The snowmobile oval race season started last weekend in Manitoba, giving competitors in the exciting, high-speed world of oval sprint racing a chance to see and hear about the racers who will compete for TLR Cup and Eagle River World Championship honors in the Pro Champ 440 class for the first time.
As per usual, the Canadian Power Toboggan Championship (CPTC) crew did an awesome job of hosting the first race of the year. Below is a report distributed by the TLR Cup Tour — a big-dollar, nine-race showcase of the sport, with events on different race circuits in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Quebec and Manitoba and added prize money topping $100,000.
(As an aside, Snow Goer will again host a Snowmobile Racing Challenge fantasy game based on the results of select TLR Cup events and the Eagle River World Championship. Click here to play — it’s easy, free and fun.)
TLR Cup’s 2017-18 Ice Oval Season Preview
The 2017-18 TLR Cup Tour kicks off its season December 29th in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Prior to the start of the TLR Cup Tour, many of the Tour competitors headed to Beausejour, Manitoba, for the opening weekend of the CPTC held December 9-10.
This traditional opening weekend of the ice oval racing season is an exciting event. For any number of reasons, many of the TLR Cup Tour teams make the trek to Canada and use this opening weekend to gauge how effective their off season tactics have worked out. Some competitors change everything from clutches to traction products. Some go as far as to change engine manufacturers.
Defending TLR Cup Tour Champion No. 220 Gunnar Sterne, brought his 2018 Red Bull Ski-Doo into Beausejour and made a very clear statement. By winning both Saturday’s 10-lap final and Sunday’s 15-lap feature, the No. 220 expects to defend his title as Tour Champion. Never satisfied, Sterne still plans on some additional testing looking for that ever elusive extra few MPHs.
Several TLR Cup Tour regulars were in attendance and showed strength in several of the heat races. Local Tour driver Travis MacDonald piloted his Ski-Doo to impressive finishes on both Saturday and Sunday, landing in the top five both days. The No. 13 and No. 61 Polaris sleds of T&N Racing’s Nick and Beau Van Strydonk struggled in both finals, but both admittedly were in the “testing mode” most of the weekend.
The No. 58 of Cardell Potter seemed to bring nothing but motor issues to the half-mile track in Beausejour, melting down a total of four times over the weekend. Veteran driver Matt Ritchie brought a new No. 355 sled to Canada and was competitive for the first time on the new machine. After struggling most of 2017, it was refreshing to see Matt moving up the finishing order.
Although the Wahl Brother’s racing team wasn’t far from home, it just seemed as if they left some speed back in the shop. Struggling all weekend, both Dustin and Jordan Wahl gained some valuable seat time and gathered some much needed data as they plan for the Tour opener in a few weeks.
New to the TLR Cup Tour this year, the No. 9 of Jerry Brickner opened quite a few eyes with podium finishes on both days. Brickner competed in the V-Force Pro-Lite class last year and entered the TLR Cup Tour 440 Pro Champ class this season. Placing his Ski-Doo in the top three each day is quite the accomplishment for a Tour rookie.
In addition, the No. 51 of Glen Hart was powerful. Although Hart is rarely seen on the TLR Cup Tour, he always brings quality equipment to the track and has the driving skill to get the best out of the fast machine. Other than watching the tail lights of the Sterne, Glen bested the field both days.
The No. 22 Arctic Cat of Andrew Darraugh was a welcome sight on the starting line. After two years away from the 440 Pro Champ class, Andrew was excited to return to action. After a visit with the hay bales during Friday’s practice, the Darraugh had a good first day at the races. Sunday brought mechanical failure that was not repairable at the track.
Seeing the No. 102 of Blaine Stephenson return to the starting line was a great sight. After a rough 2017 season, Blaine, his dad Chris, and the whole Stephenson family and crew worked hard in the off season to return to the sport Blaine loves. After a long off season, mid pack finishes for Blaine exhibited a strong return to the premier ice oval class. With some clutching issues slowing their sled, Stephenson and his team feel confident that a fix is near and the TLR Cup Tour will be successful.
Currently, there are more than 20 drivers registered for the 2018 TLR Cup Tour series. Be sure to catch North America’s premier ice oval racers at a venue near you. For more information, follow the Tour’s Facebook page and check out the Tour website at www.tlrcup.com.