As any Great Racer knows, it takes a combination of determination, ingenuity, precision, some luck, and a “can do” attitude to win the event. In that respect, not much has changed in the last 106 years since the first “Great Race”. Yes, there are a few advantages today with paved roads, route signs, service stations, and FedEx for those urgently needed parts. However, it still remains the people that make the difference in the long run. That gritty determination that overcomes any obstacle, and stays focused on the objective.
In 1908, the finish line was Paris some 22,000 miles from the Times Square start. That’s about ten times the distance racers will be covering this round, in just nine days compared to the 169 days the first Great Race took in 1908. There will be the thrill of victory for a few, and the agony of defeat for many. However, just to finish is satisfaction enough for those in century old vehicles like the 1916 Studebaker owned by Dennis Barfield.
Many of you know the historic legacy of the original 1908 Great Race. That epic adventure from New York to Paris was at a time many considered “the motor car, after a woman, the most fragile and capricious thing on earth”. Times have certainly changed for a lot of things, but those frail parts will still haunt some of the cars in the days ahead.
Jack Crabtree and I will be traveling with you this run in his 1929 Model A Speedster. The very same “A” that started at Times Square NYC in April, and finished the globe circling journey at the Eiffel Tower, Paris in July 2011. We will be traveling ahead of the Racers, just as the “Pilot Car” did in the early 1900’s. In those days, the “Pilot” would sprinkle confetti on the trail to mark the proper turns to take. While confetti is not a factor in 2014, our job will now be to let the folks at the day’s finish line know what is about to happen when the teams roll into town later that afternoon.
In New Bern, NC (one of our overnight cities), I will also be doing a special program for the public about the first “Great Race”. It will be in the words of George Schuster who not only drove the Buffalo built Thomas Flyer, but went on to beat Germany, Italy and France to claim victory for the United States in the first global automotive competition. It will give the audience a much a better idea of where it all began, and just how far we have come.
It’s a “Bucket List” program for those who have never seen it! For those who have, there are always new stories in the mix. Check out the AACA 75th Anniversary Review, where Corky superbly portrayed Teddy Roosevelt in the presentation.
We look forward to being a part of this great test of not only the machines, but more importantly the guys and gals who will make it all happen.
Great-Grandson of George Schuster
Driver and Winner of the 1908 Great Race – New York to Paris