Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day One of the Great Race: Not Half Bad for Newbies.

Today was the first day of formal competition at the great race and I can say that it went off without a hitch.

The day started off with breakfast at 7:00 and we were told to head over to Honest Charley Speed Shop at 8:00 to check on the car.  They only had a few more things to do to so we waited around while they got the car back in running order.  They put the bearings and spline back on and while they were at it, they noticed that our transmission was a little rough to shift (it always has been) so they fixed that too!  Dave, Pat and Pat's personal mechanic helped out a lot since Pat and Pat are our mentors for the race.  He has a seemingly endless knowledge of cars.  Pat and Pat described him as "the best mechanic alive" and I think I agree with them.  He certainly knows what he's doing.  Gregg Cunningham of Honest Charley Speed Shop also lent us his Timewise rallying speedometer so we owe him a big thanks as well.

Anyways, I drove the car off the lift and out of the garage straight into the starting lineup for the opening ceremonies (we were already 40 minutes late by that point).   My 30 foot test drive went fine, except that the speedometer was not working at all.  I pulled the car into position and we quickly found someone who had a similar speedometer who could troubleshoot our problem.  We figured we'd just disconnect and reconnect the cables to the battery to start.  I gave it another quick drive around the block and it thankfully it worked!

Now that our car was FINALLY in perfect mechanical working order.  I could focus on the festivities and social aspect of the Great Race.  The hour and a half or so before the start of the race was almost a quasi car show.  All the cars were lined up outside Coker Tire on a public street so the public could get a closer look at  the other cars.  The second I stepped out of the driver's seat, I was practically assaulted with questions and comments by multiple people about the car:

"Is that a '65 or '66?"
"Is this your car? Who is the navigator?"
"Is it original?"
"When did you buy it?"
"Does it have a 427?"
"Can I see the engine?"
"Do you have a support crew?"
"Is this your first rally?"
My personal favorites were: "Why is there a Canadian license plate on the front?" Or "Where are you from in Canada?" 

I was more than happy to answer all the questions and talk to anyone who asked about the car.  I love getting to talk about the car with people and it seems like nobody ever asks in Pennsylvania.  It took me almost another thirty minutes to move four feet away from the car to get a chance to see the other rally vehicles.  By the time Dad and I made it towards the first few cars, Gregg Cunningham came up to us with a cameraman and wanted a quick interview about the car.  There are a few cameramen here filming the entire race.  Coker Tire and Hemmings hope to make a few TV episodes about it we all had to sign our lives away yesterday to be on television.  The camera guys heard the story about the car and liked it so much that they asked for a personal interview.  We fought back through the crowd to get back to the car and I talked for a few minutes about the last few days and getting the car fixed (if you've read my previous posts, you'll have an idea of what I talked about).  Shortly thereafter, it was time to start the rally and we fired up the car.  We filed to the front of the line of cars and Corky Coker introduced us to the crowd and talked briefly about how the car broke down and some more info about us and the car.  He shook our hands, the green flag waved, and we were off!

Well, not really.  From there we went right into our speedometer calibration run.  In order to make sure that the cars' speedometers are set for the right speed, cars are directed onto the highway at 50 miles an hour and given a series of checkpoints to look for with corresponding times to make sure that an indicated 50mph would actually allow us to travel 50 miles in an hour and so on.  We noticed that our speedo was indicating that we were driving a little slower than we actually were (an indicated 45-46mph was roughly 50 miles an hour).  After we were done, we got some gas and filed into our starting line with all of the other great racers.  We were behind Bryan Dickson and Joe Correia in a 1928 Ford Model A Speedster and ahead of Gary and Jean-Ann Martin in a 1938 Ford Coupe.  In a rally, each team is given a specific time of day in minutes to start.  Our start time was 11:22, since were were the 27th car to leave and the first car was to leave at 10:55. It sounds complicated but all it takes is an accurate clock.  Gary and Jean-Ann gave us a few words of advice before we pulled away and then we were on our own until lunch.

Our morning leg went really well, we kept on track and didn't see much of Bryan and Joe or Gary or Jean-Ann, which meant that we were probably close to a minute in between the both of them.  We'd occasionally see them on a long stretch of road which was good because it told us that we were probably heading in the right direction.  We saw some beautiful East Tennessee countryside and stopped in Athens, TN for a quick lunch break and the city had closed off the streets so everyone could get a good look at the cars while we ate.  There was another decent sized crowd there to welcome us in.  We also got two little goodie bags from the town!  We were then off to the afternoon portion of the rally which was considerably longer and more challenging than the last portion.  We crossed over the Appalachian Mountains and our directions threw us a variety of speed changes which were quite tough to keep on top of with either going straight uphill or straight downhill.

Our dinner was at the Wheels Through Time museum, a huge museum which consisted of mostly motorcycles and some classic American cars.  We were handed our scores as we parked the car.  Our score was 1:21.34.  That's calculated from being 21 seconds late on the first leg, 11 seconds late on the second, 34 (ouch) seconds on the third, and 17 seconds fast on the final leg.  Then the score is multiplied by our car's age factor (which is 9.80).  As far as I can tell, that's not too bad for two guys who have never rallied before.  We're 3rd out of 8 for the rookies and 35 (I think) out of 59 for the entire rally.

Here are some pictures from today:
The car at our lunch stop in Athens, TN,

Jim Menneto and his navigator in their 1932 Ford Speedster, also known as the "Hemmings Speedster".  It rained a little on our way to dinner and on the way back to the hotel, but these guys were still moving just as fast as we were on the highway.

Overall, today was a blast.  I had a lot of fun.  I really enjoyed seeing the countrysides, and seeing the amount of interested that the Great Race got in Chattanooga, Athens, and Maggie Valley.  I think Dad and I are getting the hang of rallying and we'll have to see how tomorrow goes.


  1. What a great adventure!!!
    Greg, I've been following since your dad told me about your blog... good luck with the rest of your race.
    Looks like a lot of fun.


  2. Thanks a lot, Curt. It's been a blast so far!