2 July 2012

The Great Race, Grand Finish: Nine-day classic rally was quite a ride

On Sunday we rolled into Dearborn, Mich., for the final leg of the 2012 Great Race. And let me tell you, what a ride this has been. Nine days, 2,300 miles, 19 official stop cities, dozens of hot dogs and potato chips for meals, countless friendships, numerous gallons (and liters) of gasoline, more than 90 classic cars tested to their limits on great scenic roads, and many spectators cheering us on along the way. 

I think my favorite part about this entire experience is overall spirit of the event. It is centered on driving classic cars and there is an incentive that gives an advantage depending on how old your car is. In simple terms the older the car the better your score is factored meaning if a car from 1969 and 1929 receive the exact same raw score the 1929 will receive a better score with its age factor. I am all about events that encourage people to drive old cars. And when I say drive, I mean drive! These cars are tested at their limits and when they break the owners do everything they can to put them back together and get them on the road. 

I am pretty proud of both Hagerty teams’ results. We had a friendly rivalry going on throughout the week for the “Boys vs. Girls” teams and other teams kept very close tabs on who beat who each day.  The Boys’ Team finished 10 places ahead of the Girls’ Team based on the overall score, but I think we both have highlights to be proud of — the girls earned two ACE awards on the final day.  (An ACE is when you receive a perfect score of “zero” during a timed segment.) And us boys were the top finishing rookie team on Stage 3 and also received an ACE award later in the week. 

There certainly were frustrating moments and tense words between my navigator and me during a few of those moments. During the route there is little time to second guess your actions and in the frantic moments it is very easy to make silly mistakes. Trust me: This happened to us multiple times. I would love to go back and redo the route knowing how to avoid the mistakes we made throughout the week; I’m pretty confident we could finish with a score in half the time. This is why rookies are rookies —the learning curve is steep and every accomplishment is a huge reward. 

I have to give a shout out to the race in their efforts to help out the rookies. Each rookie is assigned a mentor team and that was very helpful. Mine even made the effort to visit us in Traverse City a few weeks before the race to walk us through how to calculate the speed changes during the route. In addition to the rookies paying special attention to us most the expert teams are very willing to share their times with us so we know how we are comparing to the other teams.  I am not sure if teams in the same class so willingly share their times throughout the day.

Would I do this again? Absolutely — I’ve got more ACE awards and better times to chase! I think all classic car enthusiasts should add The Great Race to their bucket list. 

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