Legends of Racing: Doug Hayes (Jim Tucker)
Published on Friday, November 19, 2010 in Guest Columns, News & Updates, Vintage
Tags: , , ,

Question: Would you jump at the chance to meet a famous racing legend from yesteryear? Answer-You bet I would! So, it was off to Concord NH last February for the NH Snowmobile Museum’s first ever Doug Hayes / Merc Twister slide show and lecture. On the drive up I had a number of questions that I wanted to ask Doug but knew that I would be nervous. I told myself to breathe deep and relax; after all, he is only human or is he? The way he raced was a sight to behold and he made for some superhuman feats, as I will get into later.

As soon as I met Doug, I knew right away he was made for racing: short, lean, muscular and with a fire in his eyes – just what the factory race teams look for. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever meet someone that I idolized as a teen. But there he was right in front of yours truly. What a moment it was.

One has to remember that being an Easterner was a distinct disadvantage, as most of the races were out in the western part of the country. The organizing body in charge of racing at the time was the USSA, short for United States Snowmobile Association, and oval racing was mainly the order of the day. Since I had no license at the time, I begged my father to take me to the few tracks that were within a reasonable drive. My father ultimately submitted, and off we went to Saratoga Springs NY and Scarborough Downs in Bangor Maine, to name a few.

Doug Hayes, 1965 Ski-Doo

As Doug began to roll out his racing history a flood of memories about my trips with my father began to come back to me: the smell of Castor oil, the machinery, the venues, the racers and the era itself. It seemed to have gotten bigger in my mind over the years. You know how it is when you are a kid, the experiences just seem larger than life. As Doug continued his lecture, I began to realize how incredibly average most folks like myself really are. He began to say how he won this race and that one with such ease. Doug even stated that he beat one particular racer twice just because the other racer made a protest in a previous race that Doug had won. He said “Well, I’ll just beat him again if need be!” Such is what legends are made of.

Doug made winning sound so easy. You and I both know that a spot in the winner’s circle is not a place easily obtained by average folks. Average racers may try it and fail, talented folks may try and fail, but Doug had what it took to win races. And win he did. Remember that he was beating the best of the best at the time and not racing some friends around some farmer’s field on a Friday night.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Let me tell you who Doug Hayes really is. Born and raised in Crandon, Wisconsin, his father owned a Ski-Doo dealership and he started racing the yellow sleds in 1965, with some help from his Dad. He has a brother Stan that some say was equally talented at racing. In 1969 to 1971 he raced at Halvorson, a large Ski-Doo distributor in the oval arenas.

In 1972-1973 he raced for Larson-Olson racing on a Polaris. In 1974, then burgeoning Mercury Marine saw that Doug could find his way around a racetrack quite well and hired him on for the 1974-1976 seasons. He started out as a sponsored privateer first and then got hired as part of the HPG or high performance group. Doug worked with the likes of Dick Bahr and Lyle Forsgren, two engine wizards hired by Merc to make the new racers go very, very fast… go figure!

After his stint with Merc it was back to Ski-Doo again in 1977-1978 where some ill handling machines held him back somewhat. Back again to Polaris racing for the Enduro lakes races, using a 1979 TXL 340 and at the now famous Eagle River as well.

One of Doug’s famous stories, which he loves to tell, is about racing as a privateer under his Dads’ tutelage. His dad would take the Ski-Doo engines apart, modify them for more power and then Doug would routinely beat the Ski-Doo factory riders. He did so well, that he won the 1970 World Series with one of the “Dad specials.” Well, “Old Yellow” up north of the border had enough and wanted to see how Doug’s dad was doing these feats of magic. After the race, the president of Ski-Doo took the motor and promptly shipped it back to Valcourt: there were no questions asked!

Come next season the new motors had all of Dad’s special mods performed to them! What a story!
Doug is most proud of his 1975 Mercury Snow Twister that he and others designed and built from the ground up with a blank check from Mercury, including making the dies for the chassis by hand! Presently Doug Hayes resides with his wife in Crandon, Wisconsin. And, oh by the way, his sons are into racing as well!

  • A short Bio;
  • 1978 Oval Sprint Champion, Ski-Doo
  • 1978 Heeten Cup, Ski-Doo
  • 1972 Soo-500, Polaris
  • 1976 Soo-500 Oval, Mercury
  • 1974 High points driver in 340, 440, Mercury
  • Five years high point champion in the Mod One class, Mercury
  • Doug’s number 5 retired

Top that, you wannbe racer!
And if that wasn’t enough he was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame!

« | »

Return to full list of entries