Steven Bradley, Winnipeg, Manitoba (January 8) The Winnipeg Sports Car Club (WSCC) unveiled their 2017 Ice Racing season this past weekend at Mazenod Pond in Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Industrial Park. A dozen hearty speed demons attended opening day in brisk Manitoba weather with temps dipping to around minus 30 degrees with the wind.
On Saturday, drivers had the opportunity to shake off a years worth of rust on the newly cut track during a number of practice sessions, while a handful of new members were enrolled in Ice Racing School in the warmth of an enclosed car hauler.
The long straightaway connecting turn 5 and turn 1 was where most of the action happened. About half of the field encountered the outer snow wall at some point during the weekend as racers tried to work in the groove entering turn 1.
Lee McRae dominated the Studded division as he swept Sunday’s events – winning all 6 races. In fact, McRae led 83 of the 91 laps run on Sunday, despite the inverted starting order opening each race. Damon Surzyshyn topped the Rubber division as he earned victories in 4 of the 6 races. Last year’s champion, Andre Toupin was the only other driver to win as he picked up a pair of checkered flags.
In Studded race 1, Al Marcoux qualified to start on the pole. At the drop of the green flag Marcoux secured the lead while Lee McRae got by Colin Mckee for the runner up position. On lap 2, McRae stole the preferred inside line heading into turn 2 and completed a pass on Marcoux for the lead. Marcoux continued to pursue McRae for the lead, however a run in with the outside turn 5 barrier let McRae escape. McRae easily collected the race win by 4 seconds over Marcoux. Mckee placed third while Wayne Kehler finished in fourth.
In Studded race 2, Colin Mckee led the opening 3 laps from the pole until he overdrove the entry into turn 1 and slid wide – enabling McRae to pass low for the lead. Marcoux moved into the top 3 after Kehler made a similar mistake entering turn 1. By lap 7, McRae had put Kehler down a lap exiting turn 5. As the race wore down, Mckee slowly began reeling McRae in for the lead. Despite lap traffic, McRae was able to stay on the point and collect the win by just 1 second ahead of Mckee. Marcoux placed third ahead of Kehler who finished 2 laps down in fourth.
In Studded race 3, Mckee led from the pole until he hooked the bank low entering turn 2 which allowed McRae to drive by on the outside line and take over the lead – with Wayne Kehler following into second spot. Mckee took back the second position just a few moments later with a pass on Kehler in turn 5. Kehler’s race ended prematurely after stuffing his car nose first into the turn 1 wall – where he sat until the race concluded. McRae opened up a big lead and collected the win by a full straight away over second place Mckee – who was the only other car still moving on the track.
In Studded race 4, Mckee led the opening lap, however a wide entry into turn 1 opened the door for McRae to get by and move to the point. McRae once again collected the race win ahead of Mckee, while Mathieu Levielle took over driving duties in the 55 to finish third in his first race of the season.
In Studded race 5, Levielle led the first 2 circuits around the track, however an aggressive entry into turn 1 sent him sideways into the wall which allowed McRae to pass low for the lead. On lap 4, Wayne Kehler got hung up in turn 5 and eventually got himself out after the field put him down 3 laps. On lap 7, Mckee surrendered third position after taking his car to the pits to address mechanical issues. Back up at the front, McRae was able to maintain his lead as he collected his 5th win of the day. Levielle finished 5 seconds back in the runner up position, while Kehler completed his race 4 laps down with a top 3.
In Studded race 6, Levielle and McRae battled side-by-side through the opening 3 laps. However, Levielle contacted the turn 5 wall which enabled McRae to secure the lead. Levielle left the track to address any issues that may have happened after contact with the wall, but rejoined the field on lap 8. On lap 15, McRae put Kehler down a second lap and completed a clean sweep by earning his 6th win of the day. Mckee finished in second ahead of Kehler in third and Levielle, fourth.
In Rubber race 1, reigning class Champion, Andre Toupin qualified to start on the pole of the opening race. Toupin led the first 2 circuits until Damon Surzyshyn completed a pass for the lead exiting turn 5. Surzyshyn held the lead for the entire race – and by lap 11 put Tim Gordienko in his new front wheel drive car down a lap. Surzyshyn collected his first victory of the season 5 seconds ahead of second place Andre Toupin. Mike Demchenko picked up 1 spot to finish third while reigning Rookie of the Year, Chris Dueck finished fourth ahead of Steve Leiding in fifth.
