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The Great Race coming through Norwich

The world’s premiere old car rally will be passing through Norwich this year, and spectators will have an opportunity to see the cars up close and personal.

Posted: Apr 17, 2018 6:09 PM

When the green flag waves this June, around 120 antique cars from all over the world will be racing from Buffalo, New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada. It’s called the ‘Great Race’. Cars built from 1972 or older will travel over 2300 miles over the course of nine days, but you won’t see these cars ‘speeding’ along any road. Retired Great Race Racer Elliott Reitz explained how the race is timed with checkpoints along the route, and the rules are pretty strict.

"If you’re too early you lose more points than if you’re late. They don’t want you to be early. They don’t want you to be late. They want you to be on time, but its precision driving, and the challenge is the precision driving in an old car."

Driving in an old car comes with a number of problems. If it breaks down, you have to fix it, and finding parts can be difficult. Retired Racer Frank Whitney says many of the cars are open to the elements, and that too comes with challenges.

"We weren’t on the road 5-10 minutes and my wife got hit in the face with a bird. A coupe minutes later I got hit in the face with a grasshopper. A couple minutes later there was a bumble bee in the car and we couldn’t stop."

Elliott Reitz had similar problems.  "And then I looked at the instructions. The instructions were getting wet and there goes a page. There goes another page. All our pages. Here we are no instructions. No navigator. He was worthless to me."

Elliott Reitz says this year racers will be stopping for lunch at the Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich. You’ll get a chance to see these classic cars and maybe even meet some of the racers.

"It’s a comradery. The fun that you have, the people you meet are a lifetime experiences in themselves, and that makes it really worthwhile. I mean you can’t buy that kind of stuff for money."

Each car has a driver and a navigator. The racers are given a set course to travel each day. They’re timed at checkpoints along the route throughout the day and given points for being too slow or too fast. Elliott Reitz explained how the race is more of a time/speed/distance rally. Elliott Reitz says: 

"All the speeds are at or 5 miles per hour below the speed limit. Speeding is not sanctioned what-so-ever. If you got caught speeding, you’re out of the race."

The timing is so precise, the cars are generally around 5 seconds off unless they run into problems.

"The challenge is the precision driving in an old car, because the old cars don’t always cooperate. They don’t always work. You know think they’re old, they break."

Fixing these cars can be pretty costly, but Frank Whitney tells us that’s just the beginning.

"Just to get in the race is several thousand dollars, so that’s kind of expensive, and then once you’re going in the race you have to pay your own gas, your own hotel rooms, most of your food is provided, but in the evenings you usually spend a couple bucks on some evening food, and then you go through tires, and oil, and all that stuff. That’s not provided either, so."

Each stop on the Great Race is free to the public, but if you’re thinking about racing, be prepared to pay.

"I’d say in the race like this year, they’re only going for a week but it will probably cost everybody about $15,000-$20,000 to do it right."

The Great Race is scheduled to start on June 23, 2018 in Buffalo and arrive in Norwich around 12:15 June 24, 2018. 

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