PREVIEW: Historic Snowmobile Oval Racing Season Kicks Off In Manitoba

We find ourselves on the eve of the season-opening snowmobile oval spring race in Beausejour, Manitoba, and the anticipation for the new season couldn’t be much higher in the Champ 440 class.

What’s that, you ask? Two reasons: A place in history, and an historic amount of money, are on the line.  

The 2012-13 racing season includes the 50th Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby. Huge crowds are expected, driver counts are expected to be up and each participant wants to be the one who has his name inscribed on the Snow Goer Cup next to the previous 49 winners.

But it’s always about more than history. Pride. Fulfilling a lifelong dream. Team spirit. And yes, money. And there’s a lot of that on the line this year – at Eagle River, and beyond.

Thanks to a major sponsorship by sandwich maker Jimmy John’s (where your author prefers the Vito sandwich with salt-and-vinegar chips, by the way – got to support the people who support our sport, right?!), there is a historic amount of money on the line at the Derby this year. We’re talking $60,000 to win, not including any addition funds earned for leading specific laps or other specialty dollars, and a total race purse topping $81,000.

Oh but wait, there’s more. True oval sprint racing fans know there’s a lot more to their favorite form of racing than just Eagle River. There are about 20 high-speed races scheduled across the snowbelt (click here to see a combined schedule), and at six of those events there are races that are a part of the $125,000 TLR Cup.

Not familiar with the TLR Cup? It’s the brainchild of Tommy Lipar, a Texas-based businessman who is investing in snowmobile oval racing to try to help grow the sport. We recently conducted an interview with Lipar and will have the text from it posted on soon. Until then, we can tell you that the TLR Cup series features select races in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan where Champ racers can earn points and extra purse money. Then, at the season-ending banquet, the grand champion with the most points goes home with a $25,000 check, and many other top points-getters get some extra cash as well.

Add in all of the individual race purses, and there’s a truly historic amount of money on the line for Champ racers, and that has caused some racers to stay in the sport who were thinking of walking away, and a few former racers to consider getting back in the game.

Before we get too far away from history, however, it should be noted that the Canadian Power Toboggan Championships have been going on in Beausejour since 1963 – yes, it is even older than the Eagle River race. It doesn’t have the World Championship moniker, and the fact that races are held there twice a year makes its history a little bit different, but don’t for a second discount the pageantry that is Beausejour.

The track is long, wide and flat, making for a different kind of racing than some other stops during the season. This is a high-speed venue — horsepower rules in Manitoba! The event organizers have been making ice for weeks, the track is ready, and there’s a full schedule of classes scheduled, including incredible entries numbers in some of the support classes, most notably Formula 500.

So, who should you watch out for this weekend in Beausejour in the Champ 440 class? Well here are the Champ racers who are signed up as of 9 a.m. Friday morning, according to the Canadian Power Toboggan Championship website, listed by number, name, hometown and sled:

  • 13, Nicholas      Van Strydonk,      Tomahawk, WI, 2013 Polaris
  • 8, Travis      Macdonald,      Gonor, MB, 2009 Skidoo
  • 355, Matt      Ritchie,      Minocqua, WI, 2013 Polaris
  • 33, Malcolm      Chartier,      Marine City , MI, 2013 Skidoo
  • 80, Joe      Presta,      Dryden , ON, 2013 Wahl
  • 54, Lance      Relf,      Winnipeg, MB, 2010 Wahl
  • 28, P.J.      Wanderscheid,      Sauk Centre, MN, 2013 Arctic Cat
  • 74, Dustin      Wahl,      Greenbush, MN, 2013 Polaris
  • 22, Brandon      Johnson,      Holt, MN, 2013 Polaris
  • 747, Jordan      Wahl,      Greenbush, MN, 2013 Polaris
  • 38, Matt      Schulz,      Wausau, WI, 2012 Ski-Doo

Make sure to check out our Top 5 Oval Racers story to see who the favorites are heading into the season.

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