With trumpets sounding and family and friends cheering, Steve and Janet Hedke of Santa Clarita were overcome by emotion Saturday as they rounded the corner at their hometown shopping mall on the final leg of the 4,000-mile History Channel Great Race 2001.
"Everyone was out there with signs and yelling, 'Welcome home.' We just started crying," said Steve Hedke, who drove his British Racing Green 1957 Triumph TR3 to finish in second place in the sportsman division.
"We were totally in tears," added his wife and navigator, Janet.
In its 19th year, the transcontinental Great Race is one of the largest and richest vintage automobile rally races in the world, with up to 120 pre-1960 vehicles competing for a total purse of $275,000 in cash and prizes.
The race began June 17 in Atlanta, zigzagged through 13 states and finished Saturday at Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena. Valencia Town Center shopping mall in Santa Clarita was the last of 44 pit stops before the finish. The object is not necessarily to be first or fastest, but to arrive on time at 50 checkpoints along the winding course that often followed back roads.
Wayne Stanfield of Tustin, a veteran of all 19 races, took top honors in the pro division for the fourth time. Driving a rare 1934 Ford Indy 500 Racer--only two were built--Stanfield and rookie navigator Andy Massimilla of New Hampshire finished 1:52 off a perfect time.
Stanfield, a plumber, speaks passionately about the Great Race.
"Sure the idea is to win, but the race is only a small part of it," he said. "It's the adventure--the towns, the people. You're driving through little towns and see the old folks sitting on their porch waving American flags. Or going down a road, something happens spontaneously that never repeats. It's hard to describe until you've done it."
Great Race founder and chief executive officer Tom McRae said this year's event was "incredibly smooth, but also incredibly challenging, particularly when the course across the Rockies took racers across the Continental Divide three times. For two weeks now, [the racers have] been celebrities everywhere we went," he said.
Some of the rare and vintage cars in the race included a 1925 Rickenbacker Roadster, a 1911 Velie H1 Racytype Speedster, a 1949 VW Hebmuller convertible, a 1954 Corvette and a 1931 Cadillac convertible. The cars are collectively worth more than $3 million, race officials said.