Local Innisfail Ice Racers Share their Blue Paint

(Drivers take racing to an extreme level)

 

> By Jennifer Wilson, Innisfail Province, February 2007<

 

 Imagine this. It's a cold winter day. Cars are lined up side by side,

 their engines revving, waiting for a race to begin. All of a sudden

 the 30 vehicles take off at once from a standing start. They rip down

 a straightaway and head right into a 90 degree angle turn. They are

 reaching speeds of 70 miles an hour. It is best described as

 "well-organized chaos." Sound crazy? Now imagine all of this done on

 ice. Driving in winter conditions can be harrowing at times, but for

 three Innisfail men, ice racing is about as fun as you can get.

 

 "It's just insane," said driver Rick Moreau. "You couldn't fathom what

 it's like to put a car in there, most people would freak out."  Moreau, along with his teammates Alistair Loughlin and Sonny Christensen, compete in an ice racing circuit through the Northern Alberta Sport Car Club. Ice racing is similar to rally car racing, except it's on an ice track. The track is created by clearing snow off a frozen lake. It's configured in Grand Prix style, with curves, straights and 90 degree angle turns.  And as the race goes on, the ice becomes more and more polished from all the tires spinning over it, which helps to increase speed.

 

 So what would possess someone to willingly take part in such an activity?

 "You can't get a better thrill," said Moreau. "It's the best natural

 high." This is his first year competing in the sport. While he said it was tough at first, as the season progressed he got better. Moreau used to race

stock cars while living in Ontario, but said it's nothing like racing on

ice. His teammate Loughlin has been racing in the circuit for the past seven

years and got Moreau and Christensen involved this season. And the guys

have been doing well. Loughlin is sitting 12th in the standings out of 26

drivers, Christensen is 18th and Moreau is 21st.

 

 Since the beginning of January they have been racing every two weeks at

 Rob's Lake in Ferintosh, near Camrose. They run in two different classes

 over the weekend, for a total of six races a day. The first is a strictly

 Chevette class. Every car uses the same kind of non-studded tires. The

 second class is called non-studded. It's an open class where you can use

 any type of car with non-studded tires.  After a successful season, the team has now qualified for the finals, being held in Lac La Biche on March 3 and 4.  "We're really excited we get to go up to the finals," said Moreau, adding that he's pleased all three of them will be going this year.

 He said he's looking forward to that race because the track is twice the

 size of what they're used to. Moreau also thinks they'll be able to reach

 even higher speeds on it.  And while the sport may sound dangerous to some, Moreau said the races are very well organized. Each driver has to have a proper licence before he or she can compete.

 

Drivers are trained through the Northern Alberta Sport Car Club and the races are sanctioned through the association as well.  And Moreau explained that the driver is safe. Vehicles have race roll cages, a racing seat and a five point harness to keep the driver securely in the car.  "They're mini tanks, you can take a good hit," he said. Every corner of the track also has a flag person to tell drivers if any incidents have occurred up ahead. But Moreau said the most important thing to do when you're driving is to pay attention to what's coming up around the next corner. You can't see far ahead of you and the snow banks are very high. Driver vigilance is key to running a safe race.  "Your concentration is on your sight line," he said. "You can't stop these cars. You have to pay attention and be in control."