'The Great Race' draws out local auto enthusiasts
Local car enthusiasts came out on Friday to watch Great Race competitors zoom through Madras on their way to Hood River.
Gathering in the empty lot next to Madras Oil Center, locals including Chuck Light and Kenny Bicart, along with some of their friends, watched and waved at each passing car.
"It's a fun deal," said Bicart, referring to the race's route through Madras. "It will probably never happen again in my lifetime.
The race, which began in 1983, is less about speed and more about accuracy. Each day, drivers are given precise instructions for the route they are to take, which has secret checkpoints along the way. The goal for the cars is to check into their check point in the proper order at the exact second they are expected. They are docked for every second they are early or late, as well as if they are out of order. The "racer" with the lowest amount of penalty points at the end of the race, wins.
According to Light, who drove to Bend the day before to watch the racers and spoke with one of the drivers, each morning, the cars are released one minute apart from their starting point and have to drive at a certain speed.
The friends who came out to cheer on the racers and see the old cars stream through Madras all agreed that the event was really something.
Inspired by the 1965 movie, "The Great Race," the event has a prize pool of more than $150,000, with the winning team receiving $50,000 to share.
This year is the first time in the race's 36-year history that it came through the Madras area, beginning this year in Riverside, California, and ending in Tacoma, Washington. The event was open to any car made before 1974, though most of the cars entered predate World War II.
Though the race began with about 150 cars in total, Bicart said, "It's an endurance race as much as a timed event," noting that many cars drop out as the nine-day event goes on, due to mechanical problems.
Because the exact route is kept secret from the public until after the fact, with the exception of where meal stops will be, the group watching at the oil center had no idea what route the racers would be taking to get to Hood River for lunch so they had "lookouts" at different points along the way, so the rest of the group would know where to watch from — one in Redmond and another at the Culver Highway turnoff.
It is worth mentioning that almost every one of the car-enthusiast onlookers could name each car as it went by.