Rev the engines, but don’t go too fast

Great Race of 120 antique cars starts June 18 at Rocky Point, ends June 26 in Fargo, N.D.


Rocky Point Park fondly remembered as an amusement park where rides of all kinds from bumper cars to the flume made for thrills will now make the automobile history books.

Last week Hemmings Motor News announced the Great Race presented by Hagerty Drivers Club will start Jun 18 at the park. 

The selection of the park to start the race was Mayor Frank Picozzi’s suggestion. He said when he met with race organizers several months ago, they planned to the start for Providence. He thought Rocky Point with its scenic vistas of Narragansett Bay far better and after seeing the park, the organizers agreed. 

The Great Race, the world’s premiere old car rally, will bring 120 of the world’s finest antique automobiles to Warwick for the $150,000 event. Cars will start lining up at the park at 8 a.m. with the first car leaving at 10:30 a.m. The finish will be in Fargo, N.D., on June 26.

 “In the 39-year history of the Great Race, the event has made its way east and west and north and south through 46 of the 48 contiguous United States,” event director Jeff Stumb said in a release. “In 2022, the Great Race will finally be able to add the last two states to the list - Rhode Island and North Dakota.”

The 9-day, 2,300-mile adventure will travel to 19 cities in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota.

 “We are excited to start the 2022 Great Race to Warwick, and in the days leading up to the start the participants will travel all over the Rhode Island,” Stumb said. “We have multiple events planned, including a tour of a private car collection in Providence as well as ‘Newport Day’ on Thursday, June 16. We will be able to enjoy that city and its rich car culture, including the Audrain Automobile Museum and the Newport Car Museum.”

Teams and cars from Japan, England, Australia, Canada, and every corner of the United States, will converge in Rhode Island in mid-June with vintage automobiles dating back as far as 1916.

“There are more than 500 people just in our entourage from all around the world,” Stumb said.

The Great Race, which began 39 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 for several hours. It is common for kids to climb in the cars for a first-hand look.

Cars built in 1974 and earlier are eligible, with most entries having been manufactured before World War II. In the 2021 Great Race a 1932 Ford won the event from San Antonio, Texas, to Greenville, S.C. The 2022 winners will again receive $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse.

A 1916 Hudson Pikes Peak Hillclimber, a 1917 American LaFrance and a 1917 Peerless racer are the oldest cars scheduled to be in the 2022 Great Race.

Over the decades, the Great Race has stopped in hundreds of cities big and small, from tiny Austin, Nev., to New York City.

 “When the Great Race pulls into a city it becomes an instant festival,” Stumb said. “Last year we had several overnight stops with more than 10,000 spectators on our way to having 250,000 people see the Great Race during the event.”

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.

The event’s main sponsors are Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty Drivers Club and Coker Tire.

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