Great Race coming to town

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The Great Race -- the longest running vintage automobile rally -- is coming to Steamboat.

But don't expect cars to go any faster than 25 mph down Lincoln Avenue.

Steamboat will be one of 13 overnight stops in the automobile race that begins in Jacksonville, Fla., and ends in Monterey, Calif. The Great Race is a street-legal, timed-endurance rally race that has vintage cars traveling 170 to 480 miles a day on back roads.

The drivers must obey all the rules of the road, including the speed limit, and the vehicles must be 45 years or older.

The event came to Steamboat in 1998, and Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, is glad to see them return.

The vehicles will arrive June 28.

"We are thrilled," Evans Hall said. "Steamboat has a certain allure because of its historic downtown and ability to house groups of this size."

At tonight's City Council meeting, it will be asked to close a section of Lincoln Avenue, from 4 to 7 p.m. starting at Fifth Street, to welcome the drivers into town.

Evans Hall said the group would like to film the cars in historic downtown Steamboat. The footage would then be shown on the Speed Channel.

The vehicles will be coming from Breckenridge and are expected to arrive at 5:30 p.m. and will be on display that night.

This year, the city has agreed to close sections of Lincoln Avenue 13 times for special events.

"Closing down Lincoln Avenue is significant to the community, and we want to make sure it benefits the entire community," City Clerk Julie Jordan said, adding that the community enjoyed the vintage auto races that occurred in Steamboat over Labor Day weekend. But that event has stopped coming to Steamboat, outgrowing the venue.

The chamber is expecting about 120 competitors and 600 people to visit Steamboat as part of the Great Race. The group will stay at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and the Steamboat Grand Resort that night and leave the next morning.

According to the Great Race Web site, Director John Classen logs more than 20,000 miles on three trips across the country searching for the "most challenging back roads to incorporate into the competition."

The competition has the drivers pick up an instruction packet each day, which details every stop, turn and speed change. The competitors' goal is to match the perfect times established by Classen. Racers can use only a wristwatch, analog clock, speedometer, and pencil and paper.

Evans Hall said there is a $300,000 prize purse at the end of the race.

In other business:

n The City Council and Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association could enter into a contract for the first time since vendor's fees were first collected in 1984.

Tonight council will be asked to approve the first reading of an ordinance approving the agreement between the city and the chamber. The agreement states the chamber's role in marketing and promoting Steamboat as a year-round resort.

It also states that the city will pay the chamber the amount equal to what was collected through vendor's fees, which is 3.3 percent of all sales tax collected from the city's 4 percent sales tax rate. The amount is expected to be about $470,000.

The city also is agreeing to pay the chamber $75,000 for attracting, promoting and coordinating special events during 2004.

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