Last Corner Pass Leads To Eagle River Vintage Victory

Vitnage World Championship
The 2021 Vintage World Championship Snowmobile final in Eagle River, Wisconsin. Photo by Brian Caswell.

Curtis Pederson of Fargo, North Dakota, powered to a dramatic Vintage World Championship on the banked oval track of Eagle River, Wisconsin, getting even with previous leader Joe Burch in the final turn of the race and then narrowly winning the sprint to the waving checkered flag on Sunday afternoon, January 10.

       Pederson’s victory was the culmination of an action-packed weekend at the famous and historic Eagle River Derby Complex track, which hosted the big event in a year when many other race events had to be cancelled. After taking numerous steps to bring their facility into line with county health department guidelines, organizers packed the grounds with hundreds of vintage sleds in a competition and a celebration of all things old-school snowmobiling.

The World Championship for current machines is this coming weekend, January 15-17, on the same Derby track.

       When all 53 classes of competition were tallied for the vintage races, there were 591 total entries – a huge number considering that the event usually benefits from the addition of many Canadian drivers who couldn’t make it this year due to the closed border between Canada and the U.S.

       A weekend of comfortable winter weather made for great racing as well as great spectating for fans, many of whom had to spend more time on the hill around the track than in previous years due to the limited capacity allowed in the “hot seats” indoor areas.

       Competition was hot in numerous classes – and the grounds were littered with stock and highly modified sleds of yesterday from various brands, some current and some a part of history. But ultimately the Vintage World Championship race is the big prize Sunday afternoon – with $10,000 added purse plus driver entries fees on the line for the best-of-the-best in the 440 Super Mods class on the blue-tinted ice.   

The Vintage W.C.

Going into the World Championship final, defending champion Matt Goede of Mayer, Minnesota, was the odds-on favorite, as he mopped up on his competition throughout qualifying on his untouchable 1973 Polaris Starfire , often winning his races by a half-straightaway or more.

       However, in the final, his sled broke its drive belt while he was leading just three laps in – his powerful ride went silent as he coasted to the top of turn four and brought out the red flag.

Matt Goede
Defending Vintage World Champ Matt Goede was towed off the track after his belt snapped while he was leading. Photo by Brian Caswell.

       Joe Burch of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, actually had the early lead on the No. 43X Polaris in the final before being passed by Goede, and he was running second when Goede’s sled quit, so he would begin up front on the restart. However, second-place Troy DeWald – another past champion at this event as well as the Soo I-500 – had a significantly better start and moved into the lead, with Burch right behind him and Pederson soon moving to third in front of Paul Diefenthaler from Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

       They ran in that order for a couple of more laps before the next red flag – this one brought out by the leader himself. Running a high line going into turn one, DeWald of Au Gres, Michigan, appeared to lose the front end in the chop and finally let go of the handlebar just milliseconds before the sled crashed in the haybales at the top of turn one. After whacking the bales pretty hard himself, DeWald  popped up quickly after the crash – and actually started moving haybales to help rebuild the wall! – but his sled was done for the day.

Troy DeWald snowmobile
Troy DeWald crashed into turn one while leading. Photo by Brian Caswell


Sprint To The Finish

So, Burch would again lead the restart, this time with Pederson right behind him and five laps left in the 10-lap final. Pederson would immediately mount a challenge on his Delaughter Racing Products powered No. 52X Yamaha, driving deep into turns on the inside while trying to plant his sled into the ice while Burch ran a higher line through the center of the turns. As if trying to re-enact the epic battle from 50 years ago between Mike Trapp and Yvon Duhamel, the two battled tooth-and-nail, occasionally bouncing off one another in a brawl for the victory.

       Burch held the lead by a sled length going down the back stretch on the final lap, but then Pederson charged into turn 3 beneath him. They touched briefly in turn four, but then Pederson was able to get his sled to plant hard and rocket down the front stretch to win by a sled length while Burch needed to take more of an arc to the finish line and finished a close second.

Vintage World Championship
Curtis Pederson (right) narrowly beat Joe Burch to the waving checkered flag to win the Vintage World Championship at Eagle River. Photo by Brian Caswell.

       A nearly equally intriguing battle was occurring behind them for thrid place, where Diefenthaler and Alec Nesbit were trading paint, swapping lines and clacking fiberglass in a knock-down, drag-out battle for the last spot on the podium. Diefenthaler ended up with the spot on his Polaris ahead of Nesbit on a Yamaha, then Colton Niewolny’s Polaris.

       They were followed by sixth place Brandon Gentz, then Ryan Wolfe, Spencer Hassevoort and Nathan Feucht, with Lucas Nast rounding out the top 10. DeWald was scored 11th, and Goede 12th. Look for more results soon at the Derby Complex website.

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