Celebrating slot car racing at The Bunker

Participants reacted to news that the slot cars they thought were loans, were actually being given to them thanks to the generosity of the Winkler Bergthaler Church. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)

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A passion for slot car racing is bringing a group of dedicated racers together on a weekly basis at The Bunker.
One of the weekly programs designed to bring youth together in a supportive setting, where they also learn about God’s message, this program is about the need for speed.
The program celebrated their 2018 stats and held a belated Christmas party Jan. 30 where participants were informed that the Winkler Bergthaler Church has given them the slot cars as a gift. (Up to that point they thought the cars were simply loaned to them.)
John Friesen and Bert Pauls help deliver the weekly program and their connection to the activity goes way back.
“I initially started this back in 1975 with a neighbourhood friend,” Friesen said. “That’s how we got into drag racing electric cars.”
He revived the program in 2011 along with his nephew, a local police officer.
Pauls said interest in the area started to pick up, and currently their are four tracks in the Winkler/Morden region.
He wasted no time getting involved himself.
“I had seen it on the internet and the moment I heard that somebody was doing it, I was there,” he said.
Those in the program build or buy their own cars which are put up against each other in a drag race. The track powers the vehicles.
“We’ve done a few upgrades and we’re actually at the level right now with the track that we have to be compared to some of the big tracks in the United States,” he said. “We’re at that stage of technology.”
“We have a state of the art timing mechanism,” he added. “It allows us to get the same information as the big professional racers get with real cars.”
While you can learn how to race, Friesen said the love for it comes from within.
“With drag racing, I think it has to be in your system,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of young kids that are really good at it.”
“Kids have an awesome reaction time,” Pauls added. “Their minds are sharp. It just takes practice not to get a red light.”
Even though achievement is gained on an individual basis, Pauls said a real camaraderie has developed.
“Everybody is helping each other get their cars fixed, to make them better and faster,” he said.
Both organizers said they had hopes when they started the program at The Bunker.
“We were hoping it wouldn’t just be a one season thing,” Pauls said. “We now have one kid who’s brought the rest of his family. All of them are now racing… they are lifers.”
Slot car racing is a growing sport. “It’s very big in the U.S.,” Friesen said. “We’re just trying to get people interested here.”
The slot car racing program will continue until the end of May.

These slot cars were assembled by members of the program. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)

An entire family takes part in the weekly slot car racing events. They were presented with a case to hold their cars. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)