TEAMS GO THROUGH TECH INSPECTION ON BUD CLARKE DAY
One by one, snowmobiles enter an 8-by-20 foot shack, engines blaring for a test of snowmobiling rivaling the 500 miles of the International 500 Snowmobile Race.
Technical inspection begins Monday during Bud Clarke Day at the I-500, the beginning of Raceweek activities for early comers to the famed oval. The day was named in honor of longtime community leader and I-500 volunteer Bud Clarke, whose name graces the parking building.
A crew of five people, led by Technical Director Herb Brown, who also sits on the I-500 Board of Directors, goes over every centimeter of every sled registered to run in Tuesday’s time trials. Gasoline gets checked for proper octane. Skis are measured for accuracy. Engines are checked for loose parts. And clearances aren’t given out very often on the first try: By 4 p.m. Monday, Brown had given out just two stickers signifying a sled is ready for practice.
“The standards are tight,” Brown said. “We don’t compromise for safety. Most of them come through with something minor, and they’ll fix that and be ready to go. We haven’t had any major issues yet. We want to make sure the structural integrity of the sled is there.”
Racers typically bring special “Soo Sleds” to the I-500 capable of the 115-mile speeds not seen anywhere else in snowmobile racing. When Traverse City, Mich.-based Holeshot Motorsports came through with the No. 73 Polaris, the crew got to work.
Dan Schumberger told driver Drew Stander to come look at the engine.
“Look at this piece here in the corner,” Schumberger said. “See that bolt there on the corner? Just get something down in the corner there. ISR needs that.”
That was a popular problem with some of the newer Polaris sleds going through tech, along with the tunnel enclosure. They were sent out of the shed, told to fix the clutch cover and the tunnel enclosure, then come back and receive their sticker.
Keith Jacobson took a flashlight to look closely at the Rudyard, Mich.-based Go ‘Til She Blows No. 9, “the only new sled we’ve ever had,” said Francis “Tank” Mayer, who has had a team in every I-500. They bought the sled from Fargo, N.D.-based Bunke Racing using the same setup Gabe Bunke used to win the 2012 I-500. Jacobson shouted out seemingly random numbers while another worker checked to make sure the parts were correct. The team tipped the sled on its side, and Schumberger measured the studs and shouted out more numbers, which were verified as being correct. Brown took a sample from the gas tank.
Once the sleds pass tech inspection they are allowed to practice and qualify. The top two sleds after Tuesday’s pole qualifying will go through again to “double check they didn’t change anything.”
“Yeah, we’ll put an 800 (cc engine) in there,” someone joked. Then after qualifying they go through tech for the I-500 on Saturday, Feb. 2.
“We’ll be holed up in here all week,” Brown said.
Media contact: Peter Pietrangelo, 906-235-4893, firstname.lastname@example.org