March 29, 2015
It is a special privilege to interview County natives who have excelled in some part of motorsports. One example is Paul Cyr a native of the St. John Valley in Northern Aroostook County now living in Presque Isle.
In Part I we covered the early years of this man whose mind seems to churn out ideas one after another. He has shared with me that many times ideas come to him while sleeping and he must wake up and write them down.
We begin by discussing the development of sliders and the HiperFax™ business.
After trying ski wax as explained in Part I last week and using tricks such as utilizing the engine’s oil injector pump to apply vegetable oil onto the sliders, Paul Cyr stumbled upon PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). PTFE was developed for the space industry and now is used for such items as cooking pan coating, pipe thread tape, and anti-squeak coating.
When Cyr saw the PTFE, a ‘light bulb moment’ occurred. An engineer friend introduced the material which the food processing industry utilizes in an environment where temperatures hover around the 400° F mark. Virgin PTFE acts as a wear preventative and was food grade rated.
Cyr thought that this material might be useful in the slider system of snowmobiles. At the time the material used was Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) plastic.
“The main intent or desire was to put it on the slider,” said Cyr. “You can’t glue the stuff. This was virgin stuff I was using which does not take a lot of pounds per square inch.”
“I would make PTFE screws. I would cut and use a die to make them. I still have some of the original ones here that were just a piece of PTFE. I would take ¼ inch off the slider to keep the same elevation with a saw.”
“I put them on my sled and few others. If you had a lightweight sled, it would be obvious there was something to this. They would not hold up to a heavier weight snowmobile.”
“I had no idea where PTFE came from,” Cyr continued. “I did not know who made it. My brother-in-law told me there was a company in Grand Falls, New Brunswick that made PTFE. This was before the internet so you could not find stuff that easily. I said it can’t be, it can’t be.”
Cyr contacted the Grand Falls PTFE producer, EnFlo Canada, and was surprised that they would talk to a little guy like him about PTFE production. They were part of parent company EnFlo Corporation based in Bristol, Connecticut. They had been producing PTFE since 1956.
“I quickly learned I would have to have fillers, either carbon or bronze to give it more body to tolerate the weight,” Cyr added. “I was playing with different mixes. I would put them on friends’ sleds, especially those that had the tall slide-eating machines.”
“The results were 100%! The fuel savings difference was instant. They would let off the brake to stop somewhere and ‘wow’ all of a sudden we’re not stopping for this road. Rolling was so much better.”
Cyr continued saying, “Soon I was testing them on other sleds. My original intent was to go faster on my own sleds. I thought maybe I could recover some of this. PTFE is not cheap, it is extremely expensive.”
By this time Cyr was applying for a patent on his process which he received in November 1996 for using PTFE on an endless track.
Somehow Polaris racing legend Bob Eastman, who raced from 1964-1974 and was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 1988, got wind of Cyr’s sliders. Eastman was working in the engineering department by then, having managed the Polaris Professional Race Team from 1975 to 1979.
Eastman contacted Cyr at his newly formed business HiperFax™ and offered to test some of his sliders. Impressed that the well-known former snowmobile racer wanted to test his product, Cyr agreed to send sample sliders to the Minnesota based company.
“They put a tractor-trailer on a lake in Minnesota and had a couple of guys testing,” said Cyr. “Every day they would fax me the results.”
“The last set I sent him I considered the good stuff. On Friday night Eastman called and said, ‘Mr. Cyr I think we’ve got something. You know that magic marker that you put on the bottom of each slider? After 60 miles of testing it is still there.’How do you measure half of a magic marker thickness?’”
“I later found out from someone who went to a four-wheeler school they were still testing them in July. They ran 1500 miles on asphalt in July on those same sliders.”
“They decided to buy a truckload of them for a special racer model, like 3000 pairs. I remember running up to Chandlers when they got this racer (model).Yup, there’s a pair of my sliders. It’s quite a thing to see it on a sled.”
Cyr did much of his testing on a grass runway on the back part of his farm. He utilized what he called “farm boy ingenuity”.
He still sells HiperFax™ sliders through a distributor Starting Line Products (SLP) with the majority sold in the west mountains and Alaska where they have different snow conditions than in the midwest and east. Regardless where they are sold, he recommends a 75 mile break-in period on his sliders to condition them.
Cyr moved from drag racing to mostly radar runs. Always open to new ideas for power production, he found a Polaris dealer in Massachusetts who were offering turbo kits for snowmobiles. The kits were not thoroughly tested on snow-sleds and proved to be unreliable and fraught with gremlins. The series of sleds with turbos were nicknamed “Windmills”.
“Cyr said, “I had done it all with pipes, high-compression, and exotic fuels. I put it (the turbo) on my sled and it did not work. The first time we took it out to Chandlers there was a spot in the middle of the run that gave me a serious thrill but when I turned it to the left it filled with fuel.”
“Eventually within 4 to 5 weeks I figured out engine flooding and other stuff. It never was aggressive on take off. When the turbo came in it was like engaging a high-powered pto (power take off) onto a small engine.”
