By Steve Hedke, who will be representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race
As I write this it is 2 weeks before the race start, and almost everything is ready to go. Preparation is, of course, critical: It’s not the invasion of Normandy, but the philosophy is similar. With the time and investment the race requires, not to mention the prize money and trophies available, it’s smart to make sure you have what you need, or may need, well before the race starts.
Paperwork: There are forms to fill out, lots of them. Releases, declaration of insurance (a minimum amount of liability is required), entry forms, crew information, support crews, hotel reservations, etc. These, along with the fees, are required six months or more before the race starts. Some documents like your list of hotel reservations are vital to keep with you: the race does not make these arrangements, but give you a list of options. If you break down you are required to cancel your reservations or you will be billed for them. You go nowhere without the dotted I’s and crossed T’s taken care of.
Car: The cars are old and things break, and even new parts can be an issue. Getting the car prepped well before the race is not only prudent, it’s required if you want to get some test miles on it. Sure, like most car guys I am guilty of midnight thrashes and paint drying at the car show. But for the Great Race a thorough shake down is a really good idea, because not finishing is the worst thing possible. Plus you’ll need time to fill in your performance charts. Working all night in the parking lot during the race is dramatic and happens just about every night, but it is not fun, especially rallying the next day with little or no sleep.
I only bring the spare parts I can replace at roadside, such as a fan belt or a trigger for the Petronix ignition. Anything I can’t fix quickly puts me out of the competition for the day, and the sweep truck will be along soon. Once I get back in I have some time to make proper repairs. Same with tools: I bring just enough hand tools for minor repair jobs. The Great Race also has a list of required items, including a fire extinguisher within easy reach, tow ropes, water, flashlights, and other safety related items. These will all be checked for at tech inspection. Then I add in things that may be hard to find, like the Buss style glass fuses that used to be commonplace.
Personal: This list varies with age, if you get my drift. 40 year olds have different ‘requirements’ than those of us in our sixties. For example, carrying a second set of glasses or contacts, just in case you lose one. If you are on prescriptions or supplements, you don’t want to be experimenting with a new regimen on the race: medications can really affect your memory and concentration. And if you do find that you need something, the only time to find a pharmacy or urgent care facility is after the day’s racing is over. I once had a bee fly up the leg of my shorts and sting me while on a timed section. The navigator couldn’t help either, since she is busy keeping us on course and on time. The bee sting be damned, suck it up.
Another issue should be mentioned. While the Rallymaster provides for rest and gas stops, they might not be right where you need them. As we age some ‘things’ become harder to control than they used to be. Some racers have used ‘truck driver solutions’ which can be found at medical supply stores. If you require such equipment its best to have your preferred method of assistance ready to go before you get to the start. More racers are prepared in ‘that way’ than you might think.
Clothing: There was a time when trophies for ‘Best Costume’ were a regular part of the show, but over time the same people always won and it was dropped. The tradition continues however, with some folks dressing up in period clothing, and most wearing ‘Team Gear’ especially made for them. Most towns have local businesses that provide team embroidery, and almost all of the racers will have specialized shirts, jackets, and hats. The coordinated ‘team gear’ is also carried over to support crews. And since we rally in both hot weather as well as rain, it includes everything from t-shirts to jackets. If you have an official sponsor for your car, your clothing will be advertising, in much the same way as in any motorsport. It makes for a colorful crowd!
Laundry is an issue too. If you have a support team, they can get your dirty clothes in to the machines at the hotel before you even arrive. For us, we simply will have no time for laundry, and no support crew, so we need bags and suitcases that will fit in the trunk and carry all the clothes we will need for 10 days or so. Some of that can also go in the back seat, which makes driving a larger car a real help.
You also have to have room in the car for ‘gifts’. Most of the stops we make will have a reception committee from that town, presenting us with goodie bags full of local ‘swag’. We’ve received some pretty nice gifts over the years, including bottles of wine, embroidered jackets, even afghan blankets! You need to have a place reserved to put them all.
Division of Tasks: On our team, I take care of the car and equipment, which includes the navigator’s tools. My wife, as navigator, controls the clock: when we go to bed, when we get up, when we pick up instructions, what clothes we wear for that day. The driver is important but not in charge; someone has to control the whole operation, and in our case that’s the navigator. I do what I’m told: for us it works best that way.
No one is ever completely prepared, however. Unseen issues and innovation are part of the ‘game’, and each day brings unique stories for after dinner each night. It’s all part of the challenge!