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Snowmobile race livens up mountain

RUMFORD – More than 200 snowmobile racers flew over jumps, descended in drops and banked their machines side by side on hairpin turns at Black Mountain ski slope on Saturday.

It was the second annual Rock Maple Racing Snocross series, set to end today.

On Saturday, the race course climbed uphill, dropped downhill and included a series of jumps, with one that seemed to make the sleds float in the air for several seconds. The track had numerous banked turns. Very little of it was straight.

The course is similar to a motorcross track, but instead of dirt and motorcycles it had snowmobiles and snow, said Tara Saxton, organizer with Rock Maple Racing.

Racers ranged in age from 4 to 59 in 30 classes of competition. The youngest was the 120 CC for children ages 4 to 10. Other divisions included juniors, sports, women’s, amateur, semi-pro and professional.

Standing on Black Mountain’s porch overlooking the track, snowmobilers Mike and Gina Greaney of Mystic, Conn., said they came to watch.

“We’re here as fans. We love snowmobiling,” Mike Greaney said. He grew up in Minnesota and now serves in the U.S. Navy, so he doesn’t get to see much snow these days. “We come up here to Byron and Rumford to snowmobile in the winter.”

Saturday was the first time the couple had watched Black Mountain’s snocross. “It’s neat. It’s exciting,” he said.

Over in the pit, where the racers and crews hang out when not racing, there was all kinds of expensive equipment. Many teams had multiple sleds, plus trailers, campers and generators.

Racer Nick St. Amand, 15, of Fairfield had just finished a qualifying heat. He won, which put him in a good spot for Sunday’s final race. “I like jumping.” He’s made some jumps about 125 feet in length, he said.

His father, Paul St. Amand, said the Rock Maple Racing Snocross is the only one in Maine for the series. “It’s a big deal.”

Supporting his racer son takes a huge commitment of time and money, he said. “I could have bought a couple of houses” with what he’s spent, he said with a grin. “We have fun doing it.” His son has been racing since he was 7 years old. “I bought him a little 120 CC sled. It took off from there,” the elder St. Amand said.

Over at the kids’ track, which was separate from the big track, Wanda Mooney of Auburn watched her son, Kyle, 9, compete. After some worried grimacing during the race, she smiled when he finished third. “Not bad,” she said. “He loves it. He’s very competitive.”

Kyle, a third-grader at Sherwood Heights School in Auburn, said the best part of racing was winning. On the track, “I like the tabletop” (a jump), he said. When he’s grown he wants to be a professional and race snowmobiles on TV.

Peter Chase, who’s in operations for Black Mountain, said the first day of the race was going well.

“The weather didn’t cooperate as well as we expected.” It was cold. “But the racers are enthusiastic.” The track was in good shape, especially considering last week’s rain that froze to ice. “We’ve made snow for skiing. They pushed it where they wanted it,” Chase said.

Sunday’s weather was expected to be warmer. More comfortable temperatures, plus the final races, were expected to draw a bigger crowd, Chase said. Many who come are snowmobilers.

Last year was the first time Chase had seen a snocross race. “I would recommend that anyone who has never seen one to come out and see it. It’s fabulous. It’s exciting from the minute they hit the throttle.”

Saturday’s races were qualifying heats, which will continue beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday, with the finals in all divisions in the afternoon.

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