Racing the old-timers
A cold wind blew as a sprinkle of snow fell on frozen Big Detroit Lake Saturday morning. It was a great day to break out the old snowmobile and race against 101 other teams -- going 25 laps on a four-mile course.
Saturday, the Regional One Lunger Association (ROLA) held the 13th Annual One Lunger 100, an endurance race of 100 miles for one-cylinder sleds sold in 1973 and older, on the ice in front of the Holiday Inn in Detroit Lakes.
"It's kind of an attrition of man and machine," said ROLA treasurer Jeff Lausten. "To see if both of them can hold out for 100 miles."
ROLA started out in 1999 with six guys who would race their old-time sleds around ponds.
"It just kind of caught on and more people got into it," Lausten, one of the original members, said.
The races got big enough for the group to become organized, insured and incorporated to the point now there are more than 100 teams racing.
They now host three races per year in Waconia, Detroit Lakes and New York Mills, which is a mud run held in August.
The One Lunger 100 started out in Pine River, where it remained for the first six years, until the organizer got tired of the event and ROLA took it over. They held the race in Bemidji for three years before bringing it to Detroit Lakes.
The race features three classes of one-cylinder sleds based on carburetor size -- HR, HD and relic, which is a restricted motor class designed for older, slower machines.
During the three- to four-hour race, a pile of parts, hoods and skis slowly accumulates like the snow on the ice. Many of the sleds don't make it very far -- Roland Giroux of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada was towed in after only four minutes of racing -- while several make the entire 100 miles with no problems.
Walter Vry of Sebeka has been helping out at the One Lunger 100 for three years, and plans on getting an old sled this year and racing it in next year's event.
"I've got the bug," he said. "But I'm too old to race."
He said he plans on paying the entry fee and getting a couple of kids to drive the 100-mile course.
For HR Class winner Brett Lessman of Lake George, it was the first time in eight tries he's won the race. Another driver jokingly said he usually breaks down and doesn't finish.
"I didn't let off very often," he said of his winning strategy.
Lessman earned the "Ironman" title as he drove the entire course himself. He said the conditions weren't as bad as last year, but racing 100 miles still took a toll on his body. For his win, Lessman received $1,000, and as another driver put it, "finally broke even" in the One Lunger 100.