Snowmobiler smashes speed record
Posted Wednesday March 18, 2009
Tom McConkey of Coldwater reached a top speed of 190 miles per hour (306 kilometres per hour) at the North Bay Snowmobile Speed Runs event on Lake Nipissing on Sunday, setting a new world record for a single engine snowmobile.
It was the fifth time this year that the 44-year-old has broken his own record but the first time that anyone has topped 190 miles per hour.
"I've got the world's fastest single engine snowmobile," McConkey said yesterday.
None of the 10 other serious contenders at the North Bay event even came close to matching McConkey, who first broke the record two years ago with a speed of 177 miles per hour.
McConkey started racing in 1997 and hasn't lost a race in the past five years.
McConkey said he thought he might have had a record-breaking run after completing the 600-metre stretch on Nipissing, but at the time, he didn't think he had topped the major milestone.
"I knew I was moving, but I figured I did about 180 or 182, but I knew I was going pretty good. It was really smooth."
Weather conditions for the run were not ideal. McConkey said the temperature was just above freezing and the sun was out, which made for softer ice.
But he proved his speed was no fluke when he reached 189.8 on his next try.
McConkey said he planned to retire after this season, but with the prospect of reaching 200 miles per hour (321 km/h), he says he will be back again next winter to try to reach that goal.
"If I don't get it, I'll be close," he said.
Initially, McConkey was able to break the world record without using turbo, supercharge or nitrous.
"Everyone else was using it, so we decided this year it was time to level the playing field."
This year, McConkey decided to add nitrous oxide to his 400 horsepower engine, bringing the total horsepower up to 540. He's hoping to push that up to 600 next year when he goes for the 200 mile-per-hour mark.
McConkey's machine is a Ski- Doo at its core. Don and Curtis Emery of Hawkestone built the engine and Graham Barkey built the exhaust.
Also part of McConkey's team is manager Carl McBride and Richard Hackett, who helps him on race day.
For many, the feeling of travelling at speeds in excess of 300 km/h is hard to fathom, but McConkey said it's the greatest feeling in the world.
"You're laid out on a sled on a wide-open lake holding onto the throttle and the nitrous. The sled starts shaking and the heart is pumping -- that's the ultimate speed thrill right there."