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Minnesota author releases book with strong ties to Rushford

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Aug 2nd, 2013
Posted in Rushford Features

By Kirsten Zoellner

Author Larry Preston is a home-grown Minnesotan. Growing up Larry was an avid fan of the Polaris Professional Racing Team, who says his family always had Polaris machines around “to make Minnesota winters more enjoyable.” It’s no wonder why; his grandfather Herb Borah, the original CEO of Polaris.

The Polaris racing team, based in Roseau, Minn., rose to fame in the 1960s and 70s, and Rushford local Jerry Bunke was one of its shining stars. Nicknamed the Starfire Kids, for their clear domination of the sport. Then, one horrific day, February 26, 1978, Bunke’s bright life came to an unimaginable stop. In his third professional year, the 26-year old Bunke lost his life in a racing accident at the Beausejour Power Toboggan. The team’s racing years ended.

When Polaris pulled the plug on the program, Larry admits that he forgot all about snowmobiles for nearly 25 years. “It was a ride on my brother Jim’s beautifully restored 1972 800cc Polaris Starfire that brought back old memories of the Polaris Race Team,” says Preston. “Very quickly I found myself on a mission to learn more about the team and share their story with the rest of the world.”

“Thirty-five years later, the surviving members of the Polaris race team opened up and shared the real story of how an under-estimated group of farmers, inventors and mechanics became not only the best of the best, but one of the biggest legends in motor racing history,” adds Preston. “Starfire Kids Midnight Blue Express is the unauthorized and previously untold true story of the people from Roseau, and the machines they built to find fame and fortune in the brutal, challenging, and often very dangerous sport of snowmobile racing.”

This past Wednesday, a book-signing and meet the author event was held in Rushford, Minn. along with a special celebration of Jerry Bunke’s life and times. “We had books available and some of the people from the book were available for autographs, including local people who are in the book,” says Preston. Also, a hit was a special display of Polaris factory race sleds, including rear-engines, 60s models, Starfires, SnoPros, and RXLs. Prominent was Bunke’s World Champion 1978 #1 Sno-pro sled, which was on loan from the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, Wis.

These days, Polaris Racing is back at the top of the game and the sport is surging in growth. One of the prominent team members is Jerry Bunke’s son, Gabe, a talented, top racer in his own right. A part of Bunke Racing, Gabe led his team to claim a back-to-back Soo I-500 win this past February in Sault Sainte Marie, Mich.

Preston, when not writing, owns and operates Digital Opera, including RaceDay, an online tool for managing motor sports events. He’s also the founder of vintagesleds.com. To find out more about the book, visit starfirekids.com.


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9:06:12, Aug 7th 2013

nelgirlsrule@aol.com says:
I still own the 1976 starfire tx340 of Jerrys


1:44:34, Feb 11th 2015

blustarr says:

Consumer loyalty to specific brand was strong! My family had Polaris sleds. Late fall of 1970 my father purchased a 71 TX 400. It made me a real hot shot in school also! Your brand could be any . Sno Jet, Bolens, Skiroule and many other brands had a rabid fan base. It was fun for the long MN.winters!