Great Race 2019

The Great Race 2019
Riverside CA to Tacoma WA in 9 days!

Hemmings Motor News magazine(s) sponsors The Great Race every year, starting in 1983. It’s called a ‘Time vs. Distance Endurance Race”. It covers at least 1,000 miles over around 9 days each year, always along some gorgeous, historic route…oh, and did we mention that it’s only open to 1974-and-older cars? And, they only allow 120 entrants in each year.

So, what is a Time vs. Distance Endurance Race, anyway. Well, the good people at Hemmings drive the, figure out where the lunch and overnight stops will be, and times themselves at every interval, and overall. This sets the target time that all racers strive to hit. If you drive too fast, you’ll get there too early and lose points. If you get lost, or stuck behind a slow-mover, you may have to make up time, because goal is to hit the target time on the money at each stop, at the end of each day, and overall for the entire event. This particular run was over 1,200 miles running from Riverside CA all the way up to Tacoma WA, following winding, scenic backroads most of the way. The directions are sketchy, the cars are old, human error comes into play, and of course…#*%& happens, right? But get this, last year (Buffalo NY to Halifax NS, some 1,800 miles over 10 days) the winners, Jeff & Eric Fredette only missed the mark by 1m6.83s in a 1933 Ford Truck. Get that: they drove over 1,800 miles in an 85-year-old pickup, and arrived within under one minute and seven seconds of the ideal time! That’s amazing!! Yet, they do it every year.

ABOVE: This year’s route for The Great Race 2019. As you can see, few if any freeways. We caught up with them in Grass Valley CA on Monday, June 24.

Grass Valley CA is a lovely little town, historic, rooted in Gold Rush history as are so many towns in the Mother Lode. On Monday, June 24, Grass Valley was host to 120 participants in The Great Race 2019 for their lunch stop. When the race began on Saturday, June 22 in Riverside CA, each racer left one minute apart. In a Time vs. Distance Endurance Race, if you pass someone, that’s usually not good. It’s not about getting there first or fastest, it’s about driving precisely. And three days in, that’s just about how they rolled into town, about a minute apart. Some got bunched up, while others were spread out, which will cost them in their scores. But there’s still plenty of time left to make it up. Each rolled by cheering crowds, then parked on Mill Street in downtown Grass Valley, which was fitting because of its nostalgic motif. The teams (2 people per car) then grabbed a bite of lunch, then headed out at their appointed time. They had about an hour to get lunch and head back out on the road. Everyone is timed in, and timed out. Timing is critical in this race, so you’d better hope your car starts.

ABOVE: As the cars rolled into downtown Grass Valley on Monday morning, June 24, the crowded cheered. We’re three days into this 9-day event by this point. Here, Robert Brocke & Seth DeSena pilot their 1972 Datsun 1200 through the crowd of onlookers.
BELOW: As they arrived, each car was carefully checked in for time. Time is everything in this event. The all-girl team of Erin Stahl & Marty Smith check in with their ’62 Nova.

ABOVE & BELOW: Mill Street in downtown Grass Valley looked more like a car show than a race. As racers grabbed a quick bite, their cars were ogled by the crowd.

ABOVE & BELOW: A time vs. distance endurance race isn’t as easy as it sounds. Again, precision is what it’s all about. Here you can see the paperwork, note, instructions, planning, and discipline that goes into a race like this. Note the two large clocks on the dash, every car has a similar set. One is the time of day, and the other is a timer.

ABOVE: Living 9 days in your car can be challenging.
BELOW: It’s not all serious, either. Many cars are decked out with humorous touches, like this tribute to The Blues Brothers, a ’74 Plymouth driven by Dennis O’Connell & Stephen Herbert.

ABOVE: Lunch down the pipe, it’s time to hit the road for the next stop at Chico CA. This 1960 Studebaker Hawk driven by Neil “Catfish” Myerscough & Shanna “Banana” Chatraw leaves precisely on schedule, as the cars rolled out one minute apart.

The Hemmings Great Race has been going since 1983, and will continue. Next year the route will take them from San Antonio TX to Greenville SC, a 9-day, 2,300-mile adventure through the green of the South. It all starts on Saturday, June 20, 2020. Tune into Hemmings Motor News magazine for all the latest. And if you’re thinking of participating in a future Great Race, it costs around $6,000 to enter, there are only 120 spots open and everyone who wants to race won’t get in. There is a waiting list, and they say that’s the best way to get into the race, to occupy a spot on the waiting list for a year or two. That way they know you’re serious. And as much fun as this is, it is very serious. See you next year.