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Kahnawa’kehró:non take on the ice

Courtesy Derek White

Though the year hasn’t yielded appropriate conditions for ice racing yet, Derek White was still determined to get some on-ice action, taking to a makeshift ice race route at Clarence Creek Carnival in Ontario.

The route was decidedly less dangerous, with ice smoothed over a dirt track to simulate the experience of racing on a real frozen lake, without having to risk falling in after this year’s milder winter season.

“After looking at that track, I realized we don’t need much land to actually get a track going on our land,” White said. “Now with this ice, and the weather, it’s not really safe. So we’re definitely going to look at some different options for next year.”

Thirty races took place with 10 heats and three different classes last Sunday, including a class for minivans and pickup trucks. White drove two races in a vintage 1980 Pontiac Parisienne, initially speeding to success and taking first place in the first race. He finished fifth in the second race, but not without suffering damage to the vehicle.

“The second race, there were two laps left and the car smashed into me in the corner. The track was no bigger than a quarter mile in an oval. We were racing in a toilet bowl basically, that’s how small the track was,” he said. “There were some good cars that were used to that. I ended up finishing fifth, but I didn’t continue to the third race because my car was damaged.”

Fellow Kahnawa’kehró:non Brent Stalk joined White, borrowing his 1980 Chevy Caprice. Stalk finished sixth in the first heat, but his gas cable came out in the second race, causing him to also pack up early with White. 

Despite neither of them making it to the final race, White said the atmosphere at Clarence Creek was amazing, with around 2,000 fans gathering on the bank around the race track and fellow racers bringing a good fight to the competition. 

“Guys were pulling in with cars off the street, beaters, and they were just popping out their headlights and going to race. It wasn’t even really a race with these small cars, it was almost like a demolition derby,” he said. 

“They were going berserk. There was one pickup truck that flipped over and I guess that was a demolition derby truck because there was no windshield. The guy burnt his arm on the exhaust as he climbed out – he was racing with only a t-shirt on.”

It was recently announced that the ice racing season in Kahnawake has been cancelled this year due to unsafe conditions brought on by unseasonably warm weather.

White said that though it’s a little late in the season to plan for an on-land ice track this year, he’s hopeful that the community can come together to set something up for next year’s ice racing season, should warmer winters continue.

“We’ve just got to find some good, flat property, so if there’s anyone that has some, we’re definitely looking to make a race track,” he said. 

Up next for White is likely a doubleheader in Maple Grove this weekend, scheduled to take place on the ice itself. White said there’s some doubt as to whether he’ll compete in that race, with the thickness of the ice remaining unclear, though he plans to attend and at least remain on the shore if necessary.

evedcable@gmail.com

This article was originally published in print on February 23 in issue 33.08 of The Eastern Door.

Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.