By Darren Lum
A 43-year winter tradition in Minden will continue, pending approval by the township.
Kin Club lifetime member Tom Prentice Sr. said an agreement was made between the service club and a group consisting of DriveTeq and SportCUP Incorporated, which is a subsidiary of the Russ Bond Agency.
Prentice said having ice racing continue this year is great for the community. Earlier this year, racing organizer Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs (CASC) pulled out because of COVID-19.
Prentice didn’t divulge terms, but said, “It’s going to bring in less money, but it’ll be some money. It will be some financial help for the Kin Club and it will be some money brought into the town.”
Before this agreement there was a concern that if they didn’t have an ice racing season it might not return in 2022.
“Nobody wants to see this series after 40 some years in Minden die,” he said.
The Kin Club will proceed with the building of the skid pad and the ice track next month when the weather is suitable.
Russ Bond, owner of the Russ Bond Agency, said there are two other non-sanctioned CASC ice race tracks in Ontario, but Minden’s was the group’s first choice for the six-week season, starting in January.
“I like Minden. I like the people there. I like the social aspect. I like going there. It seems that it’s still a really nice town where people still say hello to you when you walk down the street. Everybody comes together and this is a fun part of the winter, watching these cars on the ice. I thought it was a good idea to keep it going. At least make a stab at trying to keeping it going. If it was cost prohibitive or whatever the obstacles might be, at least we tried and so luckily we’re able to come to an agreement with the [Kin Club] and Tom Prentice. I got to say during the whole negotiations were fantastic,” he said.
He adds the discussions that were held were focused on how to make it happen instead of how it won’t.
The popularity of summer and winter racing was making a comeback and losing ice racing this winter would have ended that trend.
Bond said he remembers how after a decade away from racing that the numbers of racers were far lower than when he competed in the 1990s. Efforts such as novice program by CASC and his own racing series that enables racers without cars to rent from his fleet of Lexuses would have been for nought.
“I think it would be extremely difficult to get it going again next year because I don’t think you’d have the entries. I don’t think people would have the cars. I don’t think it would get going again and that would be a terrible thing not only for regional GT racing and ice racing and car racing, but also for the [town],” he said.
From his perspective, the revenue from offering driving lessons is important because it is a large part of their business.
Safety is important to this operation.
“We don’t want to be perceived as bringing COVID-19 from the city up to Minden. That’s not what we’re interested in. We want to be good partners, good neighbours. We want to make sure it’s done in a safe way,” he said.
COVID-19 protocols will be in place for the driving school on Friday and the racing on Saturday with the two classes, the DriveTeq Winter Challenge and the Minden Ice Challenge.
Virtually everything will be contactless.
Registration for racing will be performed online. Upon arrival, racers mush show identification. As of now, people from a “travel restricted area” or “travel advisory” area are not permitted to register. This does not include people from Toronto or Peel, who are not under a strict lockdown as of press time.
Masks will be worn at all times except in the pit area, which is spaced 10 feet apart from others. Washrooms will be cleaned by a paid person, which will be performed every two hours. Food can be purchased at the track, but only as takeout. Some of the other measures includes limiting the fields on Saturday to 34. Bond acknowledges this can change with how the situation related to COVID-19 remains fluid. As of now, Bond said he is discouraging spectators, but recognizes the venue is a public facility and will be difficult to restrict access.
DriveTeq is well-versed in executing COVID-19 protocols. These measures have already been implemented earlier this year at three other Canadian tracks: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Le Circuit Mont Tremblant and Calabogie Motorsport Park.
He adds many drivers are older than 20 much like himself at 58, who are careful and vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
“You couldn’t pay me enough to go to downtown Toronto,” he said.
Bond said he welcomes the CASC to return to organizing this race next year because of how many challenges there are with putting on a season of racing related to more than just the COVID-19 requirements, but the typical work to receive approvals, timing and lighting equipment for races and finding paid staff, who are skilled and experienced. The CASC, which has the advantage as an established body, is really good at running races, he adds. The ice race director Steve Manol will bring his expertise from the past two years of leadership to help Bond with this season.
In addition to Bond’s groups, there is the Ian Law Car Control School, which had already secured its place at the Minden Fairgrounds earlier in the year.
Little stands in the way of this racing season now.
“The only thing that can squash it would be if the township said no we don’t agree with those COVID things,” Prentice said.
Note: As of press time Minden Hills did not respond to requests for confirmation of the approval to use the Minden Fairgrounds by the DriveTeq and SportCUP Incorporated group.