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Thursday, June 30, 2011

What is a City but the People?

We all know the film C'était un Rendezvous. Filmmaker/driver Claude Lelouch races across the city of Paris in less than nine minutes using a Mercedes Benz 6.9 with a gyroscopic camera mounted on its bumper. 

Much of the film is shrouded in myth and legend. Upon the release of the film, it was not revealed who the driver was. In addition, Claude was arrested during the film's first screening due to the illegal and highly reckless driving exhibited. Finally, circulation of the film was made difficult because of French law enforcement and a small number of VHS tapes were rumored to be distributed at $50 a pop.

But what of its legacy? In 2002, Spirit Level Film remastered Rendezvous to a new DVD format. Uploads on YouTube began to spread and circulate extremely quickly as well. Nissan created a Rendezvous inspired commercial with the debut of their then new 350Z. The band Snow Patrol used Rendezvous' footage for their "Open Your Eyes" music video. 

But really, no one's actually tried to recreate Lelouch's incredible feat. At least not in Paris.

At least not in Paris. 

In the beginning pages of a novel, "The Driver: My Dangerous Pursuit Of Speed And Truth In The Outlaw Racing World," Alex Roy describes the extent of his reaction to witnessing Rendezvous for the first time.

A lap of Manhattan Island is approximately 26 miles long. Alex Roy, of Cannonball and Team Polizei fame, designed his own course route that loops around the island with the exception of Inwood and Washington Heights, given the reputation of the police precincts stationed at the sketchy neighborhood.

Then, with the target time set at sub-20 minutes, Alex Roy employed friends he trusts unconditionally to assist him in his mission. Paul "the Weis" Weismann arranged reconnaissance runs year round and acted as spotter for all NYPD ambush points around the island. Jon "Nine" Goodrich recruited traffic blockers that are disguised as construction workers who will step out into designated intersections to hold up flashing police batons, preventing westbound traffic from turning south onto the West Side Highway long enough for Alex Roy to fly through every single red light between 59th St. all the way to the start/finish line at WTC.

After a year's worth of impeccable planning, Alex established the location of every radar trap, the patrol area of every squad car, and was familiar with every bump and pothole on the island lap course. Monday mornings between 3:30 to 4:00am had the lowest number of drunk drivers and innocent bystanders than any other day of the week. Late summers were best as temperatures would begin to drop and rain would still be infrequent. In the event that the run is compromised, Alex also had a buddy with a garage near Wall St. that could hide the car from the streets for at least a week, waiting out any potential heat from the police.

On the practice run Monday morning, Sept. 10, 2001, in an Audi S4 armed with a Valentine 1 radar detector, Alex set his target time at under 30 minutes. Reaching speeds over 140 mph and committing 109 moving violations as well as a theoretical 731 points against his license later, Alex completed the practice run 3 minutes shorter than his target at 27 minutes. Tragedy fell that Tuesday, and Alex never completed the final run and footage of his practice run was never released. The rest is history.

I've always been a bit torn over this. On one hand, this endeavor is frighteningly dangerous, the ends do not justify the means, and writing about it might actually cause a negative reaction. Darwin awards are just waiting to be handed out to the idiots who believe pulling a stunt like this sounds like a "real good time."

On the other hand, it really is that inspiring. Ten years since Alex's attempt, thirty six years since Rendezvous, it's without question that drivers of this caliber, both in skill and in bravery, come few and far between.

So, in an age where YouTube renders $50 VHS tapes obsolete, please enjoy this 'ole gem (in interweb years) taken from the Long Island Expressway.

New York, represent.

Jalopnik posted something similar this morning. Two guys who call themselves CBC claimed to have attempted the same route as Alex at a time of 26 minutes and 3 seconds. Mind you, what they've beaten was Alex's practice run and not the 20 minute barrier that Alex initially had his eyes on.

The  funny thing is that I actually found the same footage more than a month ago, posting the video on our facebook fanpage on May 8th with this description attached--

"The video invalidated itself the moment the music dubbed over and the frame rate was accelerated by 5.5x. However, very interesting premise. If the Alex Roy footage does ever surface, please tip us off!"

Because of the two flaws, I've refused to put the video up. womp womp

Happy thirsty Thursday, everybody!

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