Brooks brings Alcan trophy back to town
Chris Brooks averaged 106 mph to win the 45th Alcan 200 Saturday, becoming the first resident to win the title in 23 years.
Former Chilkat Snowburners president Dennis Miles won in 1991 with an average speed of 85 mph.
"It's great for Chris to bring the trophy home this year," said race director Zack Ferrin, who said the event came off "without a hitch." Fifteen of 24 riders who started the race finished.
About 10 miles of bare pavement at the race start and some fog detracted from generally good conditions that included warm weather and sunshine along most of the 155-mile course, Ferrin said.
"I actually had to take gear off at the halfway point, which is not the norm," said Brooks, a 32-year-old ferry worker. He said he was sore but happy after winning the race on his seventh attempt. Atop a 1997 Yamaha 700 SX, he reached speeds up to 120 mph.
"The winds are trying to push you one way or another and any irregularities in the surface translate right through the suspension. You get beat around pretty good," Brooks said.
Brooks passed Michael T. Ward of Haines after the first couple corners, then led the round-trip race to Dezadeash in both directions. "(Michael) got off the (starting) line a lot better than I did," he said.
Ward, who placed third overall in last year's race when he was the fastest local, said long skis on his machine made steering difficult on the bare pavement. His machine seized up and he limped into Dezadeash third from last.
George Juhlin of North Pole took second, finishing four minutes behind Brooks on a 1976 Rupp Magnum with a new, 440 cc Polaris engine. An eight-year race veteran, he also finished second in 2007 when he averaged 115 mph on a bigger sled.
Surface ice about an inch thick and 20-degree temperatures pushed speeds in 2007, he said. "It makes a big difference. That slush drags you down a little bit."
On Saturday Juhlin said he lost about a minute when he hit a berm about four miles from the finish line. He missed a curve, rolling his machine. "Other than that, it was smooth sailing," he said.
Rookie Amy Tonsgard of Haines was the race's only woman finisher, averaging 81 mph and reaching speeds up to 110 mph. Ferrin said Tonsgard's finish was especially impressive considering the machine she was going to ride caught fire the day before the race.
At the last minute, Tongsard borrowed a 600 cc machine from Little Jack Smith known as the "rookie sled" that has placed four times in four years. Ward raced on the machine last year. "That sled is starting to make a name for itself."
Tonsgard said she didn't feel like she was going over 80 mph. "A little faster would have been better. It was so much fun. I'd do it again," she said this week.
Race winner Brooks said he was working at former champion Dennis Miles' furniture store about 15 years ago, where he saw Miles' race trophies and started inquiring about the Alcan. "(Dennis) lit right up. He said, 'I'll tell you all about it.'"
This year Brooks improved the jetting and clutching on his machine, which helped him dramatically improve his previous fastest average race speed of 94 mph. The changes allowed him to climb hills without losing speed, he said.
Second-place finisher Juhlin said some of the event's fastest riders from Fairbanks sat out this year's race when they heard other top riders from the Yukon weren't participating. The race's record time averages about 120 mph.
"Hopefully, we can turn that around. I don't know what the answer is, but I'd like to see more people show up," Juhlin said. "Zack and the Snowburners do a good job putting the race on. I don't know what you'd do (to attract more participants)."
Winner Brooks said a change in design of new snowmachines works against the event. Those machines expose riders by putting them higher in the saddle, a disadvantage at high speeds.That means competitive riders now are on retooled, older machines.
"You pretty much have to have one sled dedicated to (the Alcan). You're thousands of dollars into it," Brooks said.
Brooks said he thought participation would rebound with improvement in the local and regional economies. "It's a specialized niche, but it's a great race. It's an awesome deal to compete with these guys because it's a hearty group."
Official Results: Overall: 1) Chris Brooks, Haines, 1:27.01, 2) George Juhlin, North Pole, 1:31:58, 3) Steve Cornwall, Fairbanks, 1:35:40; 0-440 Fan: 1) Dan Dickerson, Fairbanks, 1:46:21, 2) Davis Tester, North Pole, 1:49:31, 3) Mario Poulin, Whitehorse, 1:53:19; 0-440 Liquid: 1) Juhlin, 1:31:58, 2) Gene Bloom, Fairbanks, 1:49:12, 3) Justin Peterson, Whitehorse, 2:21:40; 441-open Fan: 1) Ken Schamber, Haines Junction, 1:49:44; 441-550 Liquid: 1) Cornwall, Fairbanks, 2) Nathan Peterson, Whitehorse, 1:36:18, 3) Seth Marley, Fairbanks, 1:44:53; 551-650 Liquid: 1) Steven McLaughlin, Haines, 1:37:05, 2) John Holmes, Lake Tomahawk, Wis., 1:38:16, 3) Amy Tonsgard, Haines, 1:54:35; 651-Open: 1) Brooks, Haines, 2) Jack Smith, Jr., Haines, 1:39:18.
Poor Broke Down Award: (first one to break down) George Campbell, Haines; Fastest Woman: Amy Tonsgard, Haines; Fastest Local: Chris Brooks, Haines; Fastest Out-of-Towner, George Juhlin, North Pole; Oldest Sled: Mario Poulin, Whitehorse; Rookie of Year: Seth Marley, Fairbanks; Red Lantern Award: Justin Peterson, Whitehorse, 2:21:40.