Family and business responsibilities are ending the short-yet-storied career of two-time World Champion Malcolm Chartier of Fair Haven, Michigan.
Chartier, driver of the No. 33 Ski-Doo that won the titles at the 2013 and 2014 Amsoil Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby, sent out notices on Monday, announcing his decision to end his snowmobile ice oval racing career at the age of 27.
In an exclusive interview this afternoon with Snow Goer magazine, Chartier said his decision to retire at such a young age tied back to serious injuries suffered in another motorsport. While riding his dirt bike on his practice track in the summer of 2014, Chartier had a nasty crash that resulted in several broken ribs and an aortic aneurism. After emergency surgery and rehab, he was able to return to ice oval tracks last winter, but he called it an eye-opening experience.
“We have a successful family business that I’m pretty involved in,” Chartier said of the family’s excavating, estimating and environmental remediation firm. “I had that bad crash last summer [on a dirt bike] and that really kind of opened up a lot of thoughts” about the risks he was taking vs. his responsibilities to the business, he said.
Chartier said he fought off initial thoughts of retirement a year ago, but the time seems right now.
“I was actually going to do it last year after the accident, but then when I thought about it I didn’t want to have any regrets when I looked back when I was 40 or 50 about not going for the threepeat.”
As it turned out, Chartier ran a very competitive second behind the 2015 winner, Cardell Potter. In an interview with Snow Goer directly after that race, Chartier was very sportsmanlike, but he also foreshadowed a future of racing that now is not to be.
“I was getting close and I could have made a mark on him, but I don’t race like that,” Chartier said on January 18, using a racing term to refer to bumping into somebody to make a pass. “There will be more Eagle Rivers – I’ll get my chance again.”
Looking Forward & Back
Looking forward, Chartier said he hopes to stay involved in snowmobile oval racing, as a coach and mentor, but not as a racer.
“I don’t know if you follow motocross much, but guys like Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath have some development things going on. I want to kind of piggyback on that – work with some of the young riders that maybe don’t have the knowledge yet of what it takes to win on this level.”
While Chartier said he didn’t have anybody directly lined up to assist, he said he’d be willing to help any Ski-Doo racer who runs a Houle chassis, and/or somebody associated with longtime sponsor Woody’s Traction.
One example is Gunner Sterne. The Chicago-area racer switched from running Polaris equipment to Ski-Doos for the coming season – in fact, Chartier said the Sterne family purchased one of Chartier’s race sleds from last year.
Chartier said he’s obviously miss the racing and the competition, but he singled out leaving behind his race team as perhaps the hardest part of this decision.
“As a team, when you spend that amount of time together, it really does become like a family,” Chartier said.
New race sleds were built for this season – they are now up for sale, as is the big race hauler the team used to cross the Snowbelt chasing snowmobile races.
“The best memory had to be the 2013 [World Championship]. It was the first one, and while I was confident, you don’t really know if you can do it or not until you actually do.”
His retirement may also be good news for other Ski-Doo based race teams, because his lead sled-builder and wrench, two-time World Championship Mike Houle, will now work more closely with other racers who are running his hand-built chassis.
Below is the full statement sent out by Chartier earlier this week.
PUBLIC PRESS RELEASE
It is always hard to make decisions on life changes, especially on the things you love and have been doing for the past 15 years. With that being said, I have decided to take a different career path that heads me in a direction for the future of our family business. It was a very hard decision for me to make, especially with the many years of racing and close connections that we have in the industry.
I want to thank all of our sponsors from throughout the years. You aren’t just our sponsors, but with each company I have made great friendships with and I consider you all a part of my family. Although I won’t be racing, I’m looking forward to staying in touch with the industry and supporting the future of ice oval racing.
I am still going to continue to work behind the scenes with Mike Houle on chassis development and progressive building as well as many other industry suppliers. I have already been approached and have signed contracts with some industry sponsors and suppliers to assist in research and development on future product. I’m also looking forward to working other young-tuns in support to the series and to help the future of this sport hand-in-hand with Mike Houle Chassis.
Thank you for all the outpouring support from our fans, sponsors, fellow racers & teams throughout the industry. We will miss all of you guys, but I hope to see many of you at the track.