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Monday, February 18, 2008

Great Race 2008 Prepares Its Engines to Start

The event that has inspired the movie “The Great Race” and Hanna-Barbera’s “Wacky Races” cartoon series has completed 100 years. The “Greatest Auto Race”, the first car competition around the world, started in February 12, 1908 in New York and ended July 30, 1908 in Paris, with the victory of a 1907 Thomas Flyer driven by George Schuster. The event was crucial in establishing cars as a reliable means of transportation in times when “motor cars” and women were considered to be the most fragile and capricious things on Earth. Now that automobiles are part of the modern life, the competition will have two different challenges in its second edition: test classic cars in a world-wide competition and show how modern cars can evolve into clean vehicles.

The Great Race 2008 New York to Paris will begin May 30, 2008, departing exactly from the same place the original competition took off from: Times Square, in New York. The arrival spot will also be the same one where Schuster has been declared the winner: the Eiffel Tower.

In this edition, there will be two competitive classes: Innovation and Schuster. The first one aims to showcase the reliability of new technologies, such as biofuels, fuel cells or any other the competitors choose to put to the test. Production or preproduction prototypes are allowed to participate and one of the most interesting will surely be a 2007 Ford Prototype of the Brazilian team Kyr Augusto Araujo/Alberto Fadigatti, but there will also be a 1967 Aston Martin DB6 Vantage able to run on multiple fuels, driven by the USA team J. Price/R. McKone.

The second, named after the winner of the first race, will allow classic vehicles (at least 25 years old) to face the 30,149 km challenge. They will surely find better conditions this time (since there were hardly any roads back in 1908), but all care is necessary to avoid the same fate half of the first competitors had. Of the 6 teams that entered the Greatest Race in 1908, only 3 managed to finish it.

The route for the Great Race 2008 has been recently defined. The racers will cross 13 countries (United States, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and France, in this order) and stop in more than 50 cities.

Press Release


NEW YORK – The worldwide route for the 2008 Great Race from New York to Paris has been officially set, according to Bill Ewing, chief executive for Great Race Sports, the event organizers.

“It’s been fun putting the pieces together to make The Great Race both historical and relevant,” said Ewing. “A special thanks must go to our partners, government officials and especially our staff who worked tirelessly and traveled innumerable miles to create a route that I am sure will make for a great event this summer.”

The 2008 route is a daunting automotive challenge, though certainly not as fearful as that planned a century earlier for the original Great Race. This time, it has not been suggested that the cars should be driven across the frozen Bering Strait from Alaska to Russia, as the 1908 organizers originally planned.

The Great Race 2008 will begin in New York City and circumnavigate the globe, passing through 13 countries before arriving in Paris 65 days later – 104 less than the winner needed in 1908. The total distance is 18,738 miles (30,149 km), including 13,106 miles (21,087 km) on land and about 5,632 miles (9,062 km) in a flight from Vancouver to Shanghai. The race consists of four stages, each of which is an individual event that teams can also enter: Great Race North America, Great Race China, Central Asia / Eastern Europe and Great Race Europe.

“I am very proud what our team did in putting together this route, which represents a diverse set of challenges and opportunities.” said Ewing. “From the historically significant route through upper New York State to a route across Canada that is both challenging and scenic, our teams fly half way around the world to a whole new set of experiences. We have spent a great deal of time organizing the final three legs from Shanghai to Paris, creating a route that combines an adventure, similar to what the teams experienced in 1908 with the amenities and accommodations commensurate with a first class operation. I am sure it will be the ultimate adventure.”

After leaving New York City, the teams will turn northward and travel a route somewhat similar to the one in 1908, stopping first at President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s historic home at Hyde Park for lunch, then overnight in Albany, the State Capital. Day two includes a stop in Syracuse and then Buffalo, home to the winning driver in 1908, George Schuster and the E.R. Thomas Motor Company, manufacturer of the winning car.

From Buffalo, Great Race North America, the first stage of the New York to Paris Great Race, will deviate from the 1908 route and follow a scenic, yet demanding course through southern Canada, stopping first in Toronto and then Ottawa, the nation’s capital. After an overnight stay in Ottawa, the race will travel along Lake Superior, then through the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The Great Race will cross the Canadian Rockies near Banff, driving past Lake Louis and Glacier National Park. The finish is in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia – last stop before China.

“A Canadian route creates a more international event and provides a new driving adventure for our participants,” said Ewing. “For 25 years, the Great Race has traveled throughout the United States and has stopped at more than 900 North American communities. Canada provides new ground and an adventure more in the spirit of 1908.”

In Vancouver, the cars traveling around the world will then be loaded on a pair of jets for the flight to Shanghai, People’s Republic of China, to begin the longest and most challenging portion of the trip from Shanghai to Paris – a total distance of 8,716 miles (12,874 km).

Great Race Sports is working with two companies with extensive experience in travel through Asia and Europe to coordinate this part of the race. Além International and the MIR Corporation will play an important role in managing the route, security, hotels and travel for the next 43 days.

“This is in the ‘sweet spot’ for our partners and will help make the Great Race a fun, safe and memorable experience,” said Ewing. “Além International has managed the Olympic Torch Run for many years and will manage our logistics and security for the entire route, and will coordinate travel through Europe. The MIR Corporation has organized tours through China, Kazakhstan and Russia for more than 2 decades and will help us there. Plus, we have been on the ground twice, seeing the roads, hotels and writing a unique and challenging course. Everyone involved has the skills necessary to bring this all together.”

From Shanghai, the teams will head south and then west through some of the oldest and most fascinating cities in the world. The roads have been carefully selected and offer a wide variety of driving experiences, from brand new superhighways to picturesque country roads through parts of China rarely scene by westerners. Teams will travel within sight of the Great Wall and follow the Great Silk Road past some of the oldest and most fascinating cities in the world.

“I was most impressed by the roads in China,” said Wayne Stanfield, chief of operations for Great Race Sports, Inc, who has traveled the route in anticipation of the race. “The Expressways are world-class, and even the smallest side roads provide spectacular driving. Plus the warmth and friendliness of the Chinese people will leave an indelible memory on all of the participants.”

Great Race China finishes in Urumqi in Western China. Next is the longest and most challenging part of the trip, a 4,800-mile journey across central Asia from Urumqi to Berlin, Germany. The Great Race will spend seven days in Kazakhstan including a day off in Almaty, the largest city in Central Asia’s richest country. Stops in Kazakhstan also include Balkhash, Karaghanda, Astana, and Petropavlovsk before entering Russia.

Participants will then travel through Russia for eleven days on a route that will initially take them across the steps of lowland Russia and then over the Ural Mountains to Ekaterinburg, Russia’s fifth largest city and one of its most historic. Stops in Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod precede the drive into Moscow and Red Square. From there, the route features a scenic twoday drive through Eastern Europe, stopping in Daugavpils, Latvia, Vilnius, Lithuania, and Warsaw, Poland before entering Berlin.

The final stage is Great Race Europe, a 1057-mile push through five countries, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and France. The Great Race will finish in Paris, France on Aug. 2, 2008, at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Some of the roads between Berlin and Paris – notably those around Prague and St. Anton, a lunch stop – are considered among the most scenic in the world.

“We are lucky to have the centennial as an excuse to make this run,” said Ewing. “But you shouldn’t need one. It’s such an exciting challenge – and after all, how many people get the opportunity to drive all the way around the world? That itself is reason enough.”

Source: Great Race

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