Medway club holding first snowmobile drag races on expanded track

BDN PHOTOS BY NICK SAMBIDES JR. Trevor Violette and Jake Lampert, both volunteered to prepare the computerized starter's pole system that will be used in this weekend's snowmobile drag races in Medway. Photo taken Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011.
BDN PHOTOS BY NICK SAMBIDES JR. Trevor Violette and Jake Lampert, both volunteered to prepare the computerized starter's pole system that will be used in this weekend's snowmobile drag races in Medway. Photo taken Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011.
Posted Jan. 05, 2011, at 12:40 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:24 a.m.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

The East Branch Sno-Rovers Club of Medway will kick off its second season of snowmobile drag-racing on its recently expanded 2,800-foot drag track when it holds its first-ever Katahdin Area Snowmobile Racing Affiliates race this weekend, club Vice President Brian Wiley said.

The KASRA race is the first of six, including a state championship heat scheduled for Feb. 20, aimed at developing local snowmobile drag-racing teams, Wiley said. Radar runs will commence Saturday morning, after race registration occurs from 7 to 10 a.m. KASRA’s first points races will be held starting Sunday morning.

The radar run will likely draw local enthusiasts, with professional and local racers — including local race teams — running on Sunday, Wiley said. Some might come from as far away as Quebec and Ontario. Several New Brunswick teams have also indicated they might come.

“We could have a lot of local people on radar run day.

We could get 80-100 entries that day. That could be anywhere between 50-60 teams. It’s really hard to tell,” Wiley said Tuesday. “This is the first race of the year, the first opportunity people have had to put their sleds on ice. Lots of people will use it as a tune up.”

The event “has really spurred a lot of interest in local people. There will be a lot of local teams and a lot of hot sleds built by local people,” Wiley added. “We know there are some people in Bangor that have bought racing sleds. We are encouraging the development of new teams.”

The club formed KASRA last spring to develop the sport of snowmobile drag-racing in the Katahdin region, which is already heralded internationally for its snowmobile trail networks.

Snowmobile drag-racing is not unlike auto drag-racing. It’s loud, very precise and a little amazing to the eyes. Track speeds reach 150 mph. From the starter’s light pole to the finish line is 660 feet of ice, 5-7 inches thick. That’s the racing portion of the 2,800-foot iced track.

The rest is for slowing down.

The club will be the first in the northeastern U.S. to open its drag-racing track, Wiley said.

A club drag-racing event held Jan. 16-17 last year drew almost 200 racers and about 1,700 spectators, a promising start for the club’s inaugural season. Located at the clubhouse on Hathaway Road, about a mile from the East Millinocket line, the snowmobile drag-racing track is the only one in Maine not built on a waterway.

That, and Medway’s location off Interstate 95, gives the club an edge over other state clubs that offer drag races and poker runs, club members have said.

Seeing the chance to grow something akin to what is now New England’s largest snowmobile drag racing event, the Epping, N.H., Grass Drags, which are run on grass in October and draw at least 10,000 people, the Katahdin Area Recovery and Expansion committee last year gave the Sno-Rovers club an $18,000 grant to help build the track and associated amenities.

This year, the club will charge a $3 gate fee for people ages 12 and over and has added a second ice-smoothing machine, built a garage to hold its two machines and extended the club’s kitchen to help its concessions efforts. No races would be possible without KARE’s support, Wiley said.

Club members, all volunteers, will be working all week to prepare the track and its race starting and timing system for the weekend’s events. Track technician Trevor Violette, the 20-year-old son of club President David Violette, and his college roommate, Jake Lampert of Exeter, N.H., were fine-tuning the computerized starting pole inside the club while several club members sprayed down the track to create enough ice for the weekend.

With temperatures expected not to top 30 degrees during the day and an expected drop into single digits at night, club member Maynard Mitchell said the ice should be in good shape for the weekend. They planned to water the track nightly until race time.

“We’ve been working on it now for about three weeks,” Maynard said.

More than one million gallons of water were poured for last year’s track, club member Edmund Ledger said.

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At a Glance

KASRA snowmobile ice drags

East Branch Sno-Rovers Club

Hathaway Road, Medway

Events for January

Jan. 8 — Radar Run

Jan. 9 — 1st KASRA point race

Jan. 21-23 — Northeast Winter Nationals

Events for February

Feb. 5 — 2nd KASRA Points Race

Feb. 6 — 3rd KASRA Points Race

Feb. 19 — 4th KASRA Points Race

Feb. 20 — KASRA State Championship

Events for March

March 5 — KASRA Points Race

For more information see www.eastbranchsnorovers.com

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