The Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty will travel historic Route 66 for its 2015 event, organizers have announced. The Great Race, the worlds premiere old car rally, will start in Kirkwood, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis and finish at the Santa Monica Pier in California.
With a purse of $150,000, the event will feature 100 of the worlds finest vehicles from 1915 through 1972. Along the 2,400-mile route, competitors will travel parts of The Mother Road in all eight states it originally ran through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
The Great Race, which began 31 years ago, is not a speed race, but a time/speed/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 check points 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 to look at the cars. It is common for kids to climb in the cars for a first-hand look.
Cars built prior to 1972 are eligible, with most entries having been manufactured before World War II. In the 2014 Great Race from Maine to Florida, a 1915 Hudson racer, a 1916 Hudson Hillclimber and a 1917 Peerless were the three oldest vehicles. All of those vehicles are expected back in 2015.
Last years winners, Barry and Irene Jason of Keller, Texas, drove a 1966 Mustang and won $50,000. It was the first time a post-war automobile won the Great Race.
The 2015 winners will again receive $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse.
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, race director Jeff Stumb said. Last year we had three overnight stops with more than 10,000 spectators on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during the event.
The overnight stops, in order, are Springfield, Missouri; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Amarillo, Texas; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Gallup, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; Lake Havasu, Arizona; and Ontario, California; before finishing in Santa Monica.
Lunch stops, in order, are Rolla, Missouri; Claremore, Oklahoma; Elk City, Oklahoma; Tucumcari, New Mexico; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Holbrook, Arizona; Kingman, Arizona; Twentynine Palms, California; and City of Industry, California.
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 and will be racing a 1916 Packard again this year.
The events main sponsors are Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty, Coker Tire, Reliable Carriers and Best Western.