Imagine driving from Maine to Florida. Now, imagine making the trip in a car that was made before sliced bread was invented.
Beginning in 1981, the Great Race is a nine-day automotive event that stretches more than 2,000 miles across the entire length of the East Coast. The race recently took a pit stop at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant for a much needed break and the classic and antique racers were on full display.
Although speed is an important factor, the race isn't one mad dash from start to finish. Each car, consisting of a driver and navigator, is given a very exact set of instructions, sometimes consisting of more than 30 pages per day, that detail the course turn by turn. The instructions are highly specific, listing the exact speeds, number of miles, and landmarks which the racers should follow. The ultimate goal is to match the exact time that the trip should take to complete, a time that is kept secret until the end of the race.
“The whole point of this event is not who gets there first,” said Hagerty team driver Jonathan Klinger, who manned the 1917 Peerless Speedster nicknamed “The Green Dragon.” “It's called a time, speed, distance and endurance rally. … It's all about precision, timing and navigation. It's not like we're running 90 mph out there.”
Teams are unaware of the day's course until 30 minutes before the race day begins, and even then, the day's instructions do not list street names or highway numbers.
“All of this seems simple, but what you're trying to do is match a perfect time that you have no idea what it is, and if you follow everything perfectly, you'll match that time,” said Klinger.
While this might sound like a grueling venture, the $50,000 grand prize is enough to keep racers coming back year after year. The Great Race's overall winners for 2014 were three-time returning champions Barry and Irene Jason in their 1966 Ford Mustang.
Team Hagerty's other entry, led by driver Tabetha Hammer and navigator Samantha Bonter, is a newly restored early production Ford Mustang that dates back to the Mustang's first year in 1964. The vehicle was restored by about 100 Hagerty employees over the winter and this is the car's first race. Hagerty is a company specializing in insurance for antique and classic vehicles.
Patriots Point also hosted local antique and classic car enthusiasts who displayed vehicles worthy of any showroom floor. For more information on The Great Race and to see a complete list of this year's contestants, visit www.greatrace.com.
Dustin Waters is one of our staff reporters and the staff copy editor. Follow Dustin on Twitter @MNreports for more news updates.