• Stephanie O’Hanley

Vaudreuil-Dorion’s Luke Marti marks 20 straight years of racing at Cornwall Motor Speedway


PHOTO BY ANDREW BELDING

The battered, clay-covered race car parked in Luke Marti’s backyard after loyally seeing him through five races at the Cornwall Motor Speedway. See more photos on our Facebook page.

For Vaudreuil-Dorion resident Luke Marti, September 11th’s Cornwall Motor Speedway Fireball Enduro wasn’t just any popular race - it marked the 20th consecutive time he’d test his luck and driving skills on the quarter mile dirt track.

It took two weekends and help from family and friends to prepare his 1999 Lincoln Town Car, a car Marti was racing for the fourth time.

“It’s like the car they use for the limousines at the airport,” Marti said of the luxury sedan they’d utterly transformed over the years. As per the race rules, doors were welded shut, airbags removed, protective wire placed over the windshield and Marti even installed a fuel cell in the trunk. The car was painted, covered with stickers and all sorts of racing related messages.

Marti, 43, figures in 20 years he’s won the Fireball Enduro five times. “It’s one of those impossible races to win,” he said. “It’s an impossible race to finish because of the fact it’s a dirt track, a quarter mile, oval track that’s clay.

“They basically take the water truck and they soak the track...It’s like driving on soap, it’s like driving on black ice in the wintertime,” Marti said. “They do that to keep the speed down so everybody starts off all slow but there’s absolutely no control.”

Racing the same car a fourth time was unusual, Marti explained. “In the 20 years I’ve been doing it, I’ve never gotten more than three years out of the same car.

“Typically you get one year out of one,” he added. “Usually most people build a car and it doesn’t even come off the track if it gets destroyed. I’m more than lucky to be able to reuse the cars, it keeps the costs down.”

But Marti ran into problems. “I started Number 5 on the lineup,” he said. “They line them up three cars wide so I was in the middle of the second row and there was something like 80 or 90 cars in that race, so it’s a long lineup and while I was sitting, waiting for them to start the race, the car died.”

Marti, who gets butterflies waiting for a race to start, said at first he didn’t realize his predicament. “The cars around you are all running so you don’t hear your own car. So it died and I’m stepping on the gas and there’s nothing happening. I realized I’m stuck here and the rules are pretty strict. They typically say if the car dies and you get out of the car, you’re giving up on the race. I even had to get the Number 2 car to get out of the way to let me actually get pushed off so they figured I was out - I wasn’t even able to make the race.”

Once the car was back in the race pits, Marti, his three sons, and family friend Alex Auersperg, frantically tried to figure out what was wrong. “The hood was open, the trunk was open, we thought the electric fuel pump had actually shut down...it’s a fuel injected car so it’s still considered a modern version so there’s computers on the car that still make it run,” he said. “We were just trying to get it to start and it just started on its own and I just jumped back in the car and got it back out on the track as soon as possible.”

With his wife, Barbara Franc, who has twice won the 50-lap ladies’ event at the Cornwall Motor Speedway Fireball Enduro, counting the laps, Marti believes he was about a lap and a half behind. But once the track dried up, he was doing 25-second laps and convinced he’d made up the loss.

“I was hoping I had won and apparently it was so close the officials weren’t sure who was placed where,” he said. “About an hour after the race, they figured it all out. They showed me as having finished third so I was more than happy with that, given the way the race started.”

As for the car, “needless to say it’s going to be the last year,” Marti said. “The car doesn’t owe me anything.”

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