by Paul Glynn
Photos by Lisa Higgins
I have been ice racing for the past 26 winters and thought that a lot of our AONE members might want to get a taste for what its like. And who knows maybe even take up the sport sometime!
Im a member of the New Meadows Ice Racing Association (NMIRA), which is a club that is over 30 years old. The New Meadows River is in Maine on the Brunswick-Bath town line and is the principal place that we race. The other current locations are Sabbatus Lake in Lewiston and South Pond in Warren. A plowed road course is usually about 1.5 mile in length, with a half-mile front straight, chicane, short back straight, and a fast sweeper back onto the front straight. The average speed is in the 70s; top speeds are in the 110-115 MPH range.
The cars Ive raced over the years have been a succession of Saabs, with an Alfa Berlina thrown in, until I started racing a GTV-6 three years ago in the Showroom Stock class. The balance of this car on clean ice is fabulous and it can be put into high-speed four-wheel drifts with minor corrections (throttle and steering). Since I like driving sideways, the car really suits me. I find understeering cars totally frustrating, and I had to do a lot of suspension work on the Saabs to get them to oversteer. The Alfa, on the other hand, has been raced until this year just as it came out of the factory in 1982, with the exception of a locked differential.
Tires? I use Black Rocket tires made in Finland that have around 300 studs per tire. Some of the club members use home-made screw tires that may have as many as 400 sheet metal screws run through the tire from the inside, with washers and retaining nuts on the outside. Depending on conditions, these tires may well be the fastest. At New Meadows, we have to plow a new chicane about every half hour because these very aggressive tires wear through the ice.
And no, we havent lost any cars through the ice since I have been racing only plow trucks!
The races take place on any and every Sunday with favorable conditions from early January to early March. When I arrive, I register to race ($15 to members, $15 to join the club), unload my car, and take a few practice laps while they are plowing (going slowly past the trucks). We then hold a drivers meeting, and draw our starting numbers out of a hat to form the grid. As a result, the race starts are very interesting, with the speed potential of the cars varied throughout the grid, and with the lack of visibility on the first few laps. Sometimes, the other cars appear only as glimpses of color in the whiteout, as you try to determine what is the track, what is the snow bank, and what is the sky.
My car is the only rear-wheel-drive car to be raced in many years. The field is mostly made up of Saabs, VWs, Hondas, and Subarus. The cornering technique is very different for front and rear drive, and this can lead to some body damage.
We try to start at 11AM and have as many half-hour races as we can while the ice holds out. Trophies are awarded for the first three places, based on the number of laps a car did on that day in its class. There is also a class trophy based on the number of laps done during the season. This gives the slower, more reliable car a chance to get a trophy, and gives drivers an incentive to repair an ailing car during a race to try for the season class trophy. In my 26 years of racing, I have had a lot of podium finishes, but only won the class trophy once!
This racing is not only about winning. I liken it to the early days of the SCCA, when people were friendly, helpful, and then very competitive on the track. As an example, I have arrived alone on many Sundays; the other members would help me unload my car and, during the races, act as my pit crew to assist me racing against their own cars.Is it fun? If you could see into my GTV-6 past the swirling snow and ice chips, youd see nothing but grins.
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|Passing on the outside|
Passing on the inside
|You don't drive these tires to and from the races|
|Lifting a wheel at New Meadows|
|Passing down the front straight|
|Proper technique for passing a front drive car|
|Passing on the back straight|
|Behind a snow bank on Lake Sabbatus|
|A competitor up on edge creating...|
What body damage?
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