- Written by webmin
With Hemmings Motor News conducting the VCRA Hemmings Challenge Rally, our own Speedster and its support crew has to be one of the first crews to arrive, so we got an early start on the almost 1,000-mile drive from headquarters in Bennington by leaving early Tuesday morning. Publisher and Driver Jim Menneto piloted our car hauler rig, while co-pilot Mari Parizo and the rest of our support crew followed in one of the twin Hemmings vans that you may have seen at a recent Carlisle show or on the highway. The combined weight of the truck, trailer and speedster meant about 9 MPG so we spent some time at interstate gas pumps, but got as far as Ashtabula, Ohio, on our first day. Few people realize the amount of time and preparation necessary to host a race of this magnitude. Not only are we participating but we had to be there for the beginning of registration and tech check-in on Thursday at noon.
The next day found our Hemmings Challenge crew in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. We were only a couple hours out from Bowling Green when we stopped to find an overnight rest stop and found this Coca-Cola museum right down the street from our hotel. We weren’t even aware there was a Coca-Cola Memorabilia Museum until we saw the delivery truck in the parking lot and then saw the large sign and the building next to it. It does not appear to be affiliated with the bottling company but it does have a large collection of Coca-Cola vintage signs, neons, a few delivery vehicles and a soda fountain set-up as it would have looked 50 or 60 years ago.
The White snubnose delivery truck was in surprisingly good shape considering the daily use it received when in service. The Hackney-supplied body was apparently added at their factory in Washington, North Carolina, and was designed specifically for beverage delivery.
Unfortunately, the museum was closed by the time we arrived in Elizabethtown, however we did press our faces up against the locked doors, and looked inside. On our way back to the hotel, we found a memorial tree in the parking lot that indicated Mr. Schmidt is no longer with us but his collection will be around for people to admire for some time to come. It seems his collection got so, big, he had to build a museum to house it all inside. A museum, hmm, a simple answer for an old problem about never having enough stuff. Someday you’ll be putting all you car stuff in its own museum and won’t your wife be sorry then, when you remind her that she said you were wasting your time and money on all your “junk.”
After arriving at rally headquarters and checking into our hotel, we did some final checks on the Hemmings Speedster and our pilot and navigator got some seat time as they prepared their charts for the race. They measure the time it takes to perform various maneuvers and use this information during the race to allow for unavoidable delays, which invariably happen. The really good rally racers can adapt on the fly quickly and speed up or slow down to stay on or very close to perfect time. For example, there are many turns in the race instructions that tell them to navigate a turn at 30 MPH, they time a turn from 30 MPH to a stop to 30 MPH again. Then, during the race, if they get to an intersection where they have to stop and wait for cross traffic for a few seconds, they can calculate that delay and attempt to make up for it during that leg of the race.
Over the weekend cars continued to arrive and prepare themselves for a grueling week of stops and starts in the summer heat. Each entrant does a series of speedometer tests where they drive at the same speed for a measured amount of time and distance to ensure the accuracy of the speedo. Minute adjustments can be made to the ratio of the speedometer via thumbwheels on the back of the unit which need to be moved with a small screwdriver. There are some calculations involved which help you decide exactly where the settings should be, so it is an important thing to get out of the way before the rally starts.
Sunday, the last day before the official start of the race and the morning was spent attending a mandatory meeting for all drivers, navigators and rally support staff. After being welcomed to Kentucky and Bowling Green our driver and publisher Jim Menneto was one of three individuals named honorary Kentucky Colonel. Now there will be no living with the guy. In the afternoon, the ceremonial start to the rally took place in downtown Bowling Green at the baseball stadium, home to the minor league Bowling Green Hot Rods baseball team. Cars were released in 30-second intervals instead of the usual one-minute release time during the rally. Our Hemmings team scored an ace for perfect time right out of the box on the first leg and finished the day only 13 seconds off. Thirteen seconds off was only good for 28th place on this day, but the day’s legs were mostly for show and bragging rights at the cocktail party afterwards. Monday is when the real competition begins.