Aspiring racer Ward Imrie of Winnipeg, Manitoba, made a splash on ice yesterday as he made his ice racing debut at Winnipeg's Saint Boniface Park. He ran a total of six races yesterday, winning three of them. In the remaining races, he finished second twice and third once. Ward, who recently turned eighteen, began racing karts when he was seven and has his eye on a professional racing career.
The success on ice marks the third time this highly-rated youngster has stepped out of karts and shone in cars. Last summer at Gimli, Manitoba, he made an appearance in a Formula 1200 car and won. Then, in the fall, he traveled to Ontario where he raced a Formula 1600 to a dominant victory at Mosport.
Ward's ice racer is a 1989 Chevrolet Sprint, a little three-cylinder car purchased from a retired racer. Working with his father, Ward prepares the car for competition in what's know as the "rubber" class in which the cars, generally compacts, race on winter street tires. From the spectator's point of view, it's an entertaining circus as the cars slip, slide, bump and grind their way around the kidney-shaped circuit. From the drivers' point of view, however, it's a frantic, physical battle to guide the machines on the edge of control at highway speeds... fair-weather highway speeds!
The tone for Sunday's racing was set on Saturday during the timed qualifying session as Ward rocketed around the track in the shortest time. A remarkable achievement, it further strengthened his reputation of being able to race just about anything.
Although Sunday went well for Ward, as evidenced by three race wins, it was not a flawless day. Before the racing began, he spent a brief time upside-down after flipping the car during practice in the morning. Ward was none the worse for the experience and his biggest concern was that his helmet not be scratched as attendants undid the safety harness to remove him from the overturned car.
"It's pretty funny," he said of the roll. "I've spent eleven years racing karts and never gone over, then I manage to roll a car on ice."
With some ice racing experience - and a flip - now under his belt, Ward looks forward to his next outing with great anticipation. Ice racers will gather at Saint Malo, about one hour south of Winnipeg, next weekend for some more winter fun. The veterans will be looking to turn up the heat on the youngster, but Ward isn't worried.
"The other drivers raced me pretty hard, but they're a good group," Ward reported. "We had a lot of fun and I'm sure next weekend will be a blast too! I can't wait." -Mark Jackson