Warm weather troubles I-500 officials
By SCOTT BRAND/The Evening News
SAULT STE. MARIE - Warm weather has track officials nervous as they prepare for the 39th Running of the International 500 Snowmobile Race.
“Every attempt will be made to have it on that day,” said Chairman Jan Bailey of the scheduled Feb. 3 date.. “We aren't panicking, yet.”
Bailey indicated there is still lots of time to build a decent track before the green flag is slated to drop.
“It was January 14, before we put water down last year,” she recalled of the slow start associated with last year's track construction when warm weather lingered into January.
Despite the initial concerns and a track that was only half of its normal thickness on race day, according to some accounts, the mile-long oval held together for the full 500 mile race.
Bailey said it appears as though the 15-day forecast holds the promise of colder weather on the horizon. Track preparations are scheduled to begin in earnest this weekend when volunteers begin driving the frost down into the track using heavy equipment which can allow the race to run on the frozen clay even after the surface ice has been chewed up by the studded tracks.
Cold weather is needed for track construction with 12-18 inches of ice annually built up on the track each year.
Bailey indicated that event-organizers will have a pretty good idea regarding the viability of the Feb. 3 when they meet during the third week in January. If the I-500 is unable to run on the scheduled date, a back-up date of March 10 has been selected. The March date may not be ideal for everyone, takes advantage of an off weekend for drivers on both the MIRA and Cross-country circuits.
Anyone wishing to volunteer their time toward this year's I-500 Snowmobile race is asked to visit the Website at www.I-500.com. Bailey said e-mail provides the best mode of communication, at least until the volunteers begin congregating at the mile-long oval in preparation for the big day.
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