PRESQUE ISLE — Too much snow too early in the season brought on the one-week postponement of the New England Snowmobile Ice Drag Racing Championships at Presque Isle. It will now be held Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 24 and 25.
The races, sponsored by the Presque Isle Snowmobile Club, were postponed from this coming weekend because early snow on the river caused unsafe ice conditions.
Daniel Collins, co-chairman of the races, said there was 30 inches of snow and six inches of slush on the ice when workers got onto it last week. The races are held on Presque Isle Stream on the upper side of the State Street Bridge, parallel to Main Street.
The snow and slush demanded a lot of work to pack it down. After packing, it was left to freeze, then shaved after it froze.
Wednesday night, said Collins, “A bunch of volunteers helped and the strip was flooded and left to freeze. We will shave the new ice sheet and flood it some more.”
Collins said the extra time will allow volunteers to “play with the ice and spruce it up some more for next weekend’s races.”
The 1,700-foot-long by 130-foot-wide strip will have two feet of ice for the two days of racing. Racers scream down the strip, racing for 660 feet. The remaining 1,000 feet of ice strip is to allow time to slow and stop the machines, which can reach speeds of 120 miles per hour.
During the competitions, four racers run against each other in 20-foot wide lanes. They run against each other and against a computerized timing clock.
Collins said the postponement worked out well. “We had southern Maine racers who could not have been here this weekend. They will be able to come next weekend,” said Collins.
Collins said they are expecting upward of 100 racers for the two-day competition. Racers will come from the New England states, Pennsylvania, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario.
On Saturday, said Collins, stock and pro stock races will take place.
“On Sunday, we get into the machines that look like no one should be on them. They reach speeds of 120 to 125 miles per hour in 660 feet of racing. They’re moving,” said Collins.
Collins said he hopes for better weather than last year. Bad winds brought the wind chill down to more than 20 degrees below zero in 1997.
One drawback to the postponement of the races will be the loss of hot air balloonists. Seven hot air balloonists were scheduled to be in Presque Isle this weekend.
“Because of the change in schedule, the hot air balloons will not be here for the races,” said Claudia Stevens, executive director of the Presque Isle Chamber of Commerce.