TRURO, N.S. – Olivia and Genna Gentry will be making their first visit to Nova Scotia when they arrive as part of The Great Race.
The teenage sisters, who live in Georgia, will be driving a 1963 Dodge Dart – a
car that’s older than their combined ages, and which they won the rookie division with last year.
“We’ve been involved with this our whole lives,” said Olivia, who is 17. “Our grandfather and mom both did it, and we were really excited when we were old enough to compete.”
The girls sold programs and travelled as part of the family support team when they were younger.
Last year, at the ages of 14 and 16, the girls not only won the rookie division, but finished in the top 25 per cent.
The overall winning team consisted of their mother, Beth Gentry, and her nephew, Jody Knowles, in a 1932 Ford.
“We’re very competitive; our family is competitive,” said Olivia. “Our grandfather used to drive with mom, and our dad races dirt cars. I can’t put into words how exciting it was when we won the rookie division.”
Their father, and their grandfather on his side, also restored the Dodge Dart the girls drive.
The Great Race is a timed rally that began 35 years ago. This year’s competition will include about 125 teams, from Canada, the U.S., Germany, Japan and Australia.
Each vehicle has a driver and navigator who are given instructions 30 minutes before they head out each day. Vehicles are scheduled to be one minute apart, and teams are scored at secret checkpoints along the way, and penalized for every second they’re off the designated time.
“The driver’s job is to hold speed and do what the navigator says,” said Olivia. “The biggest aspect is communication, and we understand what each other is thinking.”
The race begins in Buffalo, N.Y., on June 23 and will end in Halifax on Canada Day – a journey of about 2,300 miles in nine days. This is the first year the Maritimes have been part of the route.
Hollis Ford is sponsoring a stop in Truro, for lunch at the Truro Farmers’ Market, on June 30, with the first car arriving around noon.
“While we’re on the clock we don’t have much time, but during lunch and dinner stop we look around and enjoy the moment,” said Olivia.
The girls said they use common sense, and things usually go quite smoothly during events.
“It’s a learning experience and a lot of fun,” said Gemma. “We have friends all the way from California to Maine. We know so many people we would never have the chance to meet if it wasn’t for this. The Great Race truly is a family in itself.”
They hope to meet more people as they travel through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
“We’ve had so much help from our family and from our sponsors, Rome Grinding Solutions, and Gentry Used Auto Parts and Recycling,” said Olivia. “I feel really blessed and excited to be able take part.”