The 2018 One Lap of America is halfway through its grueling 3,600-plus-mile road trip, blasting through numerous states and racing on some of the most challenging race tracks and road courses. The competition has been fierce and even challenging as many of the participating drivers and co-drivers use the One Lap as the ultimate event to test both their vehicle’s performance and their own driving skills. Even if they’re veterans of this historic automotive race that has participants racing against the clock, just finishing the One Lap unscathed can be quite an accomplishment.
For our Durango SRT, it’s been the talk of the racetrack paddocks among the other One Lap drivers in their sporty and exotic supercars. Some may not find the mid-sized SUV sexy, but when they hear the deafening roar of its angry 392 HEMI® coming out of a corner and hammering down the straightway, it strikes a mighty fear in the competitor’s mind. But that wasn’t the case for the fans in the stands as the Durango SRT’s exhaust note, amplified by a Mopar® low-restriction cat-back, was like music to their ears and has had them standing and cheering for the “HEMI Hauler/DuranGO!”
With 13 challenging events completed and another six to go, our “HEMI Hauler/DuranGO!” currently sits in 26th place overall. Now, before you say “so what,” the Durango SRT is ahead in points over other cars running the One Lap that are significantly lighter, have more horsepower under the hood, more grip, and in some cases, more expensive. These include the likes of Corvettes, Porsches, Mustangs, BMWs and other machines suited more to road racing, tracks days and even the drags, not driving in the snow with the family while towing your snowmobiles for a weekend getaway at the cottage.
Memorable moments from One Lap began right from the start of the event during the wet skid pad competition at Tire Rack’s HQ in South Bend, Indiana. The Durango SRT instantly showed its very stable physics and defying grip to participants and fans. It became evident to many drivers that the Durango SRT was no joke and they’d have their hands full.
Another cool moment came at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois. SRT Engineer and co-driver David Carr was “tracking out” of turn four of the oval to gain speed and reduce tire scrub. With less than two feet between the side mirror and Gateway’s concrete retaining wall, the Durango SRT hit over 125 mph on the front straightaway. It looked and sounded more like a NASCAR machine than a six-passenger SUV with a 8,700-lb. towing capacity.
When it came to the drag race portion at Gateway, I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel. Instantly, the Durango SRT surprised the competition by laying down a 12.90 ET in hot and humid conditions and with the HEMI still warm from its high-speed laps around the road course. We even did some bracket racing and went a few rounds, leaving many fans speechless after witnessing how hard the Durango SRT left the starting line.
We hammered down from Gateway and headed west to Hallett Motoring Racing Circuit in Jennings, Oklahoma. This track had many quick elevation changes, blind corners and late apex corners. With David Carr back behind the wheel, he piloted the Durango SRT to the top half of the field. This even surpassed his expectations for a first-time competitor at this track, but he had a great handling vehicle that enabled him to adapt to the course quickly. Leaving Oklahoma, we headed west again up to Colorado’s High Plains Raceway Road Course. What made running at this track memorable was the Durango SRT’s standard Pirelli tires, Brembo brakes and their ability to withstand the track’s significant elevation changes and high speeds.
Coming down from the high plains where buffalo once roamed, we drove 750 miles to the Lone Star State and pulled into the MotorSports Ranch near Fort Worth after an all-night 12-hour drive. The Durango SRT attacked the 1.3-mile tight and twisty course first, then followed with the higher speed 1.7-mile course. The final session was the combined 3.1-mile layout that consisted of high-speed corners and elevation changes. The combination of all three courses gave the best of both worlds and it tested David’s ability to quickly learn and adapt. Again, the HEMI Hauling Durango SRT outran over half the competitors on the track.
There are still many miles on the road ahead of us, and more hot laps around new tracks with many challenges. Tune in to Dodge Garage to see if these One Lap rookies and their “HEMI Hauler/DuranGO!” finish this year’s One Lap of America.