It was a heavy dose of déjà vu at Duluth on Saturday night, as the eventful Pro Open final ended with the same exact podium order in November 2012 as occurred in November of 2011 for the season-opening snowmobile snocross race.For the second consecutive year, Robbie Malinoski took the checkered flag for his team’s hometown race. One might thing that driving a black Amsoil-backed sled at the Amsoil Duluth National on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Series across the bay from Amsoil’s worldwide headquarters might add too much pressure, but not for this veteran. He ran a strong race and positioned himself well enough to take advantage of Ross Martin’s failing sled at the very end of the race to win.
Martin also finished second last year, and Tim Tremblay finished third for the second straight year. Tucker Hibbert was in position to keep the top four the same, but he came off his sled and lost that spot. He remounted and missed by one position: He finished fourth behind fellow Cat racer Cody Thomsen.
The race was held under some pretty snowy conditions, with old Ma’ Nature lifting the spirits of snowmobilers at the race and those watching the webcam on ustream. Yes, snowmobilers, winter still does exist!
A series of heat races trimmed the talented Pro Open field to 15 drivers – 6 on Ski-Doos, 6 on Polaris and 3 on Arctic Cats. It should be noted, however, that four of the Polaris sleds came though the Last Chance Qualifier, so they were starting on the back row.
Defending ISOC points champion Tim Tremblay went in as the No. 1 qualifier by sweeping his heats and got his choice of starting places. No. 2.qualifier and snocross dominator Tucker Hibbert slotted in right next to him.
On green, is was the No. 3 qualifier who hooked up and blasted out front. Robbie Malinoski’s black Scheuring Speed Sports Ski-Doo led the way through the first turn, with Ross Martin on his snowflap, Tremblay behind him and then, somehow, rookie Kody Kamm was in fourth, despite a second-row starting position earned in the LCQ. Hibbert and Cody Thomsen came next.
Malinoski showed the way for the first couple of laps, but Martin was pushing him hard, thanks to great lines on both the front and back stretches where Martin was triple-jumping over a series of holes where most other drivers were going double-single. It was while doing one of those triples that Martin took the lead on his Dupont Polaris, literally flying past Malinoski over the finish-line tabletop jump and surging ahead.
After some initial pushback from Malinoski, Martin began opening up what looked like an insurmountable lead. Behind Malinoski, Tremblay was working hard to hold back a charging Hibbert. Tucker showed Tremblay his skis a couple of times, but never found a path around the big Quebecois and eventually fell back a bit while he was searching for new lines on the bumpy track. Meanwhile, Thomsen moved past Kamm for fifth.
Up front, Martin looked rather safe, with a 3.5 second lead. Then, thing started to go haywire. First, he came up short on his front stretch triple and gave a good woodpecker to his windshield. Then he started to lose time to Malinoski – as much as a half-second per lap in heavy lapped traffic. Fans could watch the lead drop on the TVs showing scoring from the transponders mounted on the sleds – 2.1 seconds one lap, 1.7 seconds on the next lap.
Then, as the sleds were coming down to take the white flag, Martin was standing and looking around on a slow-moving sled, and he looked right at Malinoski as the No. 4 Ski-Doo went by. The only questions now were (1) Could Martin’s sled make it one more lap to take the checkered and (2) How many more positions would he lose, even if he could make it around.
Malinoski made quick time of the last lap and was greeted by the waving checkered flag. Martin did in fact make it around and held onto second, thanks to Tremblay having his own sled troubles back in third. Thomsen claimed fourth while Hibbert was fifth, despite crashing on the backstretch with about 6 laps left, remounting and rejoining the race.
Martin shed light on his problems on the podium.
“I just took on a bunch of snow passing lapped sleds, and my sled started to run on one cylinder,” Martin said. In fact, he didn’t know if his slow-moving sled would complete the race. “It was close – coming down the finish-line straight away, it was going really slow, I barely made it over.”
Malinoski was all smiles on the top step of the podium.
“I kind of got a gift from Ross there with his sled going down,” said the understated Malinoski, who at 31 has become the elder statesman and a sort of ambassador for the sport. Give him his full due, however – he hung very tough in second throughout the race and was there to take advantage and start the season with a victory.
Tremblay said he damaged an A-arm with he traded paint with a lapped sled late in the race and couldn’t go all-out in pursuit of the top two anymore.
Here’s the full finishing order, as ISOC officials placed them immediately after the race:
1. Robbie Malinoski (Doo); 2. Ross Martin (Pol); 3. Tim Tremblay (Doo); 4. Cody Thomsen (Cat); 5. Tucker Hibbert (Cat); 6. Kody Kamm (Pol); 7. Logan Christian (Cat); 8. Darrin Mees (Doo); 9. Adam Renheim (Doo); 10. Petter Narsa (Doo); 11. Zach Pattyn (Doo); 12. Justin Broberg (Pol); 13. Levi LaVallee (Pol); 14. Johan Lidman (Pol); 15. Kyle Pallin (Pol)
Pro-Lite, Other Racing
Lincoln Lemieux of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, seemed like the man to beat in the Pro-Lite class. He was the No. 1 qualifier after sweeping through his heats, and he got off to the early lead during the falling snow on Saturday night. But trouble found him twice – most notably about 3 laps in, when he got off his ride and watched the other fast racers flow past him.
The fastest of those was Dave Joanis. Riding his Royal Distributing-backed Ski-Doo, once Joanis had the lead he never let the rest of the competition see the top point, building a lead of more than 4 seconds. New Yorker Jake Scott held second for most of the race on his Team LaVallee Mystic Oil-backed Polaris. Colby, Wisconsin’s Andy Lieders knifed through traffic after a slow start to claim third on his Leighton Motorsports Polaris.
Danny Porier passed fellow eastern racer Dave Allard late in the ProAm 30-Plus final to gain the victory. Jesse James Bonaduce claimed Saturday’s Sport final. For other results, check out isocracing.com.
For results on Friday’s racing, click here.
For a look at the Pro Open racers, click here.