Come see us at Great Race 2017!!!!
A few competitors are 101 years old, while the youngest is a middle-aged 44.
One 67-year-old car competed in Italy’s famed 1,000-mile Mille Miglia classic car rally, and a 57-year-old survived 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.
But when all 122 classic cars launch Saturday from Jacksonville’s Historic Springfield Main Street Cruise, they will face the same 1,200 miles of back roads in the 34th annual Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty. And all hope to finish July 2 in Traverse City, Mich., after running through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.
Great Race organizers estimate 10,000 people could line Main Street on Saturday. The starting line will be at the Krystal restaurant at 2023 N. Main. Legendary drag racer “Big Daddy” Don Garlits will be flagging the first 10 on their way during the event’s fourth Jacksonville visit in 20 years.
Great Race director Jeff Stumb said 24 officers are assigned to help with traffic and crowds Saturday.
John Wells, who founded the monthly Main Street Cruise five years ago and leads the volunteers who set up Friday and Saturday’s street concerts as well as other local support events, said racers and fans will enjoy everything.
“They will see Main Street alive, which is what it’s all been about, and this will be the biggest event ever on Main Street,” Wells said. “People will see some of the best cars in the world and some of the nicest people driving them.”
The Great Race was founded in 1983 by Tom McRae and Norman Miller as a time/speed/distance rally for classic cars. A calibrated speedometer and clock are the only navigation tools allowed along with a daily route booklet.
The Main Street Cruise is 4 to 8 p.m. the fourth Saturday of each month from Eighth through 12th streets, with classic cars and hot rods cruising like scenes from “American Graffiti.”
Hundreds went to The Jacksonville Landing when the Great Race ended there in 1997, and large crowds gathered there again when it launched its 2004 cross-country rally. Then in 2014 the Great Race competitors drove through the Main Street Cruise as thousands lined Main Street en route to the Landing again. Stumb said the 2014 crowd and the classic cars they brought to the cruise gave organizers the idea to combine the two for this year’s launch.
Two teams from Japan and 20 more from Florida will compete, some from Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine. The oldest cars date back to 1916, while the newest is a 1973 Jensen Interceptor. Hagerty Insurance competes in a huge 1917 Peerless Speedster and sleek 1960 Plymouth Fury convertible restored by employees after Hurricane Sandy damaged it. Another team drives a 1950 Maserati A6 that competed in last year’s Mille Miglia rally in Italy.
Live concerts will be Friday night, then Saturday after the Great Race. Main Street between Sixth and 14th streets will be shut down at 6 a.m. Saturday so competitors can line up, then begin launching at 10:30 a.m. after opening ceremonies. Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Andre Ayoub said officers in cars, on foot and bicycle will by on hand, with traffic detouring down North Laura or Hubbard streets to get around the race.
Parking will be allowed on vacant lots along Main Street, with side streets immediately east and west closed off for safety. Roads should reopen by about 2 p.m., then the regular cruise night begins. Fans can line Main Street as competitors head north to the Hecksher Drive overpass, then take Interstate 95 south to I-10 to their first overnight stop 155 miles away in Tifton, Ga.
Main Street Cruise organizers will raise funds for St. Michael’s Soldiers and Downs Syndrome Association of Jacksonville through the Great Race.
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549