What began in 1983 as a plan to race pre-World War II automobiles from Los Angeles to New York, has morphed into an annual event. The location changes each year, and is restricted to 120 entries for logistical reasons. It is over-subscribed well in advance. The 2019 event is already filling up!
Great Race – no modern aids allowed
After what has been described as a 3,500-km torture test of man and machine, the 2018 version of the Great Race is in the books. Of the 120 teams that started the event in Buffalo, NY; 108 crossed the finish line in Halifax, NS, nine days later.
This year’s route took contestants from New York to Nova Scotia with lunch and overnight stops in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The exact route is a closely–kept secret. Teams receive an instruction package at the start ,each morning. The package contains route directions only, with no road or street names. For example, the instructions might be to drive for a specific number of minutes or seconds at a set speed and/or to take the second paved road on the left.
The teams must rely solely on analogue instruments, no digital aids of any type are allowed – no GPS systems or even a digital watch! There are penalties for passing checkpoints too soon as well as too late.
In the interests in encouraging older vehicles, the scoring system contains a handicap component. This ensures a mid-sixties muscle car does not have the edge over a 30-horsepower runabout 50 years its senior. For the 2018 event, entries must have been manufactured in 1972 or earlier. If a vehicle has been updated in any way, its age and scoring, is based on the most recent component.
Entries are divided into five divisions.
Grand Championship – Previous winners
If any member of a team has been involved in a previous winning entry, that team will be entered into the Grand Champion class. This is “the top of the food chain.” Generally speaking, most entries in this class have been involved in the Great Race for many years.
Expert – veterans
This division is packed with veterans. They will likely have been entered in previous events, but have never won. They have to comply with a set of unique rules based on previous finishes. This is generally felt to be one of the most competitive divisions in the race.
Sportsman – fun for new and old
This division is designed for folks who want to run the event and have fun doing so. This is the favourite division for spectators and Great Race fans, due to the variety of vehicles and competitors of all ages.
Rookie – for first-timers
This division is packed each year with a wide variety of interesting vehicles.
X-Cup – for the young ones
Developed for young people who are generally enrolled in a shop class or part of a group that builds a car specifically for the event. Under class rules, the driver must be 21 years of age or older, and the navigator 21 or younger.
Numerous other awards were presented at the conclusion of this year’s race, including:
Tom McRae Spirit of the Event
“This most cherished and anticipated award, recognizes people within our Great Race family who embody the spirit that made the Great Race what it is today,” says Jeff Stumb, Great Race Director.