Fabian Smith and his winged racer will be among the Modifieds competing in this weekend's Nostalgic Latchkey Cup Ice Races on Meredith Bay. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
CENTER HARBOR — The garage at Scott Burns Landscaping serves as a gathering place for members of the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club of Moultonborough, where they can tinker and fine tune their racing cars ahead of the next weekend’s racing events.
This week, they are preparing for a special race on Saturday, the Nostalgic Latchkey Cup Ice Races on Meredith Bay, which will be part of that town’s 250th anniversary celebration.
Ice racing had been taking place on Meredith Bay whenever the conditions allowed from the 1950s to the 1980s, with the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club getting involved to hold the first Latchkey Cup race in 1984. The race took its name from Meredith’s nickname as “Latchkey to the White Mountains.”
After a few years, the racing moved from the Bay to Lees and Berry ponds in Moultonborough, where the ice would freeze sooner and get thicker. Ice on Meredith Bay was less predictable, and as ice fishing grew in popularity and the number of docks increased, it made it more difficult to hold races there.
This year, however, the cold weather has produced a good layer of ice which measured between 28 and 30 inches thick when the crew went out earlier this week to fill in the holes from last weekend’s Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby.
To hold a race, the ice must be at least 12 inches thick, according to James Demond.
“Everything has worked out great this year,” he said, noting that there seems to be a four-year cycle between good conditions and poor.
There is some concern about the warm weather this week, which forced a postponement of Laconia’s World Championship Sled Dog Derby. Fabian Smith said the ideal ice is cold and hard, but with crusting on top of it, the ice may be a little rough this year. He is hoping that, by Friday, they will be able to move the crust for a smoother ice surface.
The club measures the track and plows the ice before the race, and banks snow around it, if possible.
In order to make it safe to get on and off the ice, the club has logging bridges erected from the shore to the “good ice” and, for this weekend’s event, Lance Williams and Son Logging and Trucking and Mike Franks Logging will be setting the bridges. A ramp truck will be on hand in case it is needed, Smith said.
Racing will begin at noon, with free admission to the event.
There will be a donation can for those wishing to support the club, which donates all proceeds back into the community, through scholarships to students at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro, Moultonborough Academy, and Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith. The club also provides for those in need, whether they are suffering from cancer, need assistance with fuel costs, or are simply “down and out.”
The Meredith 250 Committee, which is coordinating the town’s anniversary event, got together with the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club back in 2013 to being planning for the return of the Latchkey Cup races to Meredith Bay.
Co-Chairman Steve Durand said the club is going to put on a great show, featuring racing in six classes: Sprint, Modified, Stock, 4-Cylinder front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder rear-wheel-drive, and Juniors — racers between the ages of 13 and 15.
Smith said they expect to have at least seven Juniors racing this year, including three girls — Lilly Horsch, Tess Poitras, and Callie Burns.
“We’ll miss Allie Ripley,” said Demond, referring to a junior ice-racer who two years ago switched to snowmobile racing.
Durand, who has followed racing since he was a child, said ice racing started out with jalopies in the 1930s, racing in Plymouth. By the 1950s, when there was racing on Meredith Bay, there were stock cars, and the technology and models continued to change.
“It has evolved from cut-down jitterbugs,” Durand said.
Ice racers, he said, are a close-knit group that will share cars and, if someone is in trouble, others will rush out to get the car back on the track.
Almost any vehicle can be modified to enter the race, as long as certain safety precautions are taken. Each vehicle must carry a fire extinguisher, and be equipped with a window net and roll bars. Junior racers must wear protective collars. There is a weekly brake check for those doing racing.
Then, of course, there are the tires. Some racers will use old motorcyle tires with a roller chain and studs. Others will use stud chains or V-bars to hold traction on the ice.
Demond said the first racers did not have front tire chains, but then the drivers began using chains on the left front tire, and finally, both front tires also had chains for traction.
Planning for the race also means thinking about amenities. Shanty 603 will provide concessions for burgers, hot dogs, chili, chowder, and cold drinks. United Site Services will provide porta-potties.
While there will be trash cans available, the event calls for carry in-carry out to ease the cleanup after the event.
For further information, see www.lrirc.com or www.facebook.com/LRIRC.
James Demond, Fabian Smith, and Roland Zeiler are among the members of the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club who are preparing for this weekend's Nostalgic Latchkey Cup Ice Races on Meredith Bay, part of the town's 250th anniversary celebration. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)
Much of the race prep for the Nostalgic Latchkey Cup Ice Races takes place at Scott Burns Landscaping in Center Harbor. Standing, from left, are Scott Burns, James Demond, and Fabian Smith, with Roland Zeiler sitting on the side of Smith's Modified that will be taking part in the race on Meredith Bay this weekend. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)
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