We like wheelin', and it turns out that the folks at Dunlop do too. We joined them for the finals of the 2006 Dunlop Drivers Cup (DDC) in California last year for a week of wheeling and racing. This was the first time a U.S. team vied to be crowned the world's top nonprofessional drivers as part of a competition born in Europe eight years ago. Showcasing Dunlop's racing heritage and its broad range of passenger, truck, motorcycle, and all-terrain-vehicle tire lines was the reason this tire company's officials started the Cup. Desert racing, ATV competition, wild rides in dune buggies, police car chases, mountain biking, and racing events at California Speedway in Fontana were all incorporated into this year's event.
The 32 international competitors were joined by the U.S. team of Albert Andrade, store manager of America's Tire Co. of Upland, California; Jim McCauley, store manager of Discount Tire in Las Vegas, Nevada; Wallace Hattenhauer, an SBC telephone company engineer from Little Rock, Arkansas; and Brad Sutika, a marketer for Valassis in Livonia, Michigan. They completed 1,800 punishing miles and 10 fiercely competitive stages in seven days.
Our favorite event? Spraying sand and competing in dune buggies at Pismo Beach, where McCauley and Sutika demonstrated prowess. Pismo's Oceano Dunes is the only California State Park where vehicles may be driven on the beach. Not all the stages tested driver skills, though. The sixth event, won by a blindfolded Andrade with help from teammate Hattenhauer, stressed teamwork to complete a unique "blind" off-road course. When the dust finally settled, masters of the 10-stage event were the Germans and the Dutch. The U.S. team placed a respectable 8th and 14th.
"The DDC is viewed like an Ironman event, or sort of like Survivor," said Janice Consolacion, brand planning manager for Dunlop in North America. "Except," she added, "we never vote anyone off the island. Maybe it's more accurate to look at it as a decathlon of driving. It was fun, but challenging."
The DDC is aimed at ordinary driving and motoring enthusiasts-not professionals-and is not for the faint of heart. In fact, as part of the 6.2-mile Mountain Bike and 4.7-mile Jogging Relay Race at Sequoia National Park, participants had to wear a Polar OwnZone Heart Rate monitor, which beeped when they exceeded their healthy pulse rate. One team member climbed uphill to an elevation of 7,800 feet, while the other biked over challenging forest trails. Rigorous training is a priority all teams must undergo.
In spring 2007, the Dunlop Drivers Cup final returns to Europe, with newly selected Dunlop U.S.A. team members that include Kevin Clarke of Fryeburg, Maine; Lee Clark of Topanga, California; Todd Furchak of Romulus, Michigan; Egon Szenttamasy of Pembroke Pines, Florida; Todd Eagan, a writer for Sport Compact Car magazine; and Discount Tire Co. store managers Billy Link of Houston, Texas, and Ryan Brenneman of San Dimas, California. The 10-day excursion is scheduled to travel through six European countries-with driving events in each nation-and finish on the African continent.
Post Note: Applicants must demonstrate the Dunlop passion for driving, have an appropriate level of experience across all the event categories, and be at least 21 years of age. Some other requirements are having a valid U.S. driver's license and no driving felonies, having a U.S. Passport, and the ability to travel on certain dates. Anyone who believes they "have what it takes" to represent Dunlop U.S.A. can visit www.dunloptires.com/driverscup to apply for the 2008 event.