Meadow Laker grass drag snowmobile champ
By Mac Christie
A 500 ft. clay track, a snowmobile, and six seconds – or less.
That’s what it takes to race at the Hay Days Grass Drags Snowmobile World Championships outside Minneapolis, Minn., which two Meadow Lake residents recently took part in, albeit in different roles.
Shawn Heaver, 44, finished first in his class, the 500cc semi-pro division.
“You go from zero to 80 miles per hour in just a second, so you better be hanging on,” Heaver said about the race.
He also raced in another division, but red-lighted, meaning he started too early and was disqualified.
“It was a bit nerve-wracking, I suppose,” he said of the races which are watched by 80,000 spectators. “They’re pretty intense.”
It was Heaver’s first time at Hay Days, which is attended by around 200,000 people over the course of the weekend, but it won’t be his last.
“I’m booking the room for next year already,” he said with a laugh.
In fact, the races were the first time Heaver had raced on grass.
Dale Roger, a long-time snowmobile racer who also went to the event as a technician, convinced Heaver to take part.
“He had never been on grass before and he wanted to try it,” Roger said. “So I said, ‘A good place to try it is the World Championships,’ and he ended up pulling off a win.”
Roger, 46, had raced at Hay Days before, but this trip was solely business, as one of the technicians who inspected all the sleds.
They looked for everything from illegal fuel additives and stud heights, to improper engine sizes, Roger noted.
The races had suffered from cheating in the past and the number of racers who attended was down as a result.
“Guys were getting sick of getting beat by guys who were cheating,” Roger added. “This is the first year they actually did tech and there were some guys that didn’t show up because of it.”
There were supposed to be five technicians, but only two turned up. It meant long hours for Roger, checking around 300 sleds with no breaks throughout the day.
“We checked every one,” he said. “It started at 8 o’clock in the morning and ended at 10 o’clock at night.”
In fact, Roger, who’s the Yamaha service manager at Northland Chrysler in Meadow Lake, started doing technical inspections of machines for the Saskatchewan Snowmobile Racing Association six years ago due to similar issues.
“I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take a year off racing and do (tech),’ and I haven’t really raced since,” he laughed.
He noted the recent championships were well attended by Saskatchewan racers, estimating that of the eight racers from the province, they returned with nine trophies from various classes.
Heaver, who only started racing a year ago taking part in the past year’s SSRA winter season, said he looked at Hay Days as a good tune-up for the coming winter’s racing.
He was happy with the way his snowmobile performed, and noted he could move up to the pro class next year.
“The sleds I beat down there were in the pro class,” he said. “I’m sure I could have beaten them in that class too.”