The Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty has visited the West Coast numerous times in its 36-year history, but the event has never started and finished there. That changes next year, when the 2019 Great Race begins in Riverside, California on Saturday, June 22, and ends in Tacoma, Washington, nine days and 2,300 miles later.
The Southern California starting point served as an overnight stop for the Great Race in 2001, and director Jeff Stumb was quick to point out the city’s long history of motorsports at Riverside International Raceway, which locked its gates in 1989 and was later replaced by a shopping mall and housing development. LeMay – America’s Car Museum will host the finish of the 2019 event, marking the first time that the institution has served as a point in the rally. Previous stops in Tacoma (1996 and 1998) took place before the June 2012 opening of LeMay – America’s Car Museum.
A total of 120 teams are already registered for the 2019 event, representing entrants from as far away as Australia and Japan. Though specific cities have yet to be named, stops are planned in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, and anticipated sights en route are expected to include Lake Tahoe, Redwood National Park, Northern California’s coastline, Carter Lake, Mount Hood and Mount Rainier. Teams compete for over $150,000 in prize money, distributed to top finishers in five divisions.
Named for the 1965 feature film comedy starring Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk and Tony Curtis (who appeared as a special guest in the 2004 Great Race), the event has grown exponentially in popularity since its founding by Tom McRae in 1983. Officially a time/speed/distance rally open to any automobile built in 1974 or earlier, teams consisting of a driver and navigator are given precise route instructions – down to the second – each day. Arriving at a check point too early or too late results in a penalty, and the goal is to finish the event with as few penalties (and hence, the lowest score) as possible.
The enduring appeal of the event is best illustrated by competitor Curtis Graf of Irving, Texas, who was the original entrant of the inaugural 1983 Great Race and still participates today. Though the starting and ending points have just been announced, the 2019 Great Race is already sold out, and those interested in participating are encouraged to add their names to the waiting list, which further increases the chance of being selected for the 2020 Great Race.
For those wishing to see this year’s spectacle in person, the 2018 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty begins on Saturday, June 23, at the Pierce-Arrow Transportation Museum in Buffalo New York, and ends at the Waterfront Warehouse in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Sunday, July 1. Scheduled stops in between include an overnight in Fairport, NY on June 23; lunch at the Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich, NY on June 24; a pit stop at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, NY on June 24; an overnight at River Street in Troy, NY on June 24; lunch at Hemmings Motor News in Bennington, VT on June 25; an overnight at Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, VT on June 25; lunch at the Mt. Washington Auto Road in Mt. Washington, NH on June 26; an overnight at Water Street in Downtown Gardiner, ME, on June 26; lunch at the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Owls Head, ME, on June 27; an overnight at the Front Street Waterfront in Bangor, ME, on June 27; lunch at the Seal Cove Auto Museum in Seal Cove, ME, on June 28; an overnight at the Town Pier in Bar Harbor, ME, on June 28; lunch at Rothesay Common in Rothesay, NB on June 29; an overnight at Riverfront Park in Moncton, NB, on June 29; lunch at the Library and Farmers Market in Truro, NS on June 30; and an overnight at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth, NS on June 30.