Snowmobile racing gets motors running
By Cheryl Petersen
Encased in the fog of snowmobile exhaust and the roar of revving engines, a large crowd was hyped. Cabin fever relieved. Outdoors, at the Walton Fair grounds, Curtis Roberts and his grandfather, Sandy Scudder ,came from Margaretville to race in the Hamden Hill Ridge Riders Club snowmobile races.
“I entered in two classes,” said Curtis. “The 500 stock class and the vintage class.” Roberts operates a Polaris TX 440, purchased in the 1980s. Last year the snowmobile took two second places in the state of New Hampshire at the Northeastern races.
Roberts and his family also ride snowmobiles on trails, when he isn’t playing basketball for Margaretville Central School.
“Curtis is very good on the basketball court,” said a proud Scudder, who encourages a well-rounded extra curriculum program for kids. Scudder also gets Curtis to race a snowmobile on water in the summer.
The event pulled in 110 racers from around Delaware County and beyond. “We loaded the Polaris on a trailer and pulled the trailer to the race,” added Roberts.
Curtis takes his cues from his grandfather, Sandy, who raced for many years. “Watch the light,” is the dictum of the day. “When the light turns green, I want to accelerate the snowmobile as soon as possible,” said Roberts.
Racers line up at a starting point on two tracks that extend longer than the measured and marked 300 feet. A light flicks from red to green near the starting line and the racers gun the throttle. The first drag racer to the end of the 300 feet wins the round.
Long racing days
Only two racers are allowed on the track at a time. But, many of the 110 racers sign up for multiple classes, so the day was long. Racers come in all ages. Little tykes, three-years to 10-years are allowed to sign up for the 120cc classes (parents often nearby). To ride a larger snowmobile, the child needs to be older than 10 and have a certificate of training.
“There is a technique,” said Nick Keator, from East Meredith. Keator operated a Ski-Doo 800cc, however he juices the ride up and enters the 800 improved class. His buddy, Kurt Alexander, from Hamden, riding an Indy 500, enters the 500 Improved class, and the 500 Modified class, a class he has won in previous years.
The riders learn about motors, clutching, and suspension. “As soon as the light turns green, the goal is to get the track to bite the ground,” said Nick. How quickly the track hooks up with the ground depends on suspension work and clutching.
The snow on the ground was pretty thin on race day, however, the men weren’t too put out. “The track actually bites the grass better,” said Keator. Many of the riders pre-registered to race, however, the Hamden Ridge Riders allows registration the morning before the race.
From Hobart came the McMullen family, along with Daisy, Lucas McMullen’s girlfriend. “It’s Jaithen who wanted to come see the races the most,” said Vicki McMullen. Jaithen McMullen is two-years-old and was wearing a helmet during the races. “He loves snowmobiling and came to watch Uncle Matthew and grandpa race,” added McMullen.
Lots of excitement
Matthew and his dad, Doug, signed up for two classes each, but used the same snowmobile, a Polaris XCR 440.
“The races are fun, but casual enough that anyone can enter and be a part of the excitement,” said Matthew, who commented that the exhaust fumes added to the exhilaration.
The McMullen family also rides trails during the winter. “A while back, we were riding with Fish Man, also known as Mike Dacey,” said Lucas. “We got stuck on a trail near Plattekill. Fish Kill said we could eat him if we couldn’t get out. But we got out and didn’t need to.”