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2,500 Miles, 8 States, 19 Cities, 9 Days

By on September 1, 2016

The Mother of Vintage Rally Racing

Billed as the world’s premiere vintage car rally, the Great Race has traveled many miles during its 33-year existence. The 2016 Hemmings Motor News Great Race Presented By Hagerty was a fantastic nine-day event that passed through eight states, stopped in 19 cities, and covered nearly 2,500 miles in vehicles built in 1972 or earlier. The three oldest entries carried 1916 Hudson badges: a Pikes Peak Hillclimber, an Indy Racer and a 4-passenger Speedster. Several early ‘70s cars were the latest eligible models. The route began in California and ended in Illinois.

Secret Check Points

With $150,000 up for grabs, the Great Race was a very competitive event, drawing participants from all across the United States, plus several other countries. The Great Race is not a speed race, but a time/speed/distance rally. The teams, each with a driver and navigator, are given precise instructions each day that detail every move down to the second. Teams are scored at secret checkpoints along the way and are penalized one second—for each second, either early or late. As in golf, the lowest score wins.

Each stop on the June 18-26 Great Race was free to the public, and spectators were able to visit with the participants and look at the cars and trucks. It is common for kids to climb into the driver’s seat for a first-hand look and a photo opp. “When the Great Race pulls into a scheduled stop, it becomes an instant festival,” said race director Jeff Stumb. “Participants typically make many new friends along the way.”

Class System

Class designations make the Great Race very competitive, resulting in close battles. Each class is defined to give everyone a fair shot at a slice of the prize money. In use for several years, four classes have been very successful in leveling the playing field.

Grand Championship – Features only competitors who have won the event in a prior year. Generally, most Grand Champions have been a part of the Great Race family since the early days, so these are truly the veterans of the event.

Expert – This division is also packed with Great Race veterans who have proven their skills time and again, but have not won.

Sportsman – Filled with diehard Great Racers, young and old, this class is usually one of the largest in the field and is a fan favorite based on the interesting cars and trucks.

Rookie –These competitors enter the Great Race as a learning experience, and most come back to compete in future events.

Day-by-Day Highlights

Day 1 – The journey began in San Rafael, California. The crowds lined Fourth Street as 130 beautiful cars departed, one by one. The first Saturday stop was the spectacular town of Vacaville, California where racers enjoyed lunch before going back on the clock. The day concluded on an original cobble stone road in Old Sacramento.

Day 2 – Breathtakingly gorgeous scenery including snow-covered mountain tops, beautiful lakes, and astoundingly tall trees dotted the landscape as the great racers headed to Gardnerville, Nevada. A car show and conversation with local enthusiasts preceded a hearty lunch. Sunday ended with dinner at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

Day 3 – The loneliest road in America led to lunch in Austin, Nevada, a small town (population 150) that is full of charm, and hospitality. Monday stopped at the Elko (Nevada) Convention Center.

Day 4 – With two states to cover, and a time change, drivers moved on to the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah. After lunch and photos at the historic site, the clock kicked in. Mesmerizing scenery including more snow-covered mountains and tall canyons accompanied the drivers’ Tuesday journey to Evanston, Wyoming.

Day 5 – The Lincoln Highway trek continued east towards Rawlins, Wyoming, a small town full of character that greeted racers with a smile and a home-cooked barbecue lunch. From there, the teams traveled 10,000 feet up the side of a mountain to Medicine Bow and some amazing views including a snow cover. Wednesday ended at the Cheyenne (Wyoming) Depot Museum.

Day 6 – A lunch stop in Lusk, Wyoming punctuated travels through Guernsey State Park, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, Custer State Park, Black Hills National Forest and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. After passing through the northwest corner of Nebraska, the racers joined a crowd of 10,000 for a Thursday night concert series, called, “Summer Nights” in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota.

Day 7 – A stop at Wall Drug preceded a Friday adventure through the Badlands National Park, which protects over 240,000 acres of pinnacles and spires surrounded by the country’s largest, undisturbed mixed-grass prairie. Racers visited the Pioneer Auto Museum and enjoyed lunch on Main Street in Chamberlain, South Dakota. Challenged by gusting winds, the racers made their way to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where people again lined the streets.

Day 8 – Five checkpoints, the average amount for a typical day, were enforced before lunch in Mason City, Iowa. Racers questions about where they stood in the standings were answered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Saturday’s stopping point.

Day 9 – Sunday provided a leisurely finish for the weary racers. The task of guiding an old car or truck across the country on the Lincoln Highway-themed route wasn’t easy, and lots of challenging terrain added to the difficulty. A fuel stop at the Iowa 80 TA Travel Center in Walcott also included lunch at the recently expanded Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. The grueling nine-day rally came to an end at the John Deere Pavilion in nearby Moline, Illinois.

The Winners

While every team that finished could call themselves winners, the $50,000 Grand Championship prize went to G.R. Pike and Bobby Hadskey of Team 16, driving the 1916 Hudson Indy Racer. They stayed near the top of the field throughout the race, and passed Gary and Jean Ann Martin (who ended up winning the Expert division and placing third overall with a score of 1:04.99). The Grand Championship finish was actually a dead heat between the Pike/Hadskey team and the David Reeder and Sawyer Stone team, both with a final score of 1:02.04.

The tiebreaker is normally determined by who has the oldest car. Since both were 1916 Hudsons, second tiebreaker was based on the score during the Hagerty Trophy Run (which occurred before the race officially started), enabling Pike/Hadskey to edge Reeder/Stone for the win! This was only the second time in Great Race history that the event ended in a tie. Ironically, it was the 2004 race won by you guessed it: G.R. Pike and Bobby Hadskey. The Tom McRae Spirit of the Event award, the year’s most anticipated, went to Jean Ann Martin, due to her dedication in making the 2016 Great Race, despite being diagnosed with cancer last fall.

Scheduled for June 24 to July 2, the 2017 Great Race will travel the Dixie Highway from Jacksonville, Florida to Traverse City, Michigan. You can see photos from this year’s Great Race and learn more about the 2017 event at GreatRace.com/news/2017.

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