FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) Fairbanks has been reinstated as the last stop of the world's longest snowmachine race.
The board of directors of the Tesoro Iron Dog Snowmachine Race voted last week to include Fairbanks in next year's 2,000-mile course. The city had been removed from the 2005 race route when directors opted to follow the traditional course from Wasilla to Nome and back again.
Low participation numbers in last year's race and the lower costs of the Fairbanks route led to the decision to return to Fairbanks, said the race's new executive director, Laura Bedard.
Last year's Iron Dog had the lowest turnout since 1996, the year before the race finish moved to Fairbanks, with 40 racers and no trail class riders.
Participation increased significantly when the finish of the race was moved to Fairbanks in 1997. Entrant numbers peaked in 1999, with 122 racers.
''Sometimes you've just got to look at numbers,'' Bedard said. ''For whatever reason, last year we saw participation drop.''
A Wasilla-to-Nome-to-Fairbanks route is less expensive because it costs less to get fuel to Manley, Nenana and Tanana than transporting it to remote checkpoints on the return leg from Nome to Wasilla.
The decision to pull the Iron Dog out of Fairbanks last year had surprised and angered area sponsors of the race but those same sponsors said Friday they would not hold grudges.
Jay Ramras, owner of Pike's Landing and Pike's Waterfront Lodge, which serves as the finish line and race headquarters in Fairbanks, said he was willing to ''let bygones be bygones.''
''I think we're better to have it than not have it,'' Ramras said. ''It's good for Fairbanks.''
A Fairbanks finish gives sponsors more exposure and includes more communities in Alaska, Bedard said.
The 2006 Iron Dog will finish Feb. 19 in Fairbanks at Pike's Landing on the Chena River. The start is scheduled for Feb. 12 in Wasilla, with Nome as the halfway point.
Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com
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