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Snowmobilers zoom to Medway for ice drag races

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
A sledder accelerates down the 2,200-foot ice-covered track at the East Branch Sno Rovers Club in Medway on Jan. 9, 2011, during the Katahdin Area Snowmobile Racing Affiliates race.
By Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN Staff

The Northeast Winter Nationals Snowmobile Ice Drag Race will be held Saturday and Sunday at the East Branch Sno Rovers clubhouse in Medway.

“This year’s race is staging up to be the biggest and best yet, and most likely the second biggest race in the Northeast and mid-central U.S. and Canada,” said Brian Wiley, vice president of the East Branch Sno Rovers.

Registration starts at 7 a.m., and the qualifying rounds begin at 11 a.m. Saturday. The races will start at 10 a.m. Sunday, with the 120cc kids class race to follow at noon. Admission is $5; children younger than 12 get in for free. A pit pass is $5 per person.

Now in its third year, the big event is organized by the Katahdin Area Snowmobile Racing Affiliates, a division of the East Branch Sno Rovers established in 2010 to bring the sport of snowmobile ice drag racing to a new level in Maine and the Northeast.

Since mid-December, affiliates members have been working long hours after dark to ice down Medway’s race venue, the only ground-based 2,000-foot track in the Northeast.

“It has the advantage over others because we don’t have to worry about the weather in terms of the slush that can happen on lakes and rivers,” said Wiley, who is also director of the KASRA.

In past years, the races have attracted up to 500 spectators, and the club would like to see even more attend to watch this high-speed sport. The races can be watched up close or on the television in the warm clubhouse.

“It’s an economic boom because all the hotels right now are full with snowmobilers,” Wiley said. “The racers come from all over, usually getting here Friday … it’s a big help for the economy.”

The event is set up for 20 different classes of sleds, from stock 500cc all the way up to unlimited horsepower.

“I think the track record is 148 miles per hour, and the elapsed time for that speed is around 4.6 seconds,” said Wiley. “It’s exciting.”

“It’s good entertainment as far as snowmobile racing goes,” he added. “It’s very well controlled and well run, too. Safety is, of course, the highest priority for us.”

One of the big names at the event will be world record holder Mike Bailey, who is coming from Michigan with his 1000cc pro stock sled, and several fellow competitors, according to the press release.

“We also have several commitments from large pro max racing teams and other 1000 pro stock sleds that are coming, along with several teams from Maine, other New England states and Quebec,” Wiley said.

The event is fully insured and sanctioned by International Snowmobile Racing Association. Organizers also acquired permission from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Two major sponsors are Gilman Electrical Supply and The Okonite Co.

For people who can’t make the Northeast Winter Nationals but still want to get a taste of ice drag racing, the club also is hosting the Maine State Championship Snowmobile Ice Drag Race on Feb. 18-19 at the Medway clubhouse.

For information, visit www.eastbranchsnorovers.com or call Wiley at 610-2121 or 746-7776.

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