The 2018 Great Race was never going to be boring, but there was more packed into this year’s rally than most. Brett Lirones, my navigator, and I went into this race as raw rookies, knowing that we had some learning to do right from the get-go. The start brought a pleasant surprise—we were right in line with the other rookie teams, even with our 1917 Peerless being the oldest car in the rookie class (by a sizable margin).
In the back of our minds each day was the fact that once we started driving, there was really no stopping. If the weather was terrible, we drove. If one of us began annoying the other, we drove. If our scores weren’t great, we drove.
We carried the “press-on-regardless” attitude right up until we couldn’t. Stage 6 started with challenging weather, and the demands of the race were catching up with us. We were getting better each day, but the wear and tear of rallying an open car for six days made driving away from the hotel in a cool rain that much more difficult for our tired bodies and minds.
Following three hours of rallying and with the lunch checkpoint on the horizon, the day turned sour. The passenger rear axle sheared and brought the Green Dragon, and our race, to a halt. Waiting in that rain made me want a roof over my head more than any other time I’ve spent in an open car. We knew the Peerless was likely done, but hope creeped into our minds—hope that we could repair and be back in the race to finish up days seven through nine.
That hope was dashed as soon as we returned to the trailer to investigate further. Experienced eyes and hands checked, and knowledgeable minds debated, but all parties arrived at the same conclusion: we were done.
Make no mistake, we had a great time. Sure, we went there with the goal of finishing—I even cited “to finish is to win” previously—and I stand by it now more than ever. Our fellow Great Race competitors all wanted to know what happened and no fewer than a dozen offered anything we needed to help get back on the road. Sadly, none of those offering assistance happened to have a Peerless axle hanging in a shop nearby. Odd.
Even without the finishing medal, an event like this is just as much about the people and camaraderie. Share a wild adventure with 300 new friends and you will surely have a few stories to tell. I know there was surely never a boring moment in the Green Dragon, and it was an experience we will be talking about for years.
If you enjoy a challenge, get out and do some rallying. You will probably end up addicted. Consider yourself warned.