Rookie Testimonial

Gary and Jean Ann Martin

Driver & Navigator, 2007 Rookies

Our first rally was the initial Coker Tire Challenge in 2006 and to say we knew nothing about rallying is an understatement. Attending rally school was like listening to a foreign language, even with veteran Great Racers providing remedial help it was too much for us to comprehend.

We had no idea what was happening or what the rally maneuvers meant for us to do, for example, at the stops, we would sit there for 15 seconds because we didn’t know better. By the end of the weekend, we realized how much we didn’t know but also knew it was something we wanted to do. We like cars, travel and competition, so the Great Race is the perfect sport for us to share.

Our plan was to prepare for the 2007 Great Race. We bought a speedo, stop watch, big kitchen wall clock, and even tried (notice I said tried) to make performance charts, so we thought we were ready. There was no Rookie Mentoring Program at that time, so we had no training or materials to guide us. Before the start, we found other Rookies who had our same anxieties and concerns. With little preparation and even less knowledge, off we went on an adventure of epic proportions.

At the beginning of The Great Race, we knew we needed to calibrate our speedo, but were confused as to why and how. We did the speedo calibration run, guessed at how to adjust, made the changes and never changed again the entire race, since we thought one speedo setting was all that was needed. On the first day we thought we did well, until we got confused on how to get to the finish line. There were other challenging times, such as taking the wrong road and after driving a distance, we determined we needed to turn around. So off we went, speeding to the spot where we had turned off. We saw a girl in a yard and slowed down enough for me to yell, “Have you seen a bunch of old cars drive by?” When she said yes, we sped off and ended up passing seven rally cars to get in position. We found it necessary to ask many, sometimes ridiculous, questions to Veterans who were always willing to give advice and support as the race progressed. And if any of the Rookies gained insight, we shared with all the others. There was much excitement and celebration when the first Rookie got an ACE [a score of 0 seconds on a leg]. Another of our mistakes was getting lost in a maze, after turning down various roads, we found the correct car ahead of us, and with much luck we had a 1 second leg. Along the way, we realized that nothing stops a Great Racer as we went thru torrential downpours, extremely hot weather and even a horrific hail storm. We were totally confused when we encountered our first serious time issue for road construction, but several veterans helped us figure our time delay and we were thrilled with a 5 second on that leg. On day six, we got our first ACE which made us feel like rally pros.

As we say, it is better to be lucky than good, and with that luck, we finished the 2007 Great Race 3rd for the Rookie Class. The special bond among the Rookie Class of 2007 still exists, and we have continued to help and support each other as veterans.

All along the route, we were amazed at the cheering crowds and felt like celebrities. There is a carnival atmosphere when we arrive in at each venue. It certainly was a surprise and thrill to be asked for our autograph. We enjoyed sharing information about our car and the spectacular adventure of The Great Race. It was a wonderful experience meeting so many enthusiastic fans and learning about their local areas of this great country. There was no way we could have even imagined the fun and excitement we had on our first Great Race. Yes, it was tiring and at times stressful, but it was an amazing time that we will always remember.

Obviously, we are hooked on The Great Race, since we schedule our other activities around this.
Our family and friends at home know we will not be available when it is rally time. Some are curious as to how we can do this as a husband & wife team, and our response is that this is the greatest fun we can share. Cooperation and teamwork are required to do well. Knowing each other’s strengths (one of us always remains calm while the other gets excited) gives us an advantage in the competition.

When asked what is the best thing about The Great Race, the answer is always: the people. Our fellow Great Racers are family and our arrival at each event is like a reunion. Our friendships extend beyond Great Racing with frequent calls and visits. We have shared times of happiness and even sorrow with these special people. We started as a team that knew nothing about this sport and now we are proud to be a member of The Great Race family.

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