January 12, 2009
Sleds drag for flag in Cincy
2nd annual snowmobile races draw hundreds
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Racers Bernie Klocko of Pennsylvania, right, and Dustin Rainbow of Cortland, accelerate from the starting line Saturday during a 600cc heat at a snowmobile drag race in Cincinnatus.
CINCINNATUS — Brad Burke and Bernie Klocko approached Saturday’s second annual Cincinnatus Fire Department snowmobiling drag races from slightly different perspectives.
Burke, 20, was racing for the first time, having purchased a used Ski-Doo 800cc sled just so he could try competing. Not that he was new to snowmobiling; the Cincinnatus resident said he has loved the sport since he was a boy.
Klocko, 60, had driven in from the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. A veteran of winter and summer snowmobile racing from his native Gouldsboro, Pa., to upstate New York, he said he had been racing occasionally after being slowed by stomach surgery three years ago.
They were two of 87 racers who tested their machines on the 500-foot, two-lane course on packed snow over a layer of ice, on the fire department’s land on Route 26. The day was cold, close to zero, but clear.
The races attracted about 100 spectators, some of whom came in off trails on their snowmobiles.
The event was held to raise money for the fire department in its efforts to build a fire station on the 18.5 acres of land, and for the TrailHounds Snowmobile Club of Pitcher. This was the second year of racing and there were about 20 more competitors than last year.
Event director Dean Catlin said the gate receipts totalled $1,285. The dollar amount from food sales was unavailable, but Catlin said the fire department and snowmobile club would receive several hundred dollars each.
There were six classes of racing, depending on engine horsepower and whether a machine’s back treads had spikes. The packed snow on the race course broke apart as the afternoon wore on, but the later races featured spiked-tread sleds which could handle the lack of traction.
The course was set up with orange plastic cones donated by Cortlandville-based Suit-Kote Corp. Registration took place in a heated trailer provided by CNY Power Sports of Cortlandville. Volunteers set up fencing, manned the entry gate and race course, cooked and sold food, and wrote results on a marker board, standing in the cold.
The land has a soccer field. Tractor pulls and mud snowmobile races are sometimes held there during the spring and summer.
Burke is no stranger to the fire department; he is the son of Fire Chief Robert Burke. He said his grandfather Vernon Kenyon and uncle Gary Lohsen introduced him to snowmobiling.
“This looked like fun,” he said. “I thought about doing it for a while and bought my sled.”
Brad Burke lost his only race, to the eventual champion of his class. But he said he was happy with his effort, pointing out that the most successful racers were often those who had spent the most money on making their machines fast.
Klocko won his first race and lost his second. He said he discovered the Cincinnatus event on a snowmobilers’ Web site and brought his Arctic Cat Firecat 500cc sled.
Many of the racers planned to race again Sunday at Toggenburg Ski Center in Fabius. Justin Cobb of McGraw said about 200 racers usually take part there.
“I try to race whenever I can,” said Cobb, who won the 600cc stock class. “This event is great. I thought it was great last year, even though there wasn’t much snow. Conditions have been very good the past few weeks, though.”
Willet resident Ray Rutan stood next to the course to watch his stepson Jamie Townsend, 17, race for the first time on his new Polaris 500cc. Rutan said he had been snowmobiling since the late 1960s, when the sport first became popular, and raced in the 1970s around the region, especially in Boonville.
“But this has come a long ways since then,” he said. “These machines are like a Cadillac now. Our sleds back then went about 45 miles per hour.”
The snowmobiles Saturday sped down the course at about 70 mph. Catlin said the fastest time was 86 mph.
Townsend lost his first race, but Rutan shrugged it off, saying, “Now he knows what he’s up against.”
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