The great classic car race begins on Saturday in Warwick, R

Classic cars, some over 100 years old, from the United States, Japan, England, Australia and Canada, will line up at Rocky Point State Park in Warwick on Saturday for the start of a 2,300 miles to North Dakota.

The 130 cars for the Grande Course will begin to assemble at 8:45 a.m. and the first car will leave at 10:30 a.m. The event is free and open to the public, according to the Rhode Island Sports Commission.

La Grande Course is not a speed race, but what the organizers call “a time/speed/distance rally”.

“Vehicles, each with a driver and navigator, receive precise instructions every day that detail every move down to the second. They are marked at secret checkpoints along the way and are penalized one second for each second ahead or behind. As in golf, the lower score wins,” the sports commission said in a press release.

Winners will receive $50,000 out of a total prize pool of $150,000.

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Smithfield’s Tom Laferriere is the only Rhode Islander to run for this award. He will drive the 1939 Packard Model 120 coupe his father bought in 1970 and restored by Tom, Laferriere said in a video posted to YouTube by the office of Warwick Mayor Frank J. Picozzi.

“I’ve always wanted to do this race,” Laferriere said in the video produced by Picozzi’s media coordinator, Elizabeth Tufts, noting that work and finances had prevented it in the past.

Laferriere says he will consider it a victory, even if he finishes last.

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The race will visit 19 cities in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. It will end in Fargo, North Dakota on June 26.

The event was started in 1983 by Tom McRae. Its name comes from the 1965 film, “The Great Race”, a comedy starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The film was based on an actual 1908 car race from New York to Paris.

“Over the 39-year history of The Great Race, the event has made its way east and west and north and south through 46 of the 48 contiguous United States,” said event director Jeff Stumb.

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Smithfield's Tom Laferriere is the only Rhode Islander to run for this award.  He will drive the 1939 Packard Model 120 coupe his father bought in 1970 and restored by Tom, according to a video the Warwick Mayor's Office posted on YouTube.

“In 2022, the Great Race will finally be able to add the final two states to the list – Rhode Island and North Dakota.”

The main sponsors of the event are Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty Drivers Club and Coker Tire.

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(401) 277-7614

On Twitter: @jgregoryperry

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