Sports car racers to test skills on autocross course at Loring

Retired mechanical engineer Mark Daniele of Pownal races his restored 1968 Lotus Formula Ford at autocross events throughout the New England area and will be at the event at Loring Air Force Base on Saturday.
Tom Hale
Retired mechanical engineer Mark Daniele of Pownal races his restored 1968 Lotus Formula Ford at autocross events throughout the New England area and will be at the event at Loring Air Force Base on Saturday. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 15, 2013, at 6:09 p.m.

LIMESTONE, Maine — Sports car racers from New England and western New Brunswick will be converging on Loring Commerce Center this weekend as the Cumberland Motor Club hosts one of the largest autocross events in the Northeast.

More than 130 racers have preregistered for the autocross, which will begin at approximately 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Maine-based club will use the expansive runways and taxiways at the former Loring Air Force Base to set up two separate courses which will challenge drivers from the novice to the experienced veteran.

Autocross is a temporary race course, defined by traffic cones, which challenges a driver’s skills negotiating the route as quickly as possible while maintaining control of the car. Cars run the course one at a time and are timed. Penalty points are added for off-course excursions or knocking down cones.

Loring’s 2.5-mile runways allow course designers to set up relatively high-speed courses as the fastest competitors may approach speeds well above highway speeds during their run.

“Loring offers a unique mix of asphalt and concrete,” said Per Chris Moberg of Standish, Cumberland Motor Club autocross director. “This changing surface adds to the uniqueness of the venue. I drive a 1971 Saab Sonett and an Intrepid 125 cc shifter kart. For karts this venue offers a tremendous test of both man and machine. Speeds are high and G forces are extreme.”

Garth Johnston, owner of GJ Logging of Mapleton, is the local favorite to challenge for the fastest time and probably will regain the unofficial title of “Fastest Autocross Racer in The County.” Johnson will bring his 2012 Boss 302 Laguna Seca version Ford Mustang, which is track prepared from the factory to the event.

“I look forward to driving my car at Loring,” Johnston said. “This summer my car hasn’t made it out of my garage due to a busy schedule. I will get it out, wax it, and go to Loring to have fun.

“Loring is awesome compared to the downstate venues which I ran at last year and enjoyed but at Loring I can stretch the legs on the car. I ran second gear at the downstate autocrosses but I hit over 100 mph in third at Loring and at the finish actually shifted into fourth gear,” Johnston added.

“I tell people you do not need a special car to autocross. You can autocross just about any car that meets certain safety standards. The folks at Cumberland Motor Club probably have a class for you. This is a place to play with my car that is fun and exciting.”

The safety standards cars must meet are relatively simple. Each vehicle will be given an inspection to make sure nothing will fall off the car and that it is in good mechanical condition. Wheels and suspension must be securely fastened. Wheel bearings should have no excessive play. The battery should be bolted or securely clamped. There should be no fluid leaks and no loose items in the car.

Cumberland Motor Club officials will hold an orientation where novice racers will learn about safety procedures and the meaning of marker cones followed by a drive on the course to gain familiarity with the layout before actual runs at speed. Since there are no other cars on the track at the same time, there is little danger of banging up fenders or harming the car. During runs through the course, drivers and passengers must be securely fastened in with a three-point harness and wear an approved safety helmet.

The class structure of the Cumberland Motorsports Club will allow a diverse group of vehicles such as specialty cars, economy cars and karts. The nimbleness of the karts usually allows them to set the fastest times of the day.

Gary Bellefleur of Old Town competes with his 2000 Acura Integra.

“My mother was the first female driver [stock cars] to race with the men at Unity Raceway. My father competed in the Pro Stock class for 28 years,” Bellefleur said. “Growing up I was heavily involved in racing, helping my father work on the car and going to every race on the weekends.

“When I discovered autocross I was immediately hooked. I loved that the course changed with each event and that it is much more challenging than just left-hand turns,” Bellefleur added. “I was also amazed at the vast array of cars competing and how incredibly welcoming the people of Cumberland Motor Club are to everyone. They make you feel part of the family.”

The weekend courses are designed by Steve Scruffy from southeastern Massachusetts.

“He has designed dozens of courses for BMW, and Porsche clubs at Fort Devens,” Moberg said. “He also did Cumberland Motor Clubs Brunswick Airfield event.”

On-site registration will take place at the Loring venue at 7 a.m. each race day. Registration is $40 per driver per day.

For information, visit www.cumberlandmotorclub.com.

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