Snowburners revving up for 44th annual Alcan
Though most racers won’t officially register until Friday, it’s looking like the longest snow machine road race in North America will have more local participants than it has in a long time.
Last year, only two Haines residents - Chris Brooks and Jack Smith Jr. - tackled the Alcan 200, a 155-mile snowmachine road race from the Canadian Customs station to Dezadeash Lake and back. Brooks and Smith will be returning this year, and newcomer George Campbell will also join the pack. Rick Campbell is still deciding whether he will race his machine or get another driver to race it for him, and several other Haines residents have expressed intentions to sign up.
“I’ve been wanting to do it for a number of years. I’ve had a sled to work on for a couple years and since I’m here, I better do it before I’m too old,” said George Campbell.
In an effort to incentivize Haines residents to participate, the Uglys of Haines have offered $200 to the first five locals who register. Chuck Mitman, president of the Uglys, said $200 might be a drop in the bucket compared to how much money some participants pour into the race, but it’s better than nothing.
“A lot of the big snow mobile shops have racing budgets and we didn’t want to see it just becoming all about those kind of guys...It costs money to enter ($325) and so we thought this might help there be more local participation. Hainesites would be able to enjoy it more if more Haines people were involved,” Mitman said.
“It’s great because it cuts down costs for us. You have to buy a snow machine, tracks, studs, carbides, wheels, wheel bearings. Plus all the other odds and ends, like entry fees,” said Smith, who has run the Alcan 200 for the past two years.
Brooks, who last year finished third in the 651-open liquid class (the “biggest” class according to engine size), will be racing in the smaller, 441-550 liquid class this year.
“I really enjoy racing in the bigger class, but this year I didn’t have the time and the money...I’m just hoping to get up there and have a good time. I’d like to do well, but I still have a few days of testing and I’m not real sure where I’m at,” Brooks said.
Smith will be racing in the 550-651 liquid class, and Campbell will be in the 0-440 fan class. Regardless of what class participants register under, racers agree that while running their snowmachines at high speeds down the highway is some of the most fun they’ve ever had, it’s also a nerve-wracking battle against the elements. And the elements can be what levels the playing field between the big, souped-up machines and the smaller ones.
“You can put a bunch of money into a sled and not be able to see 10 feet in front of your face due to weather. If you go back and look at races past when the conditions get less than ideal - low visibility, lots of bare pavement, no snow on the road - times get a lot closer together,” Brooks said.
This year will mark the 44th anniversary of the race, which is put on by the Chilkat Snowburners Association. It is the first year Kathi Lapp and Patty Campbell will be organizing the race instead of previous Chilkat Snowburners president Karen Hess.
Lapp said conditions on the road were looking better this week, but more ice is required to make the route ideal. Weather is extremely fickle, though, so speculating about conditions this early would be kind of pointless, she said.
The three overall fastest machines will receive a guaranteed cash prize of $1,000, $750, and $500 for first, second and third place. Other prizes include $500 for the oldest sled, $500 for the fastest rookie, and $200 for the fastest local.
A Calcutta auction, which will determine additional cash prizes, will be held at the Fogcutter Bar Jan. 18, the night before the race. Driver sign-up is at 5:30 p.m. The Alcan 200 road rally and pre-race driver meeting will be held at 9 a.m., Jan. 19, at 42 Mile Haines Highway. The race begins at 10 a.m.
The American Legion Hall will host an awards banquet and dinner at 6:30 p.m. following the race.