Our days leading up to the start of the 2019 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty are always busy–paperwork, registration, tech inspection and general preparation for 9 days on the road. It can be stressful, but it’s all worth it when the green flag drops on Saturday morning. We had a beautiful setting for this year’s starting line ceremony, as the city of Riverside blocked off Mission Inn Avenue to give us plenty of room for 120 vehicles and thousands of people. From there, we had a straight shot to Victorville, California, as the California Route 66 Museum hosted a lunch stop for us. After a quick break, we jumped back on the road–this time, the racers would be on the clock for the first time in the scored competition. The condition of the roads and the heat played a challenging factor in the afternoon route. The course sent racers on long straight stretches, as well as short bursts through neighborhoods, offering a different challenge with every line of course instructions. Finally, we made our way into Lancaster, California for the evening stop. The town has a nicely revitalized area they call The BLVD, which has lots of great restaurants and a cool atmosphere. The sun was just beginning to set when the scores were tabulated and a winner was announced. Stage 1 winners were Howard and Doug Sharp in the 1916 Hudson Pike Peak Hillclimber.
For some racers, just getting to the green flag was quite an accomplishment. The husband and wife team of Richard and Noel Schneider had some catastrophic issues with their 1930 Riley, so they bought a car that was listed on Hemmings.com and it was delivered to our host hotel on Friday evening. The 1972 Mercedes was a natural replacement for the Riley, as the Schneider’s have previously rallied in a Mercedes of a similar era. Then, Ron Morgenstern struggled with fuel and spark delivery issues all day with his 427-equipped 1966 Corvette convertible. After a group effort, the car was back on the road. The WTF boys are campaigning a new car for 2019…it’s a 1913 Cadillac, and a charging system gremlin kept it from running properly most of the day on Friday. Other problems developed during Saturday’s rally, but they did make it to the evening stop in Lancaster, California. While there were plenty of struggles leading up to the green flag, the most dramatic was Ed Habetz and Tom Reagan in their Model A Speedster. The Flathead four-cylinder engine broke the crankshaft on the Hagerty Trophy Run. While this would normally be a race-ending breakage, the Louisiana based team sourced a backup engine from another racer, and proceeded to changed it in the hotel parking garage. With more than 20 Great Racers working (or supervising), the crew fired up the fresh engine at 2:30am and took the green flag just a few hours later. These are just a few of the stories of the wrenching that goes on during the Great Race, and you can bet there will be more each and every night until we reach Tacoma, Washington. For now, let’s take a look at some of the highlights from today’s route. Follow along and cheer on your favorite racer in the comments below!