; I would have to go myself.

Why did you choose a BMW M5?
I bought it used in 2002 and drove it in a few of the Gumball Rallies. It was the best sedan at the time: safe, and with space for a third driver and gear. It has a stock engine except for an ECU upgrade that also got rid of the speed limiter; it also has Brembo brakes, a modified suspension, a new exhaust, and a racing clutch and flywheel.

What piece of equipment was most useful?
The CB radio, followed by night-vision goggles.

Start to finish - airplane and aerial spotter included - what did this run cost you?
The plane was rented and everyone involved worked for free. Take the cost of the car, fuel, and ten to twenty grand in equipment, and you end up in the $100,000 range. The reality is that you can't put a cost on the man-hours that everyone put in to make it happen.

What was your maximum speed on the run?
We hit 160 mph but normally ran in the 110-to-120-mph range. Our average, with all stops, was 90.1 mph.

What mistake do most drivers make when they try to cover long distances at high speeds?
Conspicuous, reckless aggression - tailgating, passing on the shoulder, et cetera.

How do you answer people who say that this record run was dangerous and irresponsible?
There is a difference between going into it blindly and taking every precaution. It doesn't make it right, it doesn't in any way justify it, but I don't have a death wish. I was also willing to spend hundreds of hours in preparation for every hour in the car. I can talk for seven hours on what we did to make it safer, and I will never convince everybody.

Have you ever thought about getting involved with legal, over-the-road rallies?
Whatever events I do in the future, they will only be legal, sanctioned events or technical demonstrations of endurance driving for economical or green driving. My dream is to someday do Baja and then car-to-car racing.

When did you get your last ticket, and how many points do you have on your license?
A bit over a year ago, I got one for 80 mph in a sixty-five zone in the M5 on the way to a wedding. I have three points on my license.

What would you tell someone who said they were going to try to break your record?
[Laughs] I'd say that anything is possible. If you list the five things you value the most in life: ego, wife/husband, job, house, kids . . . cross off all but one. Then ask yourself, are you willing to give up all of those things but one? If you aren't, then you probably shouldn't be going.

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