Princeton’s Jake Belair coming off ‘Rookie of Year’ racing season: Finding a fun family activity to get through the cold months is one way to survive a typical Minnesota winter. For Princeton student Jake Belair, racing on an old snowmobile fit the bill perfectly.
Belair is into his second season riding on the Long Lake Vintage Snowmobile Racing circuit. Last year, he brought home the “Rookie of the Year” trophy for placing second in the final standings of the Youth Class (ages 12-16).
Vintage racing is a popular draw for those who love the challenge of keeping an old snowmobile running well enough to make it around several laps at an event. Jake rides a 1972 Arctic Cat Lynx 290cc which was given to him by uncle Ronnie Belair and his friend, Frank, from their large collection of old sleds, housed under their “Team Rave” racing name. The Lynx was repainted with orange and black trim to reflect the Princeton school colors.
Jake’s father, Tom Belair, was a pro snowcross racer who competed in the Winnipeg 500, so the love of racing runs deep in the family. The family likes trail riding with their regular (newer) snowmobiles, along with ice fishing on Little Elk Lake where they live. Jake also got his friend, Weston Evans, into vintage racing.
“I started watching Ronnie and Frank racing, and my cousin, Olivia Boone, was racing in the women’s category, too. I thought it just looked fun,” explained Jake of his draw into the vintage scene. “It’s not very expensive, and it’s great family entertainment.”
Added Tom, “You do have to put your time in the shed. There’s a lot of maintenance on the old sleds so they don’t break down during the race.”
Last winter, Jake began the season with two fifth-place finishes, then he finished strongly with a win and a second-place at Willow River to garner enough points for the “Rookie of the Year” award. Jake picked up a sponsorship from Klim which had him receiving boots, a helmet and a chest protector.
This year, he missed the first Jan. 4 Long Lake event since he was still healing from a concussion. But he was back on the ice track east of Princeton for the Jan. 18 races, and he competed in the Andy Englund Fast Fifty-50 Mile vintage race on Jan. 19 on Long Lake. In that race, he teamed with Mike Botzek to place 5th in the HD Class on the Lynx.
“Missing that first week is tough, but I will try to come back to finish in the top three in the standings,” he said for a season goal.
A majority of Saturdays from here on out will have Vintage racing. The “Best Dam Race” on Willow River with its larger loop on the river is set for Feb. 15. A new event on the calendar is the “Vintage Iron on the Range” races on Feb. 22 near Hibbing. The big finale to the season will be on March 1 which is paired with the annual Arctic Plunge on Long Lake.
“You just keep up a good pace out there and try to get to the first corner first. Racing go-karts at the clay oval track in Ramsey in the summer helps with reactions, too,” said Jake. “‘Don’t mess up’ is what it really comes down to.”