Great Race Rolls Into Payson Thursday


Payson's beautiful Green Valley Park is a pit stop. Really.

More than 100 antique and vintage automobiles and motorcycles will stop at the park the afternoon of Thursday, June 20 as part of the 20th annual running of The Great Race.

The race started in San Antonio, Texas, June 15, and concludes in Anaheim, Calif. June 22.

There is a $2,500 prize for being the best pit stop on the route. The racers vote and the winning community receives the money for its library.

"The rousing receptions we receive in each host city are a real inspiration for our exhausted racers who really need and appreciate the break by the time they pull into town," said Tom McRae, the founder and chief executive officer of The Great Race. "These racers are traveling more than 300 miles a day in cantankerous old machines, with no air-conditioning, in temperatures that can soar into the 100s, in a rally-race that calls for split-second timing, precision driving skills, and nerves of steel. You can bet they appreciate the host cities."

The Great Race will stop in 23 cities. It enters Arizona Wednesday, June 19, traveling across the Painted Desert. There is a pit stop planned in Winslow and an overnight stay in Williams, which won the race's 2001 Great American City Award.

Before coming to Payson Thursday, the race participants will head into Prescott for lunch at the courthouse grounds, then start arriving at Green Valley Park in the middle of the afternoon.

From Payson, the race takes the drivers to Scottsdale, where they will spend the night. The final Arizona stop will be a brief break in Gila Bend; the race route then heads into California.

The Great Race covers 2,500 miles this year, with the drivers competing for a share of the $250,000 prize money, the richest purse in vintage car racing.

It echoes the speed-controlled road rallies which were popular before 1940. The Great Race is a timed endurance rally race. It is a contest about precision driving and navigation, not speed. Drivers can only use a speedometer, analog clock, pencil and paper; there are no maps, cell phones or odometers. The competitors must follow written course instructions at exact, predetermined speeds.

The winners finish within seconds of the predetermined "perfect time."

The street and highway routes are not announced in advance, and the drivers receive detailed instructions only 20 minutes before each start.

Great Race vehicles must be manufactured before 1951, or before 1960 for sports cars, race cars and motorcycles.

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