John Classen has been Great Race Director of Competition since 1990. He got his start in Road Rallying in the Sports Car Club of America rally program, in which he won several National Championships in the 1970s and ’80s. For the inaugural Great Race in 1983, founder Tom McRae asked local SCCA regions to provide a route through their territory. The southern California region picked Classen to write the route from the Official Start at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park to the Arizona border.
The next 5 years, Classen was a Great Race competitor, winning the Grand Championship one year and finishing second another. He also navigated for Curtis Graf for several of those years. Graf and Classen are the only two persons who have participated in every Great Race.
In 1989, Tom McRae asked Classen to assist with Race operations, and the next year hired him to be Director of Competition, a position he has held ever since. Classen has written every Great Race from 1990 through 2015, and with his wife Rachel Simon driving, he has run lead car on each of those events. And even as this is being written, he is returning home to California, having just completed his first Course Run for Great Race 2016 from San Rafael, California, to Moline, Illinois. “Watch out for the tunnels,” he warns.