Grand Prix rocks Cascade Locks

Photo by Adam Lapierre

Full throttle, racers in a 125 c.c. class

peel out of the starting lane in hyped-up karts

capable of 100-plus miles-an-hour.

By ADAM LAPIERRE

News staff writer

July 20, 2005

The swift grey Columbia flowed through the gates of the Cascade Locks and under the Bridge of the Gods the same last weekend as it has for decades. The sound of water splashing past the city’s namesake, however, was muted by the whizzing, buzzing, and screeching of the third annual Cascade Locks Kart Grand Prix.

The Cascade Locks Marine Park was converted for the weekend into a small European-style race course, featuring action in over 10 classes of racing in karts ranging from the “baby karts,” capable of 25 mph, to the fire-breathing 125 c.c. shifter karts capable of speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Karts sped and skidded around the .6 mile circuit at speeds incredible for such small machines on such a tight course. With the Bridge of the Gods in the background, racers— as young as five and as old as 80— decked in shiny leathers and racing helmets, whipped around corners and accelerated through straight-aways in front of a large and wide-eyed audience.

Local kart enthusiast and race organizer Roger Freeborn helped bring the Grand Prix to Cascade Locks. Freeborn, who finished second in the 80 c.c. senior shifter class, offered the following comments after the weekend festivities:

HR News: What is your impression of the event this year?

Freeborn: It was an overwhelming success, indescribable by words. It will be difficult to improve upon next year, but we are already working on some new ideas. After last year’s Grand Prix, Kart Sport and Racer Magazines ranked the Cascade Locks Kart Grand Prix “Third Best Kart Race in the Country.” I believe we lived up to and exceeded this honor.

HR News: Compared to last year, how was the competition and turnout this year?

Freeborn: The competition has always been fierce at the Cascade Locks Kart Grand Prix, and this year it was stepped up a couple notches. First you have to know that racing on any temporary circuit is difficult, as no race team has had a chance to practice on the circuit prior to setting it up each year. This starts all competitors at the same level of data for chassis and motor setup, then the driver has to learn the circuit and adjust the chassis on day to be competitive.

Due to the worldwide media coverage of last year’s race, we attracted some of the top teams from North America and one driver who flew in from Brazil just for this race. Mix them in with teams from Colorado, British Columbia, Idaho, Utah, California and our regulars from the Northwest Regional Circuit and we had world class competition the like of which we have not seen in previous years. The racer turnout this year was double that of last year and over the three-day event we enjoyed the appearance of thousands of spectators. We had 125 kart drivers and 42 super motard bike riders this year.

HR News: How family-oriented is the sport?

Freeborn: One of the most surprising and impressive sights a first-time kart race spectator sees upon walking through the pit area is the number of families that make up some of these race teams. Some drivers start racing as young as 5 years old, with Dad as the mechanic and Mom as head cheerleader and pit organizer. This family bond continues throughout the driver’s career in racing. The kart becomes the glue that bonds a family, even through those difficult teenage years. Good old-fashioned family values are still alive… just come to a kart race to see.

HR News: How has the community of Cascade Locks received the event?

Freeborn: The community has opened their arms to the kart racers and anxiously await their return each year. We estimate the economic impact of this event conservatively at a quarter of a million dollars to Cascade Locks and surrounding area.

HR News: Anyone to thank for making the event possible?

Freeborn: I have literally thousands of people to thank for their support of this event: The people and Port of Cascade Locks for hosting and the City of Cascade Locks for endorsing the event; Kah-Nee-Ta High Desert Resort and Casino for stepping in as title sponsor; Chris and Lisa Egger of Pat’s Acres Racing Complex in Canby for co-promoting/producing the event; The Cascade Locks Benefit Association for their food concessions; Cascade Locks Tourism, the businesses of Cascade Locks; Hood River Chamber of Commerce; Mid Columbia Economic Development Department; Q-104 radio in The Dalles; Randy Haines Productions for bringing Mo Dixon and Phoenix to play music; Glen from the Port of Cascade Locks maintenance department for going above the call of duty keeping the event grounds clean; Cascade Locks fire and ambulance for being there when we needed them; the tribal fishermen who let us get in their way for four days; the Hood River News for covering this event; all the racers who spent thousands of dollars to compete in this race; the spectators who came to see something different and exciting; the list goes on and on. Last but not least, thanks to all the people who went out on a limb and supported me and my wild idea during the first year’s race.

Freeborn is currently looking for locations in two more Gorge towns to hold races. Anyone interested in hosting a race is asked to contact Freeborn Racing Promotions at (503) 805-0583.

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