Classic cars, some more than 100 years old, from the United States, Japan, England, Australia and Canada, will line up at Rocky Point State Park in Warwick on Saturday for the start of a 2,300-mile race to North Dakota.
The 130 cars in the Great Race will begin gathering at 8:45 am, and the first car will leave at 10:30. The event is free and open to the public, according to the Rhode Island Sports Commission.
The Great Race is not a speed race, but what organizers call “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,” the Sports Commission said in a news release.
The winners will receive $50,000 from a $150,000 total purse.
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Tom Laferriere of Smithfield is the only Rhode Islander racing for that award. He will drive the 1939 Packard Model 120 Coupe his father bought in 1970 and Tom restored, Laferriere said in a video posted to YouTube by Warwick Mayor Frank J. Picozzi’s office.
“I always wanted to do this race,” Laferriere said in the video produced by Picozzi’s media coordinator Elizabeth Tufts, noting that work and finances had prevented him in the past.
Laferriere says he will consider it a win, even if he finishes last.
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The race will travel to 19 cities in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. It will finish in Fargo, North Dakota, on June 26.
The event was started in 1983 by Tom McRae. Its name is from the 1965 movie, “The Great Race,” a comedy starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The movie was based on a real-life 1908 automobile race from New York to Paris.
“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.
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“In 2022, the Great Race will finally be able to add the last two states to the list – Rhode Island and North Dakota.”
The event’s main sponsors are Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty Drivers Club and Coker Tire.
On Twitter: @jgregoryperry
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