Ice racing season cancelled, breaking decades-long Manitoba tradition

WINNIPEG — Ice racing, a decades-long Manitoba tradition, is being skipped this year due to the pandemic.

For the first time since the late 1950s, the Winnipeg Sports Car Club isn’t hosting an ice racing season.

Veteran driver Tim Gordienko hasn’t missed a season since he started racing in 1981.

“It’s the most fun, the adrenaline rush,” he said. “You don’t feel the cold coming out of the car. You’re standing around there and it’s -25 degrees and my wife tells me to put a jacket on and I go, ‘oh yeah, it’s winter.'”

This year, however, Gordienko’s helmet and lime green Honda Civic will be collecting dust.

“A bit dejected, I always look forward to it when the weather starts getting cold,” said Gordienko. “It’s something we have to accept and we’ll be ready for winter.” 

According to Mike Demchenko, the club’s ice racing director, cancelling the season was a tough decision. 

Logistically, physical distancing in the pit lanes and planning the races proved to be too much in the end.

“It was an unfortunate decision but one we had to make,” said Demchenko. “We just have too many volunteers and organizers involved in putting on an event.”

The ice racing season usually consists of six tracks in various Manitoba towns.

The cancellation will be felt in Gimli, Man., which hosts the racers during its winter festival. 

“There’s definitely an impact,” said Lynn Greenberg, the mayor of Gimli. “We used to get quite a few people out for the ice festival weekend and we’re not going get those kinds of crowds now.” 

The Winnipeg Sports Car Club was planning on using this year’s season to launch some initiatives to attract new drivers to the sport.

“We were looking at building up some of our racers and our numbers this year. We will just have to look optimistically forward for next year to do that,” Demchenko said. 

The club will promote its IceX series in 2022, which encourages people to take their own cars ice racing in hopes of getting more people to try the sport.

Until then, just like the club, drivers both new and experienced are waiting patiently for next year’s season.

“Next year, yup, we’ll be back,” said Gordienko.

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