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The 2019 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty will start in Riverside, Calif., on Saturday, June 22, and finish is Tacoma, Wash., on Sunday, June 30, race organizers have announced.
This marks the first time the Great Race, the world’s premiere old car rally, will start and finish on the West Coast. The 9-day, 2,300-mile adventure will bring 120 of the world’s finest antique automobiles to 18 cities in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. More than $150,000 will be awarded to top finishers in multiple divisions.
“We are excited to start the 2019 Great Race in Riverside,” director Jeff Stumb said. “Especially with Riverside’s great connection and long history of racing at the old Riverside Raceway.” It will be the first time the event has been to Riverside since a 2001 overnight stop.
“We are also pleased to be working with our friends at LeMay – America’s Car Museum to host the finish of the 2019 Great Race. We have started in Tacoma in 1996 and 1998 and we finished there in 2005, but this will be the first time we have had the honor of holding the race in conjunction with America’s Car Museum.”
Teams and cars from Japan, England, Australia, Canada and every corner of the United States will converge in Riverside in mid-June with vintage automobiles dating back as far as 1916.
“There are more than 450 people just in our entourage from all around the world,” Stumb said. “And along the route they will see amazing sites, including Lake Tahoe, Redwood National Park, Northern California’s coastline, Crater Lake, Mount Hood and Mount Rainer.”
Overnight cities along the 2019 route are scheduled to include Lancaster, Calif.; Gardnerville, Nev.; Chico, Calif.; Eureka, Calif.; Grants Pass, Ore.; Bend, Ore.; Vancouver, Wash.; and Olympia, Wash. Lunch cities are scheduled to include Victorville, Calif.; Bishop, Calif.; Grass Valley, Calif.; Ukiah, Calif.; Brookings, Ore.; Crater Lake, Ore.; Hood River, Ore.; and Longview, Wash.
The Great Race, which began 36 years ago, is not a speed race, but a time/speed/distance rally. The vehicles, each with a driver and navigator, are given precise instructions each day that detail every move down to the second. They are scored at secret check points along the way and are penalized one second for each second either early or late. As in golf, the lowest score wins.
Cars start – and hopefully finish – one minute apart if all goes according to plan. The biggest part of the challenge other than staying on time and following the instructions is getting an old car to the finish line each day, organizers say.
Each stop on the Great Race is free to the public and spectators will be able to visit with the participants and to look at the cars for several hours. It is common for kids to climb in the cars for a first-hand look.
Cars built in 1974 and earlier are eligible, with most entries having been manufactured before World War II. In the 2017 Great Race a 1932 Ford won the event from Florida to northern Michigan. The 2019 winners will again receive $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse.
A 1916 Hudson Pikes Peak Hillclimber, a 1916 Chevrolet Phaeton, a 1917 Peerless Racer and a chain-driven 1918 American LaFrance Speedster are the oldest cars scheduled to be in the 2018 Great Race from Buffalo, N.Y., to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Over the decades, the Great Race has stopped in hundreds of cities big and small, from tiny Austin, Nev., to New York City.
“When the Great Race pulls into a city it becomes an instant festival,” Stumb said. “Last year we had five overnight stops with more than 10,000 spectators on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during the event.”
The event was started in 1983 by Tom McRae and it takes its name from the 1965 movie, The Great Race, which starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The movie is a comedy based on the real life 1908 automobile race from New York to Paris. In 2004, Tony Curtis was the guest of the Great Race and rode in his car from the movie, the Leslie Special.
The Great Race gained a huge following from late night showings on ESPN when the network was just starting out in the early 1980s. The first entrant, Curtis Graf of Irving, Texas, is still a participant today.
The event’s main sponsors are Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty, Coker Tire and Reliable Carriers.