By Kurt Thiel

So you want to try ice racing. It looks like fun but how does one begin. Well, here is a simple guide on how to get started. The best way to begin is to show up to a club meeting and ask questions of members who have raced in the past. Offer to work an event or work as someone's crew. This way you can see what works and what doesn't. This will help you figure out what car, class and tires you may want to use. Most racers will give you tips and ideas on car set up, driving, and even what class and tires you should choose.

Draw on their experience. They can save you money, help you focus on the important concerns and sort out the priorities. Reading a rule book for the first time can be confusing and may discourage some, however it can be easy to decode by asking experienced member.

There are basically two major types of cars used by the Finger Lakes Ice Racers-- Street and Prepared. We encourage the Street class cars to be equipped with Dept of Transportation (DOT) standard winter tires that can be purchased at any tire store. There are several good reasons to start in Street class but the major ones are simple car preparation and low operating cost, you may already have the right tires and the car ready to race.

Most good running low cost winter beater type cars will be excellent for the task. The car should be in good running condition, and should be checked over by a trusted auto technician. The car should have no coolant, oil, or fuel leaks, also it should have tight suspension components such as ball joints and tie rods and no leaking shocks and struts. Add your car numbers, and a securely fastened fire extinguisher. Make sure that the car is cleaned out and remove all loose items. Find and label the toe hooks on the front and rear of the car with orange or red markings. This is so the plow truck can pull you out quickly if stuck.

A helmet is also required. Most auto and motorcycle helmets less than 15 years old will work. Three point seat belt in good condition, most cars have them already installed however they should be checked for tears and operation. If you have any questions call the tech inspector before the day of the event.

Spill pillows are required, they are absorbent mats that are used for soaking up any fluids that end up on the ice. We want to come back so we don't want any fluids or garbage on the ice.

It is a good idea to have a check list of all required and necessary items load the car up and refer to the check list the evening before. Spare tires, gas, oil, funnel, coolant, jack, jack stands, lug wrench, basic hand tools, duct tape wire, and spare parts that you may need. Also review the rules and the flags so you know what they all mean, do this before race day so you can ask any questions that you may have.

The day of the race plan your trip so you can arrive early and make sure the car is full of fuel before you arrive to the lake. The first step is to get registered, be prepared to show drivers license, and club membership card. Not a member?-- no problem you can join the club at that time. You will have to fill out several forms such as release waivers, registration form tech sheet and timing card, bring a pen and your wallet for entry fee.

Next step is to go through technical inspection. Drive your car onto the ice and follow the plowed trail to the paddock area. Unload your gear and make your car ready for inspection. There you will find the tech inspector. Introduce yourself and present your vehicle for inspection. The tech inspector will look over your car and gear, if everything is ok they will give you a tech sticker. Now locate the Novice Chief. He will ask you about your race experience and test you on your flag knowledge. He may choose to allow you onto the ice to practice or he may choose to ride along with you or you with him. Relax, the Novice Chief is a very experienced race driver and can show you the proper line around the course. If you don't feel comfortable after that ask the Novice Chief to pair you up with someone to coach you.

After practice is over there should be a short break and then a drivers meeting will be announced. In this mandatory meeting all drivers will be briefed on safety, course conditions, schedule and any other topics can be discussed. Any Questions about the running of the event should be brought up at this time. Shortly after the drivers meeting the races will start. Make sure that you come up to grid behind the starting line with the proper race group. A Starter and Grid Marshal shall direct you to move your car to the proper starting position. At this point you should be ready to race with helmet on and strapped on, your seat should be properly adjusted and seat belts should be on and properly adjusted. The starter will walk down the group of cars and look for you to give him a thumbs up when you are ready to race. If you need more time you must alert him. After the group is in order the Starter walks up to starting line. The Starter does one more check with course workers, timing and scoring. If everything is in order expect to get a green flag.

The Starter waves the green flag, this means go. The object is to improve you position and make safe clean passes remember this is a no contact sport and contact will be reprimanded. So avoid contact. As you becomet more experienced, your car control will improve as well as your finishing position. Most of all remember to have fun and enjoy your races.

The racing will go on most of the day with a break for lunch. We may choose to have an end of the day finale with other class cars running at the same time. The finale race will be longer in duration. More attention should be paid to rear view mirrors when racing at the same time with the faster prepared tire cars. If a faster car is coming up on you do not move over or change your racing line. The obligation of getting a clean pass is on the overtaking driver, give them room and be predictable.

After the finale racing concludes for the day. Help out with clean up and picking up the cones and police the ice for garbage and any debris that is left. Remember, if we want to continue racing on the ice we must leave the lake clean and respect the local residents.

Lastly, join us for some bench racing. I hope you will have fun and turn your friends on to a great sport of ice racing.