The prestigious and grueling Soo I-500 snowmobile race has finally met its match.
The 500-lap race around a one-mile oval track in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, in the glorious Upper Peninsula has been run in weather both sub-arctic and splashy/muddy warm. It has been shortened by unraceable conditions and rocked by tragedies, but it has persevered and been held every year since 1969, when Dan Planck, Otis Cowles, Leonard Cowles combined to win the first big challenge.
Despite its deep history, its organizers’ steadfast dedication and its racers’ incredible speeds, for 2021 the Soo I-500 couldn’t outrun a global pandemic. On Thursday, December 10, the organizers of the Soo I-500 announced the event would be cancelled for this upcoming winter due to the COVID-19 coronavirus and its resultant restrictions.
In a concise statement about the sport’s longest one-day race, the following was posted on the International 500 Snowmobile Race Facebook page: “Given our current circumstances, a risk assessment was completed by the International 500 Snowmobile Race Board of Directors. We cannot in good conscience host the #SooI500 Race Week in 2021.”
Reactions on social media were mixed – many folks expressed frustration and anger at the situation, with some blaming politicians or pondering why such an event couldn’t safely be held. Others expressed support for the event’s board after it was forced into a tough decision and pledged to definitely support the event when it returns in 2022.
Of the “majors” if you will in snowmobile racing, some other events have had gaps — the cross-country 500 has been missed some years for various reasons, as have the World Series of Ice Drags and the Jackson Hole Hillclimb due to snow or ice conditions and whatnot. A couple of other long streaks were broken this year — like the Grantsburg Watercross and Haydays Grass Drags. At this point, eyes are turning to the Eagle River World Championship to see if it can happen this winter.
In the meantime, mark February 5, 2022 – the traditional first Saturday of February – on your calendar, because the Soo will survive. To read about past Soo I-500 races, enter “Soo I-500” in the search box in the upper right corner of this website.