The long road to Truckee
There will be music and dancing, and barbecues too in downtown Truckee on Thursday evening. But the main attraction will be cars – almost 100 pre-1959 classics will pull into town having driven more than 3,000 miles from Jacksonville, Fla., in the 22nd annual Great Race.The racers should start arriving by 6 p.m., but spectators are expected to begin lining the streets well in advance to take in the rolling spectacle that is the Great Race.Adding to the excitement of this year’s event is hometown racer Wayne Hoag, a local pastor and Truckee resident who is serving as the navigator in the Number 34 car – a 1941 Cadillac convertible.The Great Race is an annual road rally in which driver/navigator teams compete in pre-1959 automobiles to arrive at a series of checkpoints at specific times. The format puts an emphasis on navigation, driving skill and teamwork as opposed to outright speed. But Hoag said that often the biggest challenge is just keeping the vintage automobiles moving on the road.A good pit crew and a little luck always come in handy in a race like the Great Race, and never more so than during the last few days as the racers descend from the higher elevations in Colorado, down to the deserts of Utah and Nevada and then back into the mountains around Truckee.”These old cars don’t like [the elevation],” Hoag said from the road as racers overnighted Monday in Steamboat Springs, Co. “Ours has just been really sucking for air, and you lose a lot of power in the mountains. So it’s really hard to predict your performance because all the performance charts we have on our cars were done at lower altitudes. So you just have to make do and do what you can.”But while the elevation might play tricks on a vintage car’s performance, Hoag said he much prefers the mountainous stages of the rally.”Great Racing is a lot more fun in mountainous terrain and curvy roads than it is, say, going across Northern Nevada,” he said. “Once we leave Truckee we’ll be back in the mountains again, and going down through the coastal hills to Monterey. So leaving Truckee we’ll be getting back into the terrain that’s fun for Great Racing.”
Interesting terrain or not, the teams have to follow the comprehensive set of driving instructions they are given each morning – what turns, stops and speed changes to make – to the letter. Maps, calculators and odometers are forbidden and teams have only a primitive stopwatch and highly accurate speedometers to guide them.Each day race officials clock the racers’ times at five checkpoints along the way, and every second the teams are off (either fast or slow) compared to the established benchmark counts against them. At each stage and then overall, the team with the fewest seconds counted against them wins.The teams regularly spend 10 or more hours on the road per day, which makes the overnight stops a welcome break. Hoag said towns along the route welcome the racers with huge crowds and patriotic displays.To add to the spirit along the route, race organizers offer towns, including Truckee, the chance to compete for “The Great American City” award, which is voted on by race participants and carries with it a $10,000 prize awarded to the winning city’s public library.Hoag thinks Truckee will have a good chance at winning the award based on the town’s historic setting and enthusiasm for old cars. But mostly he is happy just to be able to stop over in his own town.”I’m just looking forward to bringing the Great Race to Truckee because it’s been such a big part of my life for the last 11 years,” he said. “So it’ll be fun to share it with my hometown.”For more information on the Great Race, or to see updated race results, check out http://www.greatrace.com.
Sidebars:Schedule of events2 p.m. Donner Pass Road (from Bridge Street to Spring Street) closes.4 8:30 p.m. Show ‘n Shine Vintage Car Display (between Truckee Hotel & Bar of America) with 50 vintage cars on display (put on by the Truckee Optimists).4 5 p.m. Entertainment on the west side of the Depot begins including Jo Mama, Neva, Greg Beno.4:45 5:30 p.m. Demonstrations by Inner Rhythms and martial artists under Great Race Finish Line Banner (by downtown Fire Station).5:30 6 p.m. Great Race official festivities begin (under Great Race Finish Line Banner) with the National Guard’s Color Guard, the Boy & Girl Scouts reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Mountain Belles singing the Star Spangled Banner.6 7:30 p.m. Cars arrive entering westbound from I-80. More than 100 vintage automobiles from 19091959s will line the street on display downtown (from Spring Street to Bridge Street).
6:30 7:30 p.m. Entertainment on the west side of Depot continues with Jo Mama and the Truckee Alliance for the Musical Arts performing.6:30 7:30 p.m. Demonstrations under Great Race Finish Line Banner (by downtown Fire Station) including the Truckee River Snow Shovel Drill Team, the Mountain Belles and the TNT Explosion.8 8:30 p.m. Great Race official awards ceremony with Show ‘n Shine awards.9 p.m. Donner Pass Road (Bridge Street to Spring Street) reopens.Parking:Spectator parking will be available at the Regional Park, Rodeo Grounds or anywhere along the general route (from the airport to Holiday Inn Express) of the Truckee Trolley to shuttle people downtown (Truckee Diner) and back.The Truckee Trolley will run extended hours on July 1 to accommodate the Great Race. The last bus will leave downtown at 8:26 p.m. westbound; last bus will leave downtown at 9:05 p.m. eastbound.For more information, call the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce at 587-2757.