Note: This is the first installment in a two-part series of articles on Alfred State College’s involvement in the 2018 Great Race. The second article will focus on alumnus Jeff Mahl and his historic journey westward.
No matter how their team finishes or what speed bumps they may face along the way, Alfred State College students always end up having an excellent time on The Great Race, and this year was no exception.
Once again driving the 1953 Dodge Power Wagon tow truck, the team set off from Buffalo on June 23 as one of 118 teams making their way Northeast toward Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they were due to arrive July 1. The Great Race is an antique, vintage, and collector car competitive controlled-speed endurance rally that tests teams’ abilities to follow precise course instructions and their vehicle’s ability to endure on a 2,000-plus-mile trip.
This year’s Alfred State Great Race squad consisted of Liam DeChick, motorsports technology, Syracuse; Jacob Derk, heavy equipment, truck and diesel technician, Cattaraugus; Jordan Dunning, heavy equipment, truck and diesel technician, Cicero; and Donald Piatek III, motorsports technology, Springville.
According to ASC Automotive Trades Professor Mike Ronan, who served as the adviser on the trip, things were going pretty well for the team up until the evening of June 27, when they suffered an engine failure on Interstate 95.
“After a great rally day, Liam and Don were headed back to Bangor on an Interstate 95 transit to the finish. Out of the blue,” Ronan continued, “the No. 1 connecting rod tried to escape through the block.”
After several unsuccessful attempts to secure a replacement engine, the team was forced to “throw in the towel,” before the sixth stage, Ronan said. Despite their difficulties, however, the students still had an amazing time on the race.
“The students had the experience of a lifetime, notwithstanding the outcome,” Ronan said “The adventure began with a wonderful alumni event at Chef’s in Buffalo on Friday night, where they had the chance to meet a number of true friends of the college. The race start in Buffalo brought a large group of supporters to see the team off.”
Each evening, Ronan said, large crowds gathered to welcome the Great Racers and view the cars.
“The students spent time helping young children into the Power Wagon, so parents could take advantage of photo opportunities,” he said. “Each night after the evening show, the students worked on competitors’ vehicles to keep them going in the race.”
Ronan said he has found that each year Alfred State has participated in The Great Race has been of benefit to not only the student team members, but to the Automotive Trades Department and the college as a whole.
“The event gives us exposure on a national scale and has resulted in thousands of dollars in student scholarships,” he said. “Participation in the event is truly an exercise in character-building, and the students have always been great ambassadors for Alfred State.”