Racing Snowmobiles Breeds Excitement


'Need For Speed' Motivates Westminster Man

January 20, 1991|By Stanley C. Dillon

Gavin Bullock of Westminster says he has "the need for speed," whichis why the 27-year-old always is looking for places to race his snowmobiles.

No matter what the season is, Bullock and his friend MikeWolfe -- who is also his crew chief, team owner and sponsor -- are racing their snowmobiles almost every weekend.

Last fall, Bullock competed in the Mason-Dixon Grass Drags at theKingsdale, Pa., Fire Co.

He won the first race of the series in October, topping 13 sleds in the Formula III class. In the second racein November, he was runner-up and won the overall point championship, worth $500.

"That's not bad for two races," says Bullock. "My friends race all year in other motor sports and don't make that much."

Grass drags are more complicated than just running the sled for a brief quarter-mile run. As in any motor sport, the competitor is onlyas successful as his crew. Bullock talks more about his father, Joe,and Wolfe than about himself.

"They do all the work," Bullock says. "Without them I could not run. They cool the engine down, keep the motor tuned. It allows me to concentrate on my racing."

Wolfe, owner of M. L. Wolfe Steel Products of Westminster, also rides the trails with Bullock, but rarely races. Instead, Wolfe's company is a major sponsor of the Mason-Dixon grass drags and Bullock's racing efforts.

Since the grass drags event at Kingsdale, Bullock has kept his sled busy.

He has been doing High Performance Trail Riding (HPTR),racing his sled as hard as it can go through snow-covered trails in Pennsylvania and New York. HPTR is not much different from regular trail-riding -- traveling from point A to point B -- but is done at a much faster pace.

Sometimes the pace is so fast the sled has left Bullock behind.

"I've taken some nice spills, but I haven't broken anything," he says. "We wear full gear, helmets and padding.

"We go extremely fast. It is hard to keep the sled under control. The trail is rough, and we work on the sled to get a ride out of it that won't kill you. We experiment by moving the shocks to different places onthe sled.

"We aren't going as hard as we can on the trails. We just ride faster than most who may be on a scenic ride. But we do respect others on the trail."

Now Bullock and his crew are preparing torace in the Radar Runs at Old Forge, N.Y., in two weeks.

Radar Runs will be a first for Bullock. The races are conducted on frozen lakes, usually snow-covered.

The sleds start with a light just as they do in grass drags and go as fast as they can over a quarter-mile stretch. At the end, a radar gun measures their speed, and the fastest sled is the winner of that class. Bullock expects to attain speeds excess of 100 miles per hour.

Bullock and Wolfe have three new Polaris Sleds. They race one in the 500cc class and the other two in 650cccompetition.

The sleds are set up the same for both the radar runs and the grass drags. They are stock, with minor changes to the exhaust pipes, weights and clutch springs to get quicker starts. By the time that sled is ready for trail-riding or racing, the three-cylindermotor is turning out more than 110 horsepower.

They have been experimenting with fuel injection on one of their sleds in an effort to improve speed, and they have installed a lap-top computer to analyze the altitude, fuel mixture and jetting of the carburetor.

Bullock said he is not sure how he or his sled will perform. Wolfe is in New York this weekend doing some test riding, checking out changes that they have made to the sled since last week.

Bullock started riding snowmobiles with his father when he was 15. He has been racing them for three years and often prepares for grass drags by running time trials on a trail near his home.

Wolfe's wife, Laurie, and their son support Bullock's hobby. And, Bullock's love for snowmobiling has influenced Laurie Wolfe's parents, who are now enthusiastic trail-riders. They'll be going on a weeklong trip with the Pigeon Hills Snowmobile Club next month.

During the week, Bullock operates his own business, the Westminster Lawn Service, with his brother Danny, who has no interest in snowmobiles and says he thinks his brother is crazy.

Crazy or not, Gavin Bullock and Mike Wolfe will be racing in the Radar Runs in two weeks.

What will the two do between the trail riding and grass drags this summer?

You guessed it, they will be out going as hard as they can on their ATV's and motorcycles.

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