28 June 2012

The Great Race: Day Five brings trials, motivation for the Girls’ Team

Today marked Day Five of the Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty and the official cross back into the United States from Canada.

The morning started out in Ottawa, Canada, with lunch on Lake Ontario in Kingston, and we ended this evening in Watertown, N.Y. And as I type this post, the Hagerty Guys’ Team is in the support trailer parking lot working under spotlights to replace a head gasket on their mighty 1930 Model A. They didn’t completely blow the gasket, but it was leaking and giving them problems today so a quick change of it tonight will hopefully put them back on track for running great tomorrow. As for the International–knock on wood–we have yet to have any major mechanical problems. Kacy and I (the Hagerty Girls’ Team) check her fluids and tire pressure every night and give her a quick rub down with Meguiar’s Quick Detail, but other than a few minor fixes or improvements along the way, she hasn’t need anything. 

From the get-go this morning, Kacy and I were having problems. Not mechanical or vehicle problems–we were just having an “off” day. Fortunately, we were not alone: I talked with five or six other teams who said the same exact thing. Maybe it was just the mid-race funk we were in. I definitely understand why they refer to the Great Race as an “endurance” event–after the first few days, the long driving hours and minimal sleeping hours definitely start to wear on you and make it difficult to keep your head clear and completely “in the game.”

We left the hotel and completed our speedometer calibrations on time, but when it came to getting off the official starting position, we ended up being one minute late. Now, you may not think that a minute is too bad, but in the world of timed-distance racing losing a minute is like losing an hour. We passed our first checkpoint before we were able to make up much time, so we ended up coming in at 1:02 (one minute, two seconds) past our mark. The second checkpoint was much better–we were only 0:06 seconds off our mark, which was likely partly attributed to “hacking” off of the car in front of us–but our third and fourth points were off by about 20 and 30 seconds.

Hacking is a form of legal cheating in the race, and it’s something Kacy and I did a lot of today. It is basically using either the racer in front of or behind you to measure your distance/time. However, as you might imagine, if the person you are hacking off of is wrong in their timing and location, then it will throw the “hacker” off as well. It’s a good way of quickly gauging against other racers, and it’s usually best done when positioned between two veteran racers, especially for rookies like Kacy and me.

The roads traveled today were fairly uncomplicated and definitely had fewer turns and bumps than the other day’s course, but today included a lot more maneuvers. We did multiple speed changes, turns and pauses, and had to stay extremely focused to ensure we didn’t miss the next direction. Fortunately, we only made one minor error while following the route, but that was easily fixed with a quick turnaround and increased speed to gain back our position. There were several sharp turns and winding roads, though, and I am very glad we were able to tighten up the gear box on the International last night to get rid of the majority of the “play” in the steering wheel.

The route took us past some beautiful farm country today, and the International and I were feeling right at home with it all. It’s been incredible to see how many people come out of their homes and sit in their yards to watch as all of the cars go by and wave to us. It’s like a never-ending parade–just with a lot of precise directions to it!

I’d like to give a special shout-out to The Great Race team, which worked exceptionally hard with Border Patrol and National Security to ensure an easy transition across the border, and that hard work definitely showed today as we passed back into the States with more ease than I’ve ever experienced.

After hitting U.S. soil, we made a welcome pit stop at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, N.Y. What a beautiful place–it was great to see the variety of wooden boats, especially considering Hagerty’s deep connection to classic boats.

The evening finished out with a large gathering at the Watertown Fairgrounds, where numerous other classic car owners brought their beauties to celebrate everything we love about classic automobiles.

At the end of the day, Kacy and I came in at about 2:02 off our mark while the Guys’ Team came in at 1:52. That put us in 71st place and the Guys at 68th place out of 81 for today’s standings. John Hollansworth is making us proud with his 33rd place finish for the day at 18:09 off his mark in the 1917 Peerless “Green Dragon.”

The guys may have barely beat us today, but tomorrow is a new day and Kacy and I are going to own it!

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