Robert Allyn said that when you drive at 219 mph, you can focus only on the road in front of you.
And last week, while the 60-year-old was concentrating on driving fast, he was breaking a world record.
During the Nevada Open Road Challenge on May 20, Allyn and childhood friend David Bauer broke the Guinness world record for highest speed on a public highway. Allyn’s average speed during the 90-mile race across state Route 318, which starts near Ely, was 219.643 mph, said John Bigley, the assistant race director and communications manager.
“We’ve had that as a goal for quite a few years now,” Allyn said. “It’s exciting to actually accomplish it.”
Allyn, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, and works for an electrical contractor, started participating in high-speed open road races in Texas in 2007. In 2008, he and Bauer bought a 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and by 2010 were participating in the Nevada competition, Allyn said.
The race was organized through Silver State Classic Challenge Inc., Bigley said. The organization began hosting the Silver State Classic Challenge in fall 1988 and added the Open Road Challenge in 1991. More than 100 miles of highway are closed during each of the two annual races, which have the same rules and follow the same route.
After nearly 30 years and more than 18,000 participants, the Nevada challenges have become a staple among racers, drawing participants from all over the world, Bigley said.
Drivers must prove they’ve had training or participate in the organization’s training program, Bigley said. Racers must work their way up from lower-speed brackets before they can enter the unlimited-speed race.
Bigley said organizers have emergency services, including fire and rescue, a plane and a helicopter, on standby during both races, which have seen four accidents and five fatalities in their history.
“We have very stringent safety regulations,” Bigley said. “We want (people) to come and enjoy themselves and perhaps set a record, but at the end of the day we want everyone to walk home safely.”
Allyn said he and Bauer, who also lives in Tucson and works as a mechanic, switch off driving each race. They had to work their way up, starting at challenges where the maximum speed was 110 mph.
“It’s one of those things that kind of progressed along,” Allyn said. “As time went on, we kept making little changes to the car.”
As the navigator, Bauer tracked tire pressure, engine performance, location and speed. Toward the end of the race, Allyn said, he knew they would beat the 2012 record of 217.575 mph.
Bigley said the highest speed the organizer’s radar recorded for the two men was 243.3 mph. Allyn calculated that he drove the 90 miles in about 24 minutes, 35 seconds.
Allyn said he and Bauer don’t plan to challenge their Nevada Open Road Challenge record but will participate in future faces. With Bauer driving, they will enter an unlimited-speed race in September and try to reach more than 200 mph.
“Initially I started doing it because I wanted to see about going fast,” Allyn said. “The reality is it’s a real good group of people that show up every time. The people are what bring me back.”
Contact Katelyn Newberg at email@example.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.
More on the Silver State Classic Challenge
— A race is held in September and May each year
— About 96 cars participated in last week’s race
— Highway 318 is also called the Silver State Classic Challenge Highway.
— Participants must be more than 18 years old for all races except the unlimited speed category, where the minimum age is 21.
— The average participant is 50 years old.
— Any type of car that meets safety requirements is allowed to race
— Only American teams and American cars have set speed records
— Celebrities including actors John Schneider and Perry King have participated
— The organization also helps run the Chihuahua Express race, held in April in Chihuahua, Mexico.