After a sleepless three-day thrash to get the Stealth Bomber in fightingshape for the 2004 Nevada Open Road Challenge (NORC), we dragged it tothe Derek Daly Speed Centre Racing School of Las Vegas for mandatoryqualification for NORC/Silver State first timers. Following a classroomsession explaining the intricacies of the track and the correct line, wewere cut loose on our own for a few laps, at which time I threw my newaccessory drivebelts. I limped the overheating pursuit vehicle into thepits, broke out the tools, cobbled it back together, and proceeded withthe next phase of qualifying. An instructor rode with me, was satisfiedwith my attempts to curb my drag racing tendencies (you're supposed tohang the tail out around corners, aren't you?), and gave us thenecessary certificate stating we were indeed insane enough to run in theNORC--in a 15-year-old police car nonetheless.

After breaking our new Firestones in at the track, we went back to Sam'sTown (the official hotel of the Silver State Classic) for registrationand a very thorough tech inspection. Since we had taken our safetyequipment to the next level, we had no trouble passing tech, and evengot the hard-nosed tech inspectors to smile at the prospect of runningour boxy, yet sexy, Diplomat at triple-digit speeds against the likes ofC5 Corvettes, BMW M5s, late-model Camaros, a Ferrari 360 Modena, and asmattering of other exotic hardware. Had we bitten off more than wecould chew? We didn't think so. We'd done our homework and wereconfident the car would perform as intended.

The next day, we got out of Las Vegas a bit worse for the wear and madea beeline to Ely, Nevada. Ely is a picturesque and sleepy little miningtown nestled in the high desert of Nevada. at noon on Saturday, weparticipated in the first ever High Noon Shootout--a half-mile ormile-long acceleration contest depending on your registered speed class(touring and Grand Touring run the half-mile, while Grand Sport, SuperSport and Unlimited can run either the mile or the half-mile). Thisall-new event takes place on a fenced-off stretch of SR-490 and is likean extra-long drag race, but it's just you against the clock. Later inthe day we attended the car show at Broadbent Park, as well as themandatory drivers' meeting in the evening. We turned in early since wewere racing even earlier. Remember, the early bird gets the worm, or isit the early worm gets eaten by the bird. We're not quite sure how thatgoes...

Sunday came fast and early with a staging of all the race vehicles in atruck stop parking lot. All amenities were available: coffee, food,restrooms, and race gas. From there, the various classes are called upin order and placed on the grid before the starting line. When it's yourturn, you go through a final inspection of your tires, and the helpfulstaff makes sure you are belted in tightly--very tightly. So tightly, infact, that you can't breath very well, but it doesn't really mattersince you seem to forget to breath for the first fifteen minutes anyway,till you calm down and settle into the race. We were able toeffortlessly maintain triple-digit speeds; the Diplomat cornered flatly,displayed no ill handling or stability characteristics, and was actuallyconfidence inspiring. We finished in one piece with no mechanicaltrouble or scary moments. If you like a bit more than a short burst ofacceleration in a straight line, than this could be the event for you.We highly recommend it. It'll be one of the best fifty minutes or lessyou'll ever spend. For more information, event descriptions, rules andregulations, and event schedules, log onto www.sscc.us