It’s not about how fast you go. It’s about how you run the race.
In the Great Race, this is no cliché. Three McPherson College students and a staff member are entering a red-and-white 1957 Ford Fairlane in the annual event. For them, winning really will depend on how they race.
Tony DiValentin, junior, Fort Myers, Fla., will be one of two drivers behind the wheel of the student-restored Fairlane.
“It runs strong,” DiValentin said. “It’s not the fastest, but the race isn’t about being the fastest. It’s great for something long-distance.”
Since 1983, the Great Race has attracted collector car owners and enthusiasts in a competition that’s based on precision rather than speed. Competitors are scored based on how close they come to a specific time at random checkpoints along the course. It’s a test of endurance, mechanical skill, mental math and accurate driving and navigation. And, of course, it’s a great excuse to see beautiful collector cars that still take on the rigors of the road.
This year, the course is themed “Rally Down the Mississippi” as it will extend 2,100 miles from St. Paul, Minn., to Mobile, Ala. – loosely following the course of the Mississippi River. The Fairlane will cross through 10 states during the nine days of the race from June 22-30, 2013.
DiValentin will take turns driving with Brian Martin, director of automotive restoration development. The passenger side will seat either Nik Montagna, sophomore, Narberth, Pa., or Joel Stocksdale, junior, Richmond, Ind.
As navigators, Montagna and Stocksdale have a task just as crucial as those behind the wheel. It’s their job to pick up the daily driving directions, which include the specific amount of time allowed for each section, and direct the driver through the route. The navigators are also carefully calculating and recalculating how fast they need to be going to hit the target time.
At each stop, the four will visit with spectators and fellow racers about McPherson College – the only one to offer a four-year degree in automotive restoration.
“I’m excited to do some traveling and see the country,” Stocksdale said. “And I’m excited to see the cars and meet the people who drive them and own them.”
Before racing, however, they’ll be breaking it in with a 700-mile drive to the starting line – breaking it in with a trip about a third of the Great Race itself. They’ll be leaving at 8 a.m. Monday, June 17 at the Heaston Gazebo in the middle of the McPherson College campus. The public is invited to enjoy refreshments and help send the group off on their racing adventure.
It won’t be the most comfortable of adventures, to be sure. In the June heat, they’ll be driving a car with no air conditioning and only an AM radio. The Fairlane offers some compensating benefits, however.
“It’s super comfy on the inside,” DiValentin said. “It’s like riding around on a couch.”
For as much as he looks forward to the journey, DiValentin said he’s mostly anticipating the finish line at the end.
“That means we did it,” he said. “Whether we win or not, just finishing that long of a distance is an accomplishment.”
“Rally Down the Mississippi” Great Race Schedule:
Start: St. Paul, Minn.
Lunch: Eau Claire, Wisc.
Overnight: La Crosse, Wisc.
Lunch: Dubuque, Iowa
Overnight: Davenport, Iowa
Lunch: Peoria, Ill.
Overnight: Hannibal, Mo.
Lunch: Washington, Mo.
Overnight: Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Lunch: Paragould, Ark.
Overnight: Germantown, Tenn.
Lunch: Monticello, Ark.
Overnight: Vicksburg, Miss.
Lunch: Natchez, Miss.
Overnight: Baton Rouge, La.
Lunch: Crowley, La.
Overnight: Covington, La.
Lunch: Irvington, Ala.
Finish: Mobile, Ala.