While participating in an auto cross event held at Brainerd International Raceway during the summer of 1970 I met a man named Jerry Orr. At that time Jerry was the president of the International Ice Racing Assocation. The IIRA held a series of races during the winter in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and southern Ontario.
He told me about how much fun it was, and how much I’d learn about car control, race strategy, and car preparation. Mostly he talked about the fun.
I decided that I would give it a try with my trusty NSU.
The IIRA ran 3 classes broken down by engine location and drive wheel location. The fastest cars were front engine/front wheel drive. There was also a class for front engine/rear wheel drive, and rear engine/rear wheel drive. These were further divided by engine size, making a total of 6 classes.
The rules governing tires were very strict. You were allowed to run studs, but only 13 studs per foot of tire circumference. But there were studs, and then there were studs. Needless to say, the studs you used were a critical factor in how fast you went.
Regular street studs were not competitive. A tire shop in St. Paul, who were also running a Corvette in the series, had developed a conical stud that worked much better. They had a lot of power to put onto the ice, so they worked hard at developing the studs, and then selling them to the other racers.
The NSU would run in the rear engine/rear wheel drive class, along with an assortment of VW’s, Simcas, and a couple of Renault Dauphins driven by a pair of brothers named Archer out of Duluth.
At that time there were fairly large fields, and the races were 2-3 hours long. My first event was in Brainerd, and it was cold! How cold was it? Air temp was -25, and wind chill was -35. We left our tow vehicle running all night outside our motel so we would be sure to get to the event on Saturday morning.
The NSU was air cooled, and in the interest of weight savings I had removed what little heating system it had to offer. I regretted it that day! I finished 3rd in my class and won $15 which about covered my gas bill driving to the race.
I ran in Duluth (DNF), and the biggest event every year, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival race on Lake Phalen. This race always drew big crowds. We had been running the NSU with a single carb, and decided to switch to the dual 38 mm Webers from the autocross engine.
What a difference that made! I was able to motor by the Renaults down the straight, and that caused the Archer brothers some apoplexy. Unfortunately these carbs also had a problem with icing up and I ended up DNFing while running second.
That spring I sold the NSU, something I still regret.
Here’s a link to the current IIRA web site. To get an idea of what this racing is like, take a look at some of the videos. http://www.iceracemn.com