The world's richest old-car race - "The Interstate Batteries Great American Race" - is coming through Utah Saturday on the fourth leg (and fourth day) of its 12-day, 4,500-mile cross-country trek from Disneyland to Boston.
The race has been billed as the world's toughest controlled-speed, precision-driving endurance race. Participants will be coming by the University Park Hotel, 500 Wakara Way (east of Wasatch Boulevard), at noon Saturday. Salt Lake is one of 42 cities in which the race will stop for fuel and food.It will be more history than can be seen on the highway as 123 of the world's most beautiful antique cars (1936 or older) seek a $250,000 purse.
The race cars, automobiles that are from 52 to 83 years old, are "off the clock" in what is called a "transit zone" when they move through a city like Salt Lake, but the endurance portion of the race continues between cities.
The racers leave Elko, Nev., Saturday morning and after moving through Salt Lake City, will end up in Rock Springs, Wyo., that evening.
Explicit routes, measured to 1/100th of a mile and a series of exact speeds to be maintained, have been developed by computer. Competitors attempt to maintain these speeds precisely. Only pencil, paper, stop watch and one time-of-day watch are permitted.
Cars are started daily at one-minute intervals, pass secret checkpoints along the routes and are assessed one penalty point per minute for late arrival. As in golf, low score wins. Participants may drive up to 12 hours a day.
The winner is expected to come within five seconds of accuracy over a day's 400-mile course.
The old cars lack modern steering, air conditioning and suspension.
One entrant, Carl Amsley has a 1909 steam-powered Culligan auto.
Other unusual cars:
- Dick Burdick's 1905 French De Dietrich that was buried during World War II to escape the Nazis.
- Franklin Buggy Werkes' 1935 Miller Indy 500 car that led the 1937 Indianapolis 500.
- Alan Travis' 1912 Egge Machine Metz Roadster, the first mail-order kit car.
- Bill Martin's two 1936 SS-100 Jaguars. (only four known in the world.)
Last year's winner was a 1914 Dodge.
There are entries from 29 states and five countries, but none are from Utah. (John Price from Salt Lake City participated last year.)
The race is not considered an easy transcontinental lark. It is estimated that race teams may spend 264 racing hours on the road, but they also may spend up to 200 hours off the road, keeping their cars ready to run the next day or later the same day.
(Disneyland, one of the race sponsors, is sending "Goofy," "Mickey Mouse" and other legendary characters to accompany the racers.)
** A 24-hour results service is now operating and offers current race standings, updated three times a day, at 1-900-410-2030.