“We had a sleepy take off. At the 200 foot mark the turbo got energy to spool up the turbo. It was ‘hang on’!
Cyr was soon turning speeds over 115 miles per hour where he noticed the air getting under his track trying to get him airborne. He lowered the height of his sled and added a valence found on the front of Chevy pickups to the front to keep air from beneath. This allowed him to reach 128 miles per hour. This is when he got off the sled as the driver.
Not one to shrink away from a challenge, Cyr modified a Polaris 500 SKS (Snow King Special) to reduce its weight and allow him to ride on top of the snow rather than sink in. According to Polaris figures on manufacturers dry weight the sled may weigh between 482 to 516 pounds with different options.
After adding lightweight a-arms and suspension components and a reduced weight tunnel as well as other subtle weight saving measures, Cyr was able to get the machine down to 400 pounds. This allowed him to accomplish such tasks as shuttling surveyors around the future site of the Nordic Heritage Center. There were over 20 kilometers of trails to locate during the winter before construction began at the world-class biathlon venue in Presque Isle which opened in 2002.
Myron Hale the owner of County Sports Polaris dealership in Caribou said, “Anything Paul Cyr does he does it right. Snowmobiling was the same way. He was leading the way with turbos in the 1990’s”
Ron Hoyle from Baltic, Connecticut drag races a sled at the 3/8 mile Waterford Speedbowl in Waterford, Connecticut. When he came to the County to enjoy snowmobiling in February 2002 he heard about Paul Cyr’s reputation and thought he would challenge him head-to-head.
Hoyle said, “I came up on a snowmobile trip to the “strip” (a place to race on the back of Cyr’s property). I got beat three times in one race on the 1000 foot track on my 800 Polaris XCR (Cyr slowed three times to allow Hoyle to catch up).
“I needed to do a lot of work. I went home with that sled and did what Paul said and came back two days later. He still beat me but it was a lot closer! At that point we made both sleds a little faster.”
Hoyle and Cyr continue that friendship to the present. The Connecticut man, when he comes to the County, often helps out with projects and of course rides snowmobiles.
Cyr’s neighbor, Troy Nichols summed up a lot of what Paul Cyr is about when he said, “I would look up here at 11:00 o’clock at night and all the shop lights would be on and sometimes get up at four am and the lights would still be on. Every time I would come over he would be working on clutches, sliders, or some project.”
Cyr current passion is wildlife and nature photography. He takes high quality photos which are seen around the world. You can see some of Cyr’s photo’s at paulcyr.zenfolio.com.
Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame to Induct Caribou’s Mark Jones
The Maine Vintage Race Car Association Class of 2015 Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be Saturday April 4, 2015 beginning at 4 pm at the Augusta Civic Center. Inducted will be Dick Berggren, Steve Blood, Mike Johnson, Mark Jones, Sandy MacKinnon, and Steve Nelson.
Caribou native Mark Jones’ racing career spanned from 1972-1995 at Spud Speedway. He recorded 83 career victories and seven track championships. His best year he won 11 of 13 feature races and the championship in 1979. The driver of the Patriot #6 Chevy was very popular driver with the race fans.
Jones currently is the Principal at Caribou High School. He started his educational career as the Caribou Tech Center automotive instructor. After earning his Masters Degree he became the high school vice principal. When the principal position became available, Jones was selected.
For more information about Jones refer to UpNorth Motorsports Episode #30 November 10, 2014.
Spud Speedway’s Bobby Anderson is Finalist for Maine Driver of the Year
In addition to the Induction of the six Class of 2015 Hall of Fame members on saturday, the Maine Driver of the Year Award winner will be announced. This year each of the six stock car racing tracks in Maine were allowed to nominate one driver from their ranks to compete for Maine Driver of the Year.
Spud Speedway owner Troy Haney selected Bobby Anderson to represent the Caribou track. Anderson has been track champion in the Street Stock and Hobby Stock divisions multiple times and was the 2014 Champion.
Anderson has amassed many heat and feature wins in his 20 plus years as a driver. It is thought that he has the most wins of any driver at the track. He has raced Tough Trucks, Demolition Derbies, Enduros, and practically every class run at the track in that time span. The exact number of wins is unknown since records before 2007 are hard to come by.
For tickets to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and the naming of the Driver of the Year dinner you might try calling the Maine Vintage Race Car Association despite the March 15, 2015 deadline. Call them early this week at (207) 363-0364. There are no guarantees from me that you will get tickets.
I must give a shout out to Woodland’s Joe Chamberlain. Joe is on the selection committee for the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame. He has spent countless hours researching and advocating for County racers as the committee makes their decisions. Without his tireless efforts the County would not have the nominees they now have. Thank you Joe!
As we enter into this Holy Week I ask that you remember the Easter season and all of its meaning. The events on Calvary that Good Friday and Easter morning changed the direction of the world specifically my life’s direction. This is my favorite season of the year.
Let’s pause from racing this week and resume next week.
Soli Deo Gloria