Lexington is known for racing — horse racing to be precise. But for William B. Secrest ’62 BE a whole new world of racing opened up to him as a student at the University of Kentucky. That world is rally racing, more commonly known as simply rallying. Rallying is a form of automobile racing that takes place on public roads using normal road rules and conditions. Although each rally differs, drivers, along with their navigators, must navigate a course using time, speed and distance to make it to certain checkpoints throughout the race. Rallies can last for days or even months.
Secrest’s introduction to rallying was coincidental, if not serendipitous.
“I showed up outside the Sigma Phi Epsilon house in 1961 driving a red MGA that I had just bought from Paul Miller Ford for $90 a month,” says Secrest, a Greenup County native. “One of my fraternity brothers, Biz (Rodney) Cain, started asking me about my new MGA and said ‘You can go on a sports car rally now.’ I did not know what a rally was, but started asking around campus for a navigator and, finding none, Biz Cain said ‘Why don’t you navigate, you can always find a driver?’ He suggested a new freshman who, while in the Army, had raced in Germany — Dick Foster.”
Two weeks later Secrest and Foster signed up for their first sports car rally in Lexington, and Secrest joined the Sports Car Club of America, an organization he is still actively involved with today as a rally instructor. Since then, his passion for rally racing has taken him to every continent, three of the four lowest points on earth, four major deserts, the world’s second largest high-elevation lake in Kyrgyzstan and Lake Titicaca (the world’s largest high altitude lake located in Peru). He has even driven down the frozen Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean!
One of his favorite races was the Around the World in 80 Days Motor Challenge, the first automotive event to circumnavigate the globe. During this 80-day race, Secrest was joined by his daughter, Kelly, as driver in a 1935 Chrysler Airflow.
“The routing put the cars on six ferry boats and two ocean crossings in the Russian Antonov An-124,which is configured to haul 42 cars at once,” he says. “Usually this aircraft is hauling Formula One or World Rally Cup vehicles to faraway places like Melbourne, Australia, instead of antique classic cars.”
Just a few of the other races which Secrest has participated in include: Panama to Alaska, Great American Race (which he has raced a whopping 20 times), Sea to Shining Sea, Australian Grand Prix Rally, Inca Trail Rally and Berlin-Moscow-Berlin the Rally of the Tsars.
Secrest has always had a bit of wanderlust. While at UK, he joined the Air Force ROTC and, upon leaving the Air Force, eventually became a captain for Trans World Airlines (TWA) because it had both domestic and international destinations. He cites Cairo, Egypt, as his favorite layover city and loves visiting Morocco for its stunning topography and interesting culture. When not travelling the globe by air, land or sea, Secrest calls his centuries old family farm in Argentum, near South Shore, home.
Over the past 50 years, Secrest and his UK friend Foster continued to rally together. Just this past May they travelled to Scotland to compete in the Scottish Malts Rally. What a life Secrest has lead, in part, because of the opportunities presented to him at the University of Kentucky.
“You go to college to learn but I had no idea that one of those things would have such a major impact on my life,” he says. “Through rallies and flying as a captain for TWA I have visited over 80 countries.”
By Molly Clark