GNTC’s Team DeSoto enters Championship Run of The Great Race

June 30, 2018

On Saturday, June 30, Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s (GNTC) Team DeSoto entered the Championship Run of The Great Race, a rally-style race with vintage vehicles that began in Buffalo, N.Y., and ends in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The Great Race is an endurance race with classic cars and all participants drive vintage vehicles. Each vehicle must be model year 1972 or older. Team DeSoto is driving a 1955 DeSoto Fireflite that was restored by GNTC’s Automotive Technology program.

Four GNTC Automotive Technology students are participating in The Great Race. Two students, Adam Grogan and Nicholas Barber, are alternating as drivers and two students, Zayne Waits and John Valle, are alternating as navigators. All four students are residents of Cedartown.

“It has been life changing and really different from anything I’ve ever experienced before,” said Waits.


Team DeSoto poses for a picture in Bar Harbor, Maine. All four members of the GNTC student team are residents of Cedartown. Team DeSoto is (from left to right) Zayne Waits, John Valle, Nicholas Barber, and Adam Grogan.
Team DeSoto poses for a picture in Bar Harbor, Maine. All four members of the GNTC student team are residents of Cedartown. Team DeSoto is (from left to right) Zayne Waits, John Valle, Nicholas Barber, and Adam Grogan.

Teams are given instructions and a prescribed time each day to get to the next check point. They are not allowed to use GPS, cellphones, or computers. The race is not a speed race and the routes between checkpoints are scenic back roads.

The object for Great Race teams is to get to the next checkpoint as close as possible to their prescribed time. Penalties are given for the amount of time a team is over or under their prescribed time when they arrive at the checkpoint.

“The learning curve has been tremendous and it is a very, very complicated style of racing,” said Grogan. “In the beginning we didn’t know what we needed to know and didn’t even know the questions to ask to get the information we needed.”

Team DeSoto is competing in the X-Cup division of the Great Race, a special class that was created to encourage younger generations to take an interest in vintage vehicles.

“The way the DeSoto holds up from day to day and comes back home the same way that it left is incredible,” said Barber. “It’s an amazing car.”

The Championship Run, the final two stages of The Great Race, is taking place in Nova Scotia. The stages that Team DeSoto has completed so far include:

  • Official Start, June 23, Buffalo N.Y. to Fairport, N.Y.
  • Stage 2, June 24, Troy N.Y.
  • Stage 3, June 25, Burlington, Vermont
  • Stage 4, June 26, Gardiner, Maine
  • Stage 5, June 27, Bangor, Maine
  • Stage 6, June 28, Bar Harbor, Maine
  • Stage 7, June 29, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada


“We get to travel to all these different places, taking scenic back roads, and drive around across America and see these amazing places that we’ve never seen before,” said Valle. “It’s just beautiful out there.”

The end of the race will take place during the Canada Day celebrations in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“These guys are really going to benefit from this experience in a lot of different ways,” said Rodney Parris, director of GNTC’s Automotive Technology program and leader of Team DeSoto. “They are going to carry this experience for the rest of their lives and are also building some skills like teamwork and the skills of trying to keep this car running throughout this race.”

GNTC’s participation in The Great Race was made possible by Patricia and Wayne Vick, who donated the DeSoto to GNTC’s Foundation and also donated all the parts that were needed for the restoration. The Vicks are also covering all hotel expenses for GNTC students and personnel involved in the race and their company Southern Bracing Systems is the primary sponsor of Team DeSoto.

Additional sponsors of Team DeSoto include: BullSnot! Tire Mounting and Rubber Lubricant; Heritage First Bank; OTR Wheel Engineering, Inc.; and Snap-On Incorporated.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 16,402 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,750 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 8,652 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.

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