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2019 Great American Mountain Rally Revival scheduled for October 25-27

Published in blog.hemmings.com

The start of a stage on the Great American Mountain Rally Revival in 2018. Photos by Greg Davis.

In 2018, Steve McKelvie and Gary Hamilton brought back a once-legendary Northeast rally event from the 1950s, the Great American Mountain Rally. The 2018 Revival was a major success, but McKelvie’s untimely death in January 2019 left the future of the event in doubt. That’s no longer the case, and we’re happy to report that the 2019 Great American Mountain Rally Revival (GAMRR) will be taking place October 25-27.

The first Great American Mountain Rally began on Thanksgiving Day 1953 in New York City. The three-day, thousand-mile-plus event ran through checkpoints in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York, with only Vermont’s Lincoln Gap too snow-packed to navigate without tire chains. Even the first rally drew teams from Europe, and despite technical difficulties (many caused by differences between American and European rally rules), the event was successful enough to host for a second year.

In 1954, the regulations were revised to align more closely with European rally events, and, although the weather proved less cooperative (with colder temps and more snow), the event continued to gain in notoriety. By 1956, factory teams from Renault and Saab joined the Rootes Group, and in the penultimate year, Formula One World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio waved the green flag to send off the first few starters.

Sports Illustrated covered the 1956 Great American Mountain Rally, likening it to “picking yourself up by the back of the neck and kicking yourself with both feet,” perhaps because the route traversed “the most miserable of roads in atrocious weather.” Saab, new to the American market, proved victorious that year and was quick to highlight its achievements (first overall, first factory team, first in 1500-cc Touring, and first in 750-cc Touring) in print advertising. Following the 1957 running, however, the event ended with little fanfare.

The 2018 GAMRR concluded at Hemmings Motor News headquarters in Bennington, Vermont. The 2019 event will wrap up here as well.

It would be 61 years before another Great American Mountain Rally (now with Revival added to its name) would take place, driven by the efforts of McKelvie, Hamilton, and a team of dedicated volunteers. The new GAMRR was similar in spirit to the original, though with an equal focus on classic and contemporary cars, nowhere near as grueling.  The earlier date (mid-October instead of late November) minimized the chance of snow and ice along the route, though in New England’s mountain passes, there are no guarantees.

Of the 13 teams that began the rally in 2018, all finished the event, arriving in the Hemmings Motor News headquarter parking lot on Sunday, October 14. Some teams had extensive rally experience, while others were new to the sport. Some competitors drove modern cars (the newest two being a 2017 Fiat Spider and a 2017 Mazda Miata), while others opted for vintage vehicles (with the oldest two being a 1937 Cadillac and a 1948 Hudson Commodore). As Greg Davis wrote in his recap of the 2018 GAMRR, “In just three days, this group of 26 strangers had become good friends. Hands were shaken, backs were slapped, photographs were taken, and congratulations were exchanged. Everyone was thrilled with their overall experience and the extremely varied roads selected by the rallymasters.”

The 2019 GAMRR route (in very rough form).

Which brings us to the 2019 event. Rallymaster Gary Hamilton has now confirmed the dates and the route for this year’s GAMRR, which will begin in Saratoga Springs, New York, on Thursday, October 24, with a reception at the Saratoga Auto Museum and a rally preview and school. On Friday, October 25, teams will depart Saratoga Springs and navigate a roughly 200-mile route to Lake Placid, New York, for the first overnight. Saturday, October 26, will see teams depart Lake Placid, run a roughly 150-mile loop through the Adirondacks, then return to the same hotel for a second overnight. On Sunday, October 27, teams will depart Lake Placid, head east into Vermont (crossing Lake Champlain by ferry), and complete a 200-mile leg that once again ends at Hemmings Motor News in Bennington, Vermont.

The 2019 GAMRR will likely be capped at 25-30 cars. Registration is expected to open in May, and the finalized cost for the 2019 event is pending at press time. As in 2018, the rally is sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America, held as a New England Region event. Additional information will appear on the SCCA’s New England Region road rally schedule page, and can be obtained via email at gamrrrally@gmail.com.

We’ll update this article with additional details as they are released.