Drivers reviving round-the-world race of 1908 pause in Grand Junction

Five-year-old Steven Montano of Grand Junction has his picture snapped Saturday in a 1916 Studebaker at DoubleTree Hotel, where contestants took a pit stop during World Race 2011, a New York-to-Paris event that is a revival of the 1908 Great Automobile Race.


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To learn more about the World Race 2011, go to Follow a daily race blog at worldrace2011.

When things are going well — when the wheels are turning and the sun’s shining and the wind’s at your back — the joy of an open road is exquisite. It represents freedom and possibility, the notion that something entirely new is waiting around the bend.

When things aren’t going well. ...

“And I was wearing these shoes,” Clay Miller said, extending a Birkenstock-ed foot. He was sitting in the driver’s seat of his 1932 Ford coupe, and he’d just finished explaining how, on the summit of Vail Pass on Saturday morning, in driving snow, next to drifts taller than he is, he discovered that the distributor cap was cracked. It explained the awful noises, at least, but still: more gentle breeze, less crummy weather and fickle machines, please.

But all of it, the good and the bad, is part of the World Race 2011, a round-the-world auto adventure following the spiritual tracks of the 1908 Great Automobile Race. Race participants stopped in Grand Junction at the DoubleTree Hotel on Saturday afternoon before continuing on to Gateway, where they spent the night at Gateway Canyons.

The race began April 14 in New York City’s Times Square. Participants, many in classic cars, have driven through Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Dodge City and Denver, and they plan to arrive in San Francisco on Tuesday. From there, the cars will be shipped to Beijing, where the route crosses China, Kazakhstan, Russia, the Baltics, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland, arriving in Paris on July 21. Among the participants is Jeff Mahl, great-grandson of 1908 race winner George Schuster.

Jerry Price, World Race 2011 executive director, said the race’s incarnation celebrates the spirit of 1908, when people first got a sense of what these crazy horseless carriages could do.

“This is what allowed us to see the country,” Price said, sweeping an expansive arm to encompass the Volkswagen Beetle, the Corvette, the 1951 Chrysler New Yorker, all of more than a dozen cars that coasted Saturday evening into Gateway. “This allowed families to go see something besides the five miles they lived in.”

Cars opened the world to people, which was one reason Miller, who lives in Nicholasville, Ky., decided to participate. Plus, he just really loves cars. On the U.S. portion of the race, he is joined by his son, Mark. In Beijing, his grandson, Blake Garrison, will slide into the passenger seat.

“I’ve been involved in classic cars most of my life,” he said. “This race and this car just coincided.”

He said he bought the ‘32 Ford body from a specialty dealer and installed a 1948 Ford flat-head engine and a 1939 transmission. The trunk is filled with enough parts to see him around the world. The rest of his family will meet him in Paris.

The racers come from different parts of the country and have different stories about what brought them to the World Race 2011. Jonathan Auerbach of New York City bought the 1951 Chrysler New Yorker he’s racing on eBay.

But each shares a love of cars, a spirit of adventure and an abiding optimism that things will go right far more often than they’ll go wrong.


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