/Spectator sport: watching the ice races from the snowbanks
Racer Jen Gray leads a pack of cars during a practice session at the Minden fairgrounds in her unique green and purple Lexus. /Photo by Alex Gallacher

Spectator sport: watching the ice races from the snowbanks

By Alex Gallacher

As weird as it sounds, I’d never attended the Minden ice races before this year. I moved to Minden Hills in 2017 but I was never able to make it to the track, as my university schedule almost always conflicted with the season. The one year I was hoping to go, our good old pal COVID-19 put a stop to that.

However, working with the Minden Times has given me the chance to attend the ice races for the first time, ever. On an initiation by the British Automobile Racing Club’s Bryan Rashleigh [see March 2 Times for his story] my racing background brought me home.

Over the years, I’ve attended everything from the NASCAR Cup Series races to NTT IndyCar Series races and I can safely say that ice racing is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Upon getting there, not only was it very cold, but there were so many people at the track.

Ice racing is a sport unlike sports car racing or NASCAR, it doesn’t take a million dollar investment to win. In fact, Rashleigh’s car was built back in the ’80s and has led him to multiple championships. Everything from SUVs to Lexus’ were run out on the track, and all eras from the ’80s to the 2010s were represented.

The same can be said for the drivers as well. From the veterans like Rashleigh and Tom Prentice to the young up-and-comers like Khloe Drummond. However, don’t be fooled – some of the young drivers can be fierce competitors.

Three wide racing a common occurrence during the annual ice races./ Photo by Alex Gallacher

Anyone can get into a car and race, and that is my favourite thing about the event. Since it doesn’t cost an arm, a leg and a kidney to race, you have everyone from teenagers to septuagenarians taking to the track.

The racing was very unique The kidney bean-shaped track created by the Minden Kin Club creates a lot of challenge, which makes it tough for even experienced drivers to get ahold of. Similar to the scenes at your local dirt track, the cars spend most of the lap drifting through the corners.

It was really interesting to watch the drivers as they practiced, as even though many of them have raced here for years they are always still learning. The racing was very close with lots of side-by-side racing throughout the pack – occasionally the leader is able to gap the rest of the field by a few seconds. Being customized street cars, there isn’t often too much bumping or banging.

Hanging out with Bryan’s team, it was clear that everyone was very close-knit. His team ran two cars for himself and his son, and a further three cars for his teammates. Everyone worked together to ensure the cars were good to race, and furthermore able to be competitive. The grassroots – or maybe iceroots is more appropriate – feel is very comforting. If someone is in a crash, people will be jumping at the chance to help out wherever they can. Even when drivers get into disagreements, they usually don’t last long. There are always friendly rivalries, but it never gets to the point where fists are thrown.

Bryan Rashleigh shows off his 1980 Toyota Tercel that has been a staple of the ice races for over 40 years. /Photo by Alex Gallacher

The atmosphere is very fun. I found myself making new friends very quickly and I even ran into people that I’ve met before in my motorsports career. Everyone is friendly to talk to and they are eager to teach you about the sport they love. It’s easy to get wrapped up talking about the history, and even as a newbie everyone was eager to fill me in on the rules and drivers.

The ice races are a fun competition to take part in on weekends. Although it was cold outside, the heat was on the track. The starts were something that I found really cool, as they did standings starts à la Formula One.

This made it even more interesting as the non-studded classes would slip and slide all over the place as they jockeyed for positions. Surprisingly, nobody in the races I watched had any major accidents. For casual race fans and even people who don’t watch motorsports, I think ice racing is a fun family event that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Minden is a town of many things, however, most would never have guessed that Minden has a rich racing background. A tradition like no other, the Minden ice races will be here for many more years to come.