TURNER — Racing on snowmobiles that date back to and before Apollo 11’s first manned landing on the moon in 1969 was a huge hit at Saturday’s 10th annual One Lunger 100 Vintage Snowmobile Race in Turner Center.

One lunger means a one-cylinder, fan-cooled engine on a production-line model sled offered to the public in 1973 and earlier.

A few thousand spectators of all ages trudged through a muddy, soupy cornfield to watch the excitement of 90 sleds being driven to their limits on a half-mile, grand prix-style track.

Days prior to the Turner Ridge Riders Snowmobile Club fund-raising event, members trucked in 150 loads of snow. By Friday, more than 80 percent of the course was covered, club President Ed Morris said.

“Track conditions are a hard base with snow cover on it,” Morris blogged Friday on the club’s Web site. “The front stretch got quite a bit of sun this week, (so) by the end of the main event, the sleds will probably be in the mud.”

They were in the mud long before that, thanks to temperatures in the 40s and repeated qualifying heats in the morning that turned the track into a challenging, body-pounding mud-run by noon.

The secret, however, of racing on a sled with only an inch or two of suspension “is to make sure you can handle it and have plenty of power,” racer Shawn Martin of Turner said in the pit bog after qualifying.

The top speed of many vintage sleds was 45 mph.

“It’s tough,” said Martin, 31, who also races at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford. “You’ve got to be fast, but also, you’ve got to drive smart. I’ve done it all 10 years, but I’ve never finished a race here, because (the sleds) tend to break down.”

“You need speed, you need to drive well and you need luck, and probably luck is the biggest thing in the formula,” he said. “It’s a fun race. Most of the time, we’re laughing out there.”

Because the track had turned to icy, soupy mud, Martin expected to be sore by day’s end.

“Today, where there’s not so much snow, it’s really like you need a four-day recovery, because you’re driving around on a 1-inch suspension, so you take a pounding,” he said between grinding carbide runners on sleds to make them sharper and better able to handle turns.

“It’s very important that you can turn,” Martin said. “The key is to get the sled to turn and carry the momentum down the straightaway, but if (the track) turns to mud, it’s a free-for-all.”

One year, he twice flew over the handlebars after the sled crested a slight jump and stopped dead in a mud hole, Martin said.

Out on the nearby track, qualifier-heat racers zoomed along straightaways, then slowed and slewed through turns.

Some racers made too-tight turns, though, and ended up driving into incoming traffic for slow-speed collisions. Others spun 360-degree turns or simply steered wide and destroyed hay-bale barriers before getting back on track.

After several young children raced 10 shorter laps on much slower 120cc sleds, eight women on vintage sleds competed in the powder puff race. Most managed to stay on their sleds.

One soggy woman who didn’t said afterward to fans watching, “I didn’t know I was going swimming today; polar dipping!”

Kacie Butcher of Turner, who placed fifth, said it was like riding on air.

“It’s a blast,” she said. “The turns were the worst part and the water, because you bogged right down.”

The main event — the 50-lap, 40-sled race — was to start at 3 p.m. It would be preceded by a Last Chance B Race for drivers with slower sleds that didn’t qualify.

At least one racer wouldn’t be in either.

Two laps into a qualifier, Dylan Morrison’s 1969 Ski-Doo Olympic lost a ski, planted its strut in the mud and flipped end over end twice in a spectacular crash. He was not injured, said the logger who broke his back in a motorcycle accident in 2008 and recovered to race again.

“I just do it for the fun of it,” said Morrison, who would like to race faster sleds but can’t because it’s too expensive. That’s why he loves one-lunger racing.

“I love the fun of it, the enjoyment of the old sleds and bringing them back,” he said.

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