Snowmobiles rev up the region

Darius Shahheydari
Fort Coulonge March 14, 2020
The annual snowmobile races took place at the track by the Centre de loisirs de Draveurs in Fort Coulonge last Saturday.
Competitors were grouped into classes based on their age and the features of their snowmobile. There were six classes for the races: a non-studded stock class with canisters allowed, a trail-studded stock class with canisters allowed, a trail-improved class with no chisel and ice studs, a modded class and a kids class.
Riders from each class were then once again sectioned off by their snowmobile’s engine sizes, which ranged from 120 cubic centimetres (cc) to 1000 cc.
It was a $15 sign-up fee for any snowmobile class at the event, with the winner given the proceeds collected from the competitors.
Pierre Laporte has been organizing the event for nearly a quarter of a century. Since there is no age limit for the event, he said he has kids as young as seven-to eight-years-old sign up for the kids class.
Born and raised in Fort Coulonge, Laporte does not own a snowmobile. His family has been organizing events in the area their whole life, such as strongman competitions, carnivals and festivals. This one in particular attracts international crowds, as well.
“Everybody from all over the states comes here,” he said “They love the track [and] they love the pad.”
He calls the launching pad the “rocket launch” because of its elevated position relative to the rest of the track, which is 1500 feet long itself. The setting was not the same 24 years ago when Laporte first became the organizer, according to him.
He said the snowmobile racing scene has changed significantly in nearly a quarter of the century. The machines became faster, causing the track to be shut down more frequently for maintenance and the width of the track needed to be enlarged for security purposes.
The event also went from 17-18 groupings to 33 now.
Owner of Greenhill construction company, Cedric Cahill, participated in the event. His company also sponsored four classes. It’s the first time they are supporting the races this year.
Cahill believes events such as the snowmobile races play a key role in supporting local establishments and gas stations as well, where the riders fuel up.
“I think it’s great for the economy,” he said. “I think it’s great for everyone around here.”
Nicolas Gauthier, another competitor, has been racing since he was 15 years old. He said it’s more about the pride than the prize at stake.
“It’s a hobby,” he said. “Some people pop bottles, some people pop pills, but we solve our problems with wide open throttles.”

Cedric Cahill participated in the races. His company, Greenhill construction, also sponsored the event for the first time.

A total of 32 snowmobile classes took part in the races. The winner prize was drawn for the money collected for registration fees.

Racers were called up in twos to the launch pad, also known as the “Rocket Launch”, to take each other on in a 1 vs. 1 drag race.

As snowmobile manufacturers innovated their products over the years, adjustments needed to be made to the track as safety measures.

Racers from all over North America come to compete at this event. Snowmobile enthusiasts as young as 7 sign up for the races.


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