Motor Mouth Blog


The Great Race: Day 1

Approaching the official starting gate in Jacksonville, Florida.

By Steve Hedke, who is representing ACM with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in The Great Race, going on now through July 2. Follow along on their adventure here

Not only did we have a big crowd at the start, our overnight stop in Tifton, Georgia really filled the Parc Ferme for the entire 2 hours we were there: note the sign on the theater marquee.

The big day has finally arrived: time to be introduced to the crowd by Corky Coker and take the green flag waved by ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits. Jacksonville turned out a great crowd to see us off: we were on display in starting order for about 2 hours. The start includes a color guard, the Star Spangled Banner, a prayer for safety, then each car is flagged off individually.

Getting the green flag from ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits: his drag racing museum is located in Florida.

In just a few blocks from the starting gate, the crowd along the route thins out and it’s time to go to work. First we have to drive to the actual timed leg start, which includes the speedometer calibration and in this case, lunch on our own. The weather was hot and very humid but the skies were clear and the winds calm. Once again the roads were long and straight, and we covered a lot of territory at 50 mph, the race’s maximum speed. Leg one was 2 hours, 21 minutes and 20 seconds long: our error was 2 seconds late. If the speedometer correction was off just a tick, the error would have accrued.

There are always a wide variety of interesting cars in the Great Race. This is the Layzall’s 1970 VW Beetle. I have talked to people who have run Peking to Paris, and they say Great Race is harder due to the precision required.

Often the first day is shorter because of the opening ceremonies, but we still had 6 legs, or timed sections, to complete. Our score was very good today: :02, :01, ACE (zero error), :02, :01 and :01. Those are awesome scores and we were very happy with a 6.9 second day. In races past that could have won the day.

When stopped at the final checkpoint at the end of the day you are given your score, and any ACE stickers you may have one.Our first, hopefully of several! We all put them on the door like ‘kill markers’.

However, in The Great Race it’s not only what you do, but how everybody else does. And the top 20 teams turned in really strong scored indeed: the overall winner had a :02 second *day, and tied with another car at :02. The tie went to the older car. After almost 6 hours of rallying, the top 10 cars were all in low single digits.

Meet John Corey’s ‘Bender’, named after the character in the animated series ‘Futurama’. He named his recently acquired 1954 Studebaker Land Cruiser that because the grilles reminded him of Bender’s mouth. Just to prove it, a stuffed Bender is lashed to the radio antenna. 4 door ’54 sedans are very rare, although you see the coupe versions all the time. This one sports the original 232 overhead valve V8, mated to a 3 speed manual transmission with overdrive. Right behind Bender is a very nice first generation International Scout.

Our very good score was only good enough for 16th overall. To be fair the course was pretty easy today, and it figured that there would be a lot of good scores. There are also 8 more days and the course *will* get harder.

There is no other form of motor sport that I know of where you will see a real Auburn straight-eight Boat Tail Speedster up against a Toyota 2000 GT. Both cars are fitted with headlight and driving lights, but only the Pilot-Ray’s on the Auburn turn with the front wheels. The 2000 GT was brought from Japan by one of the several Japanese teams that have participated for the last 3 years.

We lost some cars today. Friends of ours from California run a ’28 Ford Sedan Delivery, a very rare car indeed. It’s well prepared and has been in several rallies. Well, they cracked a block, *externally.* They lost water, it started to steam, and they could see the water coming out the side of the block: no oil was mixed in the water. So they depressurized the radiator, added some stop-leak, and made it in. But that was it: it’s on the trailer now, and headed home from Georgia to California. It’s an old car, and anything can happen at anytime. You know that going in, yet it’s still emotionally very tough to have to drop out. There is also an E type Jaguar getting its differential replaced in the parking lot at our hotel tonight (and the mosquitoes here are ferocious). They finished about 1 am and made it to the start.

It was a good day for Team America’s Car Museum. The car is strong, our scores are really good and it’s been fun meeting with spectators. We start early tomorrow, it’s midnight now, so it’s time to get to bed and prepare for another day of competition.

Steve, Janet, and Allison Greatrace 45

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