In Rubber race 2, Jim Antosko took the early lead while Demchenko was threading the needle between rows 1 and 2 as he entered the first corner. Antosko continued to lead the first 6 laps, but on lap 7 Toupin completed a pass in turn 4 for the lead – bringing Surzyshyn with him in second. Toupin coughed up the lead on lap 8 after hooking the rear of his car entering turn 1 and spinning – allowing Surzyshyn to move to the point. However, Toupin battled back and regained the lead at the start/finish line on the next lap. Toupin maintained his lead over the final 4 laps enroute to his first win of the season. Surzyshyn finished just 1 second back in second, while Antosko and Steve Leiding were the only others to finish the race.
In Rubber race 3, Mike Demchenko used a front row starting spot to grab the lead. On lap 2, Toupin made an inside pass on Antosko entering turn 1 to move into the top 3. On lap 5, officials halted the race after Tim Gordienko came to a stop in the race line entering turn 1 with what looked to be battery issues. Officials safely removed the car from the track and the field was reset for a single file restart. Chris Dueck took advantage of the restart when he got by Demchenko for the lead entering turn 1. On lap 10, Surzysyhn knocked Toupin out of the top 3 after a pass in turn 4. Racing got tense on lap 11 after second place Demchenko bobbled the entry to turn 1 and collected Toupin which sent both cars spinning. This enabled Surzyzhyn to move up to second as both parties involved in the incident were able to continue on under green. With just 2 laps remaining, Surzyshyn was able to get a fender under Dueck low entering turn 1 and move to the lead. Surzyshyn collected his second win of the day ahead of Dueck, while Toupin, Demchenko and Antosko rounded out the top 5.
In Rubber race 4, a near pile up entering corner 1 caused officials to restart the race after Demchenko and Dueck tangled. Steve Leiding led the pack back to green while Toupin and Demchenko settled into the top 3 after the opening laps. On lap 5, Surzyshyn began picking his way through the field after starting back in sixth – getting my Demchenko on the long front stretch for the third position. On lap 6, Toupin had caught Leiding for the lead and began applying pressure. After 2 laps of hard racing, Toupin finally emerged from turn 1 with the lead. Surzyshyn knocked Leiding down to third after an inside pass exiting turn 1 on the tenth lap. Toupin managed to stay on the point for the remaining 3 laps, and collected his second checkered flag of the day, 4 seconds ahead of Surzyshyn. Leiding, Demchenko and Dueck rounded out the top 5.
In Rubber race 5, Antosko led the field to green as Surzyshyn got by Demchenko on lap 3 to secure second spot. On lap 5, Surzyshyn completed an inside pass on Antosko entering turn 1 to take over the lead with Toupin following closely behind to claim second. Toupin stayed glued to the leader’s bumper and stole the lead in turn 5. Demchenko knocked Antosko out of the top 3 on lap 6 after a pass on the front stretch. Things were heating up at the front as Toupin and Surzyshyn battled side-by-side over the next 2 laps for the lead. Eventually after some close-quarters racing, Surzyshyn secured the point exiting turn 2. With just 2 laps remaining, Antosko nosed into the entrance of turn 1 and collected Leiding who had nowhere to go. Both drivers scored DNFs. Back up at the front, Surzyshyn maintained the lead and earned his third win of the day. Toupin finished closely behind in second while Demchenko and Dueck were the last of the running cars to finish.
In Rubber race 6, Antosko once again led the 6 car field to green. Antosko held the point for the opening 3 circuits until Demchenko outraced him down the front stretch and took over the lead – bringing Leiding with him in second. Surzyshyn moved Antosko off a podium spot after completing a pass low in the turn 1 entrance on lap 5. Surzyshyn continued to climb the ranks after getting by Leiding a lap later in turn 1. Surzyshyn only needed 2 more laps to catch and pass Demchenko for the lead low entering turn 1. On lap 10, Leiding and Toupin both lost the handle exiting turn 2, but were able to get pointed in the right direction and continue onward as Toupin secured third spot. Surzyshyn continued to lead the remainder of the race as he went on to collect his fourth win of the day ahead of Demchenko. Toupin finished in third ahead of Leiding and Dueck who finished their weekend with top 5s.
After the first of 5 events, Lee McRae holds an 18 point lead in the Studded division over Colin Mckee and sits 20 points over the team of Al Marcoux and Mathieu Levielle. In the Rubber division, Damon Surzyshyn sits 8 points up on Andre Toupin and 27 ahead of third place Mike Demchenko.
The WSCC Ice Racing returns to Mazenod Pond on January 21st and 22nd. If you have never attended an event I encourage you to do so. Watch some highly skilled local motorsport talent free of charge, from the comfort of your heated vehicle. For more information about the Winnipeg Sports Car Club, or how to get involved in ice racing, visit them online at www.wscc.mb.ca.