Yamashita, owner of the Fan sushi bar Sticky Rice, started the contest in 2000 when he heard friends complaining about Richmond being too dull. "I wanted to make an event where they could go out and see if things were different anywhere else," he says.
Yamashita arranged a race in which teams followed clues from state to state, filming their travels and travails, and competing for a $1,000 prize. Teams earned points by being first to each destination and by performing various stunts and pranks.
The first year, one team managed to get on MTV for an interview with host Carson Daly. The next year, while in Atlanta, a team appeared in the audience of a CNN show. Last year marked the first international run, in which six teams went to Canada (although border authorities denied passage to one team and impounded their car).
The theme this year is "Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Boats" all of which will carry teams to their unknown destinations. The prize is $5,000. And because the stakes are higher, Yamashita says, "we need to have serious people." So he's holding a casting call Feb. 1 at Sticky Rice, beginning at 7 p.m. Those who audition can expect Yamashita to quiz them about "what their stupid human trick might be, or why they need to go more than anybody else."
Once the contestants are chosen, they'll appear in a series of three events around town before taking off at 10 p.m. March 11. Camera crews will accompany the teams to document their efforts, and Yamashita will be watching, already making plans for future contests. "I'll have to write a memo to myself," he says. Cannonball Run 10 "will be to the moon."
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