March 22, 2015
The Beginnings of the story Part I
I have promised to give you the facts as best I can when I began this project nearly a year ago. I wanted Paul to review the rough draft of this week’s feature on him before publishing. He asked for that as well.
We met at JRT Customs in Caribou this morning and looked over the manuscript and after some minor tweaking her it is. I hope you enjoy Part I this week and Part II next week.
I had a great time interviewing him. I found out that Jason Theriault of JRT and Paul had very similar interests as they struck up a conversation about motorsports. I was neat to see and hear.
I interviewed Paul Cyr at his Presque Isle shop which houses his HIPERFAX® snowmobile slider business as well as other interests. Three hours slipped by rapidly as I learned a bit of snowmobile history and what drives Paul Cyr in his quest for top quality in whatever field of endeavor he chooses.
When I was told that Paul had a storied history in snowmobile racing and business, I must admit I had only heard of his current passion, photography. His skill as a photographer is well known far and wide.
I gathered eight pages of transcribed notes which told me I cannot tell this story in one episode so you will get part II next week.
Cyr, who is 63, grew up on a potato and grain farm in Hamlin just north of Van Buren. His Dad, Albert and Mom, Anne raised their family of three boys and three girls with Paul as the oldest on that farm. They all knew the value of hard work and sacrifice.
In 1976, Paul moved to Presque Isle to run the Presque Isle Nursing Home where he spent the next 15 years. He said, “It was 180° from riding a tractor but I studied and passed my administrator’s license exam. I worked there 15 years and then got into building house units and buying housing units.”
“I have always had an interest in motorized stuff. We would put some ‘Oh-my-God’ engine on a mini-bike and do 70 miles per hour! I always had some contraption that was dangerous but I lucked out.”
“In 1971 I started to attend Polaris and Moto-Ski tech schools for the local dealers. I had a little shop in Van Buren where I worked on their stuff. Prior to that, in high school my junior year the mechanic quit at the local Ski Doo dealer (The Ski Shop). I was his helper so I took over. This was my first off farm paying job.”
In the early 70’s there were two dealers in Van Buren, Bert’s Amoco with SkiDoo (The Ski Shop discontinued their snowmobile dealership to concentrate on selling skiing and bike products) Learnard’s Auto Sales was the local Moto-Ski dealer. Needless to say there was some cross town rivalries between manufacturers yet each used the mechanical skills of Cyr continuing to send him to technical schools for updates on their products. Cyr continued going to those schools into the 1990’s primarily for Polaris dealers in the area.
He continued discussing what an “Albert’s education” taught him growing up on the farm in Hamlin. The Cyr Farms had welders which he used to build bulk bodies and modify machinery to suit their purposes. They rebuilt engines, painted, and much more.
“ I learned the work ethic and the ability to just keep going,” said Cyr. “If it is not working we’re going to figure it out. We’re going to look over that hill. That’s priceless to me.”
I found out in the course of our conversation that those characteristics would become apparent in his business and racing ventures.
In the early 70’s he did some amateurish oval track ice racing with decent success. He said his increasing weight became a liability in those types of races. He would yield to the lighter guys in races which required going around in circles.
I wondered how he got involved with sliders on snowmobiles. After I confessed that I had no real knowledge of what a slider did we adjourned to his shop where he showed me the location and function of those important devices.
The 500 Mile Race
Cyr was always tinkering to improve the speed of sleds with pipe, engine timing, porting, lightening of components for sleds. It was a 500 mile race on the St. John River in St. Anne in 1978 that began his notoriety.
Through a convoluted set of circumstances his brother-in-law Maurice Daigle of St. Leonard, New Brunswick and Mike Plourde formerly of Van Buren now living in Caribou acquired a new Polaris TXL 340. The F.W. Manley, the Polaris distributor in Moncton, New Brunswick sent them this machine to race in the 500 mile event. Plourde and Daigle asked Paul Cyr to be their mechanic.
In 1977 the duo had raced yet were unable to finish. There plan was to utilize the innovative mechanic to help them win the race.
Reggie Thibodeau, the owner of T.W. Willard in Caribou, remembers the 1977 race very well. “I was leading the race when I broke a chain in the gearbox only 3 miles from the finish,” said Thibodeau. “The track was a non-plowed track. When we showed up the next year, they had plowed the six mile course and it was all ice. I knew the track sliders were going to be an issue. We never finished the 1978 race.”
Cyr knew that sliders were going to be an issue on the ice track. “Part of our reason for success that day is that I had taken the sliders off and I drilled them from one end to the other with 3/16 holes. I played with different ski waxes from my experience at the Ski Shop. I melted the wax in the holes and re-installed the sliders.”
“When the sun came out around 9am that day, the little bit of snow dust (on the track) was gone. The lubrication factor was gone.”
