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Starting line for 2,300-mile vintage car race will be in Buffalo

The Great Race, featuring premier vintage cars, will bring 120 antique automobiles and tens of thousands of onlookers to the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum in June 2018, when Buffalo hosts the start of the 2,300-mile race.

Buffalo was under consideration to host the start of the race since the city was an overnight stop for the 2012 contest, Jeff Stumb, the Great Race's director, said Monday at the museum.

"It was such a success, and Buffalo is such an historic city when it comes to automobiles," Stumb said. "Behind me you see the beautiful banner of the Thomas Flyer that won the 1908 New York-to-Paris Great Race.

"We have been working on this for several years, and today we're announcing the 2018 Great Race will start here in Buffalo. It's a great day for Western New York," Stumb said.

The race, which includes cars built between 1916 and 1972, will last nine days and and wind through New York State, New England, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and concludes in Nova Scotia.

The Great Race name is a bit of a misnomer, since the driver-navigator teams are judged on accuracy and timing rather than speed. Cars rarely go more than 50 miles per hour, with older cars benefiting from a handicap to even the playing field.

Stumb said an entourage of 450 people would be in Buffalo for a week before the start of the race. Teams from Japan, Germany, England, Canada and the United States are expected to compete.

James Sandoro, the museum's founder and executive director, said he expected tens of thousands of people to be on hand when the race begins June 23, 2018.

The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum hosted 170 cars for Pierce-Arrow's 100th anniversary in 2001, with about 30,000 people viewing the cars in Niagara Square, Sandoro said.

He expects more for the Great Race.

"This is just as big if not bigger, and the national publicity we get out of this is immense," Sandoro said. "We expect 30,000 to 40,000 people. It's a free event, and we're thrilled to have it."

Howard and son Doug Sharp, winners of the Great Race in 2011 and 2015 with a 1911 Velie and 1916 Hudson, respectively, were on hand with their vintage cars for the announcement. So was Keith Wallace of Lockport, who drove in the 2012 race.

"It was a big celebration in every town we came to," Wallace said. "The townspeople just lined the street. We parked the cars diagonally, and people were asking for autographs. You had to have a Sharpie in your pocket."

Winners receive $50,000 of the total $150,000 purse.

The event takes its name from the 1965 movie, "The Great Race," which starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The comedy was based on the 1908 automobile race from New York to Paris, won by the Buffalo-made Thomas Flyer driven by Buffalo's George Schuster.





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