The man who founded the legendary Cannonball Run is no more...

Legendary automotive journalist and Canonnball Run founder Brock Yates has passed away at age 82, following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The sad news came from Yates’ son, Brock Yates Jr., on the official One Lap of America Facebook page.

"Today, after suffering with Alzheimer’s for the last 12 years, my father finally succumbed. He touched many lives, but sadly no more," said Yates Jr.

Yates rose to fame in the 1960s while writing for Car and Driver. His columns criticized government regulators and automotive safety advocates, as well as the entire American auto industry. Described by famous racing driver Dan Gurney as a "defender of freedom," Yates also founded the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash (or the Cannonball Run), an unsanctioned cross-country racing event.

Inspired by Erwin G. "Cannonball" Baker, who set several coast-to-coast records, the Cannonball Run was held five times between 1971 and 1979. The first actual race was won by Brock and Formula One and Le Mans winner Dan Gurney in a Sunoco blue Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona. The duo traveled from New York to Los Angeles in a then record time of 35 hours and 53 minutes. The event has continued on as the One Lap of America, which is now run by Brock Yates Jr.

The Cannonball Run also inspired Yates to write the screenplay for a movie with the same name, which was launched in 1981 with Burt Reynolds in the leading role. Yates also co-wrote Smokey and the Bandit II.

Yates was also a best-selling author, writing books such as "Cannonball!: World’s Greatest Outlaw Road Race," "The Hot Rod: Resurrection of a Legend," "Enzo Ferrari," The Indianapolis 500: The Story of the Motor Speedway," and "The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry."

Brock was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2004.

The TopSpeed team offers its deepest condolences to the Yates family during this time.


Photo Credit: One Lap of America Facebook

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