The winter motorsports season has begun in the County

Episode 437

December 17, 2023

Caribou Snowmobile Club beats the rain

If the Caribou Snowmobile Club had chosen December 9th as the date for their annual radar run at Caribou Lake, they would have been unable to hold the event due to high temps and rain. Sometimes the race promotor gets a break like the club did this year.

The Larry Doody Memorial Radar Runs featured a record 60 snowmobiles registered. These sleds made 235 passes on the ice. Racers seemed to be satisfied with the ice which was bound to get chopped up under the beating given by thousands of ice studs.

Three veteran racers were asked about their thoughts on the first race event of the 2023-24 winter season. Ethan Rossignol, Bill Merchant (sled owner and parent) and Rick Taggett are no strangers to the pages of UpNorth Motorsports.

I asked Taggett for his reactions to the radar run and he filled me in with some “insider” information about Team OCD. When asked about his son Jesse being at the controls in the stock class Taggett replied, “Jesse has had a driver on his race sled for the past couple of years. We are 60 pounds overweight with him on it in the stock class.”

“We have to add weight for our driver to make 660 pounds which is the minimum weight for our sled. He obviously would like to pilot it but 60 extra pounds is a lot to haul up the track. We have talked much about moving up to an improved class where the sled is lighter and the 60 pounds would put us just slightly over the minimum.”

“As of now he is happy turning the wrenches and tuning our stocker. An improver may be in the cards sometime in the future.”

For the radar run Taggett ran his trail sled a 2003 Arctic Cat F7 in the 700 Stock class and finished third. The Woodland man plans to run the Piscataquis Radar Runs February 3rd and March 2nd. His 600-cc sled should be ready by then.

Ethan Rossignol brought me up to date on his future racing plans. The Woodland man began his snowmobile racing career in 2013. Leading up to the radar run Rossignol had some adjustments in his life including the Covid mess when racing disappeared for a while.

Ethan Rossignol on Team OCD 2003 Firecat 700 sled at Caribou Snowmobile Drags in 2018. He noted that that sled was probably his most competitive while with Team OCD. (Black Dot Photography)

Rossignol remarked, “Being a competitive racer began for me back in 2013, I use to have only one machine that I would swap out components on to be able to compete with as well as trail ride. When a race would be announced, I would take the week before to prepare. After the race was over, back to trail form it would go.”

“Countless hours and a few busted knuckles was something I lived for. After a few short years of doing that, I decided to invest in a second machine, something that would stay in race formation made things much more enjoyable.”

Rossignol continued, “From my perspective of racing in my life within the last two years, being out of racing snowmobiles for the last two years has been tough. Becoming a father and not having much time to devote to the sport and selling my 03 (Arctic Cat) F7 to another fellow racer after a successful race season in 2020-21 left me feeling like I couldn’t stay out of racing forever.”

“Although much preparation and testing went into the details of being so competitive, we had a rather reasonable return in doing so. With that being said, I bought a third machine this past fall with very few miles on (2006 Firecat 700 with 192 original miles to be exact). I trail rode this machine at the end of last season just to be sure all systems worked as they should before parking this genuine cherry find.”

“With this season approaching us so quickly I hadn’t had much thought about transitioning this one into race form. Given that sometimes races are cancelled last minute, I waited until Tuesday night of this past week (2 weeks ago) to start making the swap. With just 4 days until the race, it didn’t leave me much time to check and triple check my set-up options for the first time with this sled.”

“I had no testing under my belt when I showed up for race day Saturday, all I had to go off of were previous set up notes I had written down that was expected to work as it had in the past.”

“I decided to enter into the classes that I always did in the past. Recognizing we were only racing for trophies and bragging rights made me feel that much better about providing the Larry Doody Memorial Scholarship Fund with all that I had. I entered into the 700 Stock, 800 Stock, 850 Stock, 1000 Stock, 700 Improved and 800 Improved classes with the f7.”

“I drove for Kurt Dumond who brought up Pro Stock 1000 triple that we made passes with as well in the Pro Stock 1000 class and the Open Mod class. Although it hadn’t been out of the barn in 4 years, he cleaned up the carbs, got it fired up, and we ‘run what we brung’ with the fastest speed it would turn being 118 mph for the day and bringing home a first place in the Pro Stock 1000 class.

OCD youth movement, at Caribou Snowmobile Club event left to right Jaxson Sullivan with his 2021 Yamaha took first place in the 200 class with a speed of 33 mph. Sullivan is the step-son of Ethan Rossignol. In center Tristen Merchant with his sister Aspen on right. Tristen is aboard his 2004 F5 Arctic Cat. Aspen, with her 2018 Arctic Cat 200, placed second in the 200 class with a speed of 32 mph. More about Tristen appears below. They are the children of Bill Merchant and Kylie Morrell. (Bill Merchant photo)

Team owner/Dad, Bill Merchant, based in the greater Portland area made the trip to his hometown to allow his two children a chance to race on the ice. Merchant described the day by saying, ” Well today was another racing rollercoaster ride for Tristen and me. His sled decided it didn’t want to play today which really brought both of our moods down big time.”

“Then God answered our prayers in a way we never expected as two guys let Tristen pilot their sleds. Connor Thibeau and Ethan Rossignol were two stand up guys who showed serious class in turning our son’s day around big time. Tristen ended up winning the 600 Improved class, taking second in the 600 Stock class and piloting Ethan’s F7 at 110mph back-to-back to take second in the 800 Improved and won the 1000 Stock class.”

Tristen Merchant putting the throttle to Ethan Rossignol’s 2006 Arctic Cat F7. He set a new top speed for the machine running 110 mph. The ZRT 600 is Connor Thibeau’s sled. Thibeau couldn’t get more than 91 out of it and asked for Tristen to run it to try to get 94. Tristen made it to 93 mph.(Bill Merchant photo)

“To say that I’m proud of this boy is an understatement. We both learned a few lessons today and it’s clear God answers prayers but not always how we think he will. Thank you to Kurt Dumond for always being in Tristen’s corner and helping to shape him into a fine young man and one heck of a racer. They say it takes a village and that’s just what T has behind him no doubt.”

Tristen Merchant with three of the four medals won at the radar run on Caribou Lake. (Bill Merchant photo)

“To top this all off his sister, Aspen, even brought home some hardware missing first place by 1 mph but earning a solid second place in the 200 class. The smiles and joy these kids have after doing this stuff makes the highs and lows worth it all 100%”.

Aspen Merchant displays medals she won at the Caribou Snowmobile Club Radar Run 2023 one is for 2nd in the 200 class and the other is the Brapp Award for youth drivers. The medals were a unique design for this event produced by Boulevard Graphix, Limestone. (Bill Merchant photo)

And the results

The results of the Caribou Snowmobile Club Radar Run are posted below

Up next with UpNorth Motorsports will be Spud Speedway updates, Kody Swanson wins in the west and Sting Ray Robb lands a ride with an iconic team for 2024.

Remember the real reason for this special time of the year. Be kind and generous.

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Isaiah 9:6)



Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine