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June 25, 2017

#GilmoreGreatRace: Pre-Race Jitters

Whew! Day 2 in Jacksonville was a blur! Friday (6/23) morning started off with an early 7:30am all-teams meeting. The Great Race coordinators welcomed the race teams, introduced sponsors, and highlighted the different race divisions*:

Grand Championship

This division of the Great Race features only competitors who have won the event in previous years. If any member of the team has won the Great Race, then that team will be entered into the Grand Champion class. It is the top of the food chain, in terms of the big names in rallying. Generally, most Grand Champions have been a part of the Great Race family since the early days, so these are truly the veterans of the event.


There’s no question that the Expert division is also packed with Great Race veterans who have proven their skills time and again. Racers designated to run in the Expert class have to comply with a set of rules that are based on the finishes of previous years. Essentially, racers who generally finish well, but have never been Grand Champions are placed in the Expert rank. This is one of the most competitive classes in the Great Race.


The Sportsman division is a class set up for the folks who love to support the Great Race and have a great time doing it. This class is filled with diehard Great Racers, young and old, and it’s designed for a wide range of participants. Sportsman is usually one of the larger classes in the field of competitors and has a lot of interesting cars, so it’s usually a fan favorite!


The Rookie class is for all the first-time Great Racers. Each year we have a large number of Rookie teams…. These competitors will learn a lot during the Great Race and most of them will come back to compete in more Great Race events! The Rookie class will undoubtedly be an interesting class with a variety of cool vehicles.


One of the most interesting classes in the Great Race lineup is the X-Cup division. It consists of young people, generally in some sort of group or shop class, who build a car specifically for the event. The rules state that the driver must be 21 years of age or older, and the navigator must be 21 years of age or younger. The X-Cup class competes for bragging rights and it’s a great way to encourage young people to be involved in the old car hobby! *Information sourced from After the welcome meeting, the team attended Rally School to review the ins and outs of running a 2,300 mile road rally. Lead by Competition Director John Classen and long-time rally racer Bill Crocker, the 2-hour session included reviewing race instruction sheets and symbols, performance calculations, and safely tips. All valuable information for us X-Cup rookies! Friday afternoon we headed out to cheer on Navigator Coleman and Driver Brad as they warmed up the Packard in the annual pre-race Trophy Run. While we were waiting for the team's run to begin, the "Bass Ass Boys from Bad Axe" (as Corky Coker calls them) pulled up to chat with our team. Father and son team Bryan and Ian (#83) are running in the Sportsman division of the Great Race and hail from Bad Axe, Michigan. When the Gilmore Garage Works program entered our team into the race, Ian and Bryan took us under their knowledgeable wings and were great mentors to our team. Ian visited and spoke with the team months ago and they were great at answering our "rookie" questions. Getting the chance to chat with them before our first run was reassuring! The Trophy Run took Coleman and Brad on a 4 hour run from Jacksonville and back. It was a great way to get all the pre-race jitters out! Scores from the Trophy Run may be referred to as a tie-breaker score if a tie within a division ensues at the final finish line. Here's Coleman waiving from the Navigator's seat: The team also took some time for fun on Friday and traveled just outside of Jacksonville to Sonny's BBQ Restaurant. We had delicious southern BBQ and some of the team tried fried okra for the first time! It was a love / hate relationship with the okra, but fun to try something new! Friday wrapped up with the 2017 Great Race Kick-Off Reception over looking the water, a beautiful setting! Count down to the start line: 14 hours 23 minutes.....