At ages 14 and 16, sisters Olivia and Genna Gentry took part in their first Great Race, a 2,300-mile rally through 18 cities in eight states. Two years later, in 2019, they finished seventh overall, and in 2020 the race was canceled due to the pandemic. The Gentrys came back a few weeks ago to win it all, setting a record as the youngest team in the rally’s almost 40-year history.
Team Gentry drove a 1932 Ford Coupe with five windows during the race, powered by an original 21-hole Flathead V8 engine with a 3-speed gearbox, during the race in an arch, the San Antonio, Texas, spanned to Greenville, South Carolina. If beating 120 or so other vehicles isn’t impressive enough, keep in mind that the sisters did the whole thing (as the rules require) without the help of a GPS or digital tools. Correct: The navigation was 100 percent analog.
You come from the desire to race naturally: Your mother Beth Knowles-Gentry has been driving a 32-series Ford Cabriolet rally for 25 years. As the story goes, Beth started in 2003 with three-year-old Olivia and three-month-old Genna in tow and drove the route with her father at the wheel. Beth’s father died in 2011 and her nephew stepped in to continue the gentry streak. Take a moment to understand what it would be like to travel the country in a vintage car with a baby and toddler. No wonder Olivia and Genna started collecting too early.
“When our mother gathered, we drove with the support vehicle,” says Genna. “We’ve basically been super involved since we were born.”
As soon as Olivia got her license, Genna drove for her. In her first race in 2017, the whole family was out and about. The sisters sat in one car, their mother and cousin in another, and their father served as part of the support team that transported parts, luggage, and check-in at designated hotels across the country. That year her mother and cousin won the championship. That year, the sisters took first place and their mother’s team came second.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Genna and Olivia quarreled, as many siblings do, but they say they get along very well.
âOne of the reasons we understand each other is because we’re always together,â says Genna. âWe understand each other and chemistry is something that helps us to be successful. Plus, we’re not afraid to tell each other when we slack off; that’s part of the beauty of being sisters. “
Olivia agrees, adding, âI can basically look at her half the time and I know what she’s thinking. That comes into play when something goes fast. “
Decisions have to be made quickly, and Genna keeps a stopwatch and constantly makes calculations and decisions based on the 30 pages of instructions she receives 30 minutes before each rally day. The course is computer generated and the aim is to do it as timely as possible; it’s extremely meticulous. If a team is two seconds behind for a stage of the race, it will be penalized. The gentry’s final record was an astonishing 41 seconds from the computerized course time for the entire race.
Winning the Grand Championship means Olivia and Genna earned $ 50,000 in prize money that they say will be used for entry fees, hotel rooms, gasoline, and other support costs for the next year. Meanwhile, Genna runs an auto clothing company called Sweet Victory and Olivia competes in dirt track races.
“We want to bring it back to the next race,” says Genna. âWe will race as long as possible; As long as we make it, we’ll stick with it. “
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