As noted in our Beausejour Preview story, the snowmobile oval sprint racing season kicks off this weekend with the Canadian Power Toboggan Championships in Manitoba. A dozen Champ 440 racers have signed up, and there are dozens of additional racers in other classes.
Especially in the top-end Pro Champ class, we’re heading into a big season, with a lot of money on the line, new sleds being built and a renewed energy in the sport. Twenty-some racers are expected to compete in the class in the 50th
annual Eagle River World Championship. It begs the question: Who are the top drivers to watch out for in the Pro Champ 440 class in 2012-2013? It seems like a natural topic for the snowgoer.com Friday Fast Five, so let’s get into it.
1) P.J. Wanderscheid – It’s impossible to write this list without including the sport’s only four-time World Champion (2002, 2003, 2006 and 2011) and the defending winner of the TLR Cup. Wanderschied hasn’t had many of those truly dominating seasons where he wins every single weekend; instead, he saves his best for the big races. Last year, though, it was consistency that earned the Sauk Centre, Minnesota-based Arctic Cat driver the $25,000 TLR Cup check and trophy. Plus, remember, he’s only 29 years old – he’s got a lot of good years ahead of him.
2) Nick Van Strydonk – Many were surprised when young Nick became the World Champion last year, but the 22-year-old Polaris driver from Tomahawk, Wisconsin, has been around oval racing for a long time and his team builds very good equipment. Look for Van Strydonk to run up near the front all season long.
3) Dustin Wahl – The elder statesman on the mega-powerful Wahl Bros. Racing Team out of Greenbush, Minnesota, is certainly capable of getting on a roll. The former Snow WeekRacer of the Year has had dominating seasons, and he and teammates Brandon Johnson and Jordan Wahl have excellent equipment at their disposal. Dustin closed last season on top, winning at Valcourt and Eganville. In fact, the only reason to consider leaving Polaris-powered Dustin Wahl off of this list would be that
Brandon Johnson is probably equally as deserving, and we wouldn’t want to flood our list with drivers from the same team. Dustin may not have captured his first World Championship yet, but he’s won pretty much everywhere else.
4) Gary Moyle – He’s a two-time World Champion (2005 and 2007), the 2011 TLR Cup title holder and the winner of countless races across the Snowbelt. This Houghton, Michigan-based driver thought about hanging it up in the off-season, but the allure of the 50th World Championship Snowmobile Derby and his love of the sport has pulled the 32-year-old Cat driver back into the competition. Plus Gary’s hooked up with John Hooper – that can never be a bad thing.
5) Malcolm Chartier – The Michigan-based driver of the No. 33 Ski-Doo is definitely a rising star in this sport. He’s well trained, well financed and well connected to some of the legends of the sport, including his sled builder, two-time World Champion and oval racing legend Mike Houle. He’s finished second in the TLR Cup standings the past two seasons – this could be the year of his full breakout.
Did your favorite driver not make our list? Well, have him prove us wrong on the snowmobile oval racing track this season!