Rolla chamber to host Great Race stop after 2020 race postponed due to COVID

The Great Race along with Coker Tire is owned by Legendary Companies. The annual event, which pits vintage cars in a 10-day, cross-country endurance competition of time, speed, and distance, was started in 1983, vehicles are restricted to pre-1972 and usually includes vehicles from the early 1900s. (Kahn Media)

Race organizers announced that Rolla will host a lunch stop for the 2021 Hemmings Motor News Great Race after the 2020 race presented by Hagerty Driver’s Club was re-scheduled for June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Great Race, the world’s premiere old car rally, will bring 120 of the world’s finest antique automobiles to town, with the first car rolling into Benton Square starting at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, June 22. 

According to race organizers, in all, the participants in the event will cover more than 2,300 miles in nine days. 

The start will be in front of the Alamo in San Antonio on June 19. The race will finish on June 27 in Greenville, South Carolina. 

Teams and cars from Japan, England, Germany, Canada and every corner of the United States will participate in their vintage automobiles dating back as far as 1916.

“There are more than 500 people just in our entourage from all around the world taking part in this incredible adventure,” director Jeff Stumb said. 

Along the route, competitors will travel through 10 states – Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The Great Race, which began 38 years ago, is not a speed race but a time, speed and distance rally. 

The vehicles, each with a driver and navigator, are given precise instructions each day that detail every move down to the second. 

They are scored at secret checkpoints along the way and are penalized one second for each second, either early or late. As in golf, the lowest score wins.

Cars start – and hopefully, finish – one minute apart if all goes according to plan. The biggest part of the challenge, other than staying on time and following the instructions, is getting an old car to the finish line each day, organizers say.

Each stop on the Great Race is free to the public, and spectators will be able to visit with the participants and look at the cars for several hours. It is common for kids to climb in the cars for a first-hand look.

Cars built in 1974 and earlier are eligible, with most entries having been manufactured before World War II. 

In the 2019 Great Race, a 1916 Hudson won the event from Riverside, California, to Tacoma, Washington. The 2021 winners will again receive $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse.

A 1916 Hudson Pikes Peak Hillclimber and a 1917 Peerless racer are the oldest cars in the 2021 Great Race this summer.

Over the decades, the Great Race has stopped in hundreds of cities, big and small, from tiny Austin, Nevada, to New York City. 

“When the Great Race pulls into a city, it becomes an instant festival,” Stumb said. “Last year, we had a couple of overnight stops with more than 10,000 spectators on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during the event.”

The event was started in 1983 by Tom McRae, and it takes its name from the 1965 movie, The Great Race, which starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The movie is a comedy based on the real-life 1908 automobile race from New York to Paris. In 2004, Tony Curtis was the guest of the Great Race and rode in his car from the movie, the Leslie Special.

The Great Race gained a huge following from late-night showings on ESPN when the network was just starting out in the early 1980s. The first entrant, Curtis Graf of Irving, Texas, is still a participant today.

The event’s main sponsors are Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty, Coker Tire and Reliable Carriers. 

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