“That wax would would get a little warm and come down and keep the thing going. The sliders showed very little wear at the end of the race. I remember the guy who came in third place going by me sounded like a bulldozer. His slider material was completely gone. He was running on the rails and clips. He was hanging in there to finish the race and get the money.”
Mike Plourde said this about Cyr and the race which was his first 500 mile race experience, “It was unique and special. We had two drivers, Maurice Daigle and I. I started and finished the race. Paul was our mechanic. He drilled holes in the sliders and dripped wax into the holes.”
“ As we were racing, the wax would drip and lubricate our sliders. I was awesome that he thought of that”
When asked if he would consider doing a 500 mile race now, Plourde, a Van Buren native now making his home in Caribou replied, “I would do the same thing if Paul Cyr was my mechanic.”
The race course was a six mile oval and was 85 laps. Each lap consisted of a 3 mile blast down the ice to the corner where you would stop and have your sled number recorded and blast away back down the ice for three miles when the process was repeated.
“They came around before the race and tagged your sled with these tags you see on the back of a trailer truck,” said Cyr. We never noticed it, they hid it. That tag had to be there at the finish.”
“ We never knew they they had put it there as part of the pre-race inspection because they knew some people may try substituting a sled part way through the race. It was busy and there were people running around so that sliding a sled in there might have been tried.”
“We came in at 2:30 and they were not going to pay out until the race was over. We could see by the sleds that were still going it was going to be awhile. We had time to go back to Van Buren, shower up and change clothes.”
“The second place sled finished at 6:30 and third at 9:30. The few that were left quit because they only paid 3 places.”
Cyr attributes the win to a bit of luck, proper planning and steering clear of the few big wrecks in the race. He also said that sled sold right there on the ice before they left.
Learn more about Cyr’s pathway to building his slider company HIPERFAX, the first turbo charged 2 stroke in the area, the ultra-light Polaris long track, making friends with a Connecticut man by trouncing him in a drag race and much more in next weeks’ episode.
Spud Speedway Announces
Spud Speedway owner, Troy Haney of Caribou and Limestone’s Johnny Albert in a joint announcement stated that there will be stock car racing at the Caribou track in 2015 pending finalization of a lease agreement.
“Great news for racers and race fans in the County! We are happy to announce that John Albert and Spud Speedway have agreed in principle to sign a lease for the 2015 race season. John will return to a familiar role at the track as race promoter to be sure racing continues at the track. John has his past experience as a promoter in the 90’s as well as his long history of racing to help racing grow at Spud Speedway. Announcements for the specific schedule and events will be out soon. So far John is planning to bring Prostocks back to the track along with street stocks and Northern Lights. There has also been mention of a Enduro class as well. Please be sure to get out and support John and his team make this year a success. For more information about sponsoring or racing please contact John Albert.”
When I contacted Albert via Facebook he was kind enough to send me his thoughts so far on the 2015 season:
“There will be racing at Spud Speedway this summer. Our plan is to have pro stocks, street stocks, northern lights-4cyc , enduros and race karts. A schedule is still being worked out. As of now, the idea is to have Sunday afternoon racing.”
“There will be a rules meeting on May 9th, time and place will be announced soon. Many people have stepped up and shown interest in keeping this sport alive and growing. We want to fill the stands with a family friendly atmosphere. We need race cars! Any questions, call me 813-391-9399. I’ll be home the first of May, come and see me anytime.”
Albert is currently residing at his winter home in Florida. He will be a very busy man when he gets home with the many details involved in promoting races. With his background I suspect he will do a good job and I wish him luck. That also means I will not have to travel so far for story ideas this summer.
Happy Birthday Brad Winters
While hanging around the garage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Rickie Craven in 2000, when he drove the MidWest Transit #50 Chevrolet Sprint Cup car owned by Hal Hicks, I met a fellow motorsports writer and Christian, Brad Winters, from Columbus, Indiana. He had written an article about Craven and was dropping by to say hello.
At the time I had my Pentax K1000 non-digital camera and my reporter’s notebook and not much experience at covering such famous events like the Brickyard 400. Winters took me under his wing and gave me some advice about the media’s place in covering those types of events.
The advice I remember the most was to tape record as many interviews as possible. This protects the writer’s integrity should there be any questions that arise about what is put on paper or any other media. There would be times of course where the tape recorder was not practical to use, but use it when possible.
I went out and purchased a mini-cassette tape recorder and filled about a dozen tapes with interviews of Craven, Michael Waltrip as well as others. I was covering the Land Speed Races at Loring about four years ago when my mini-cassette recorder died. I scurried over to Staples in Presque Isle and purchased a new Sony digital recorder which I use to this day.
Thank You Brad Winters. I hope your birthday was blessed!
Let’s go racing,
Soli Deo Gloria