An odd off-season in the popular sport of snowmobile snocross racing just got downright weird with big announcements around Labor Day weekend. They included news that one top Ski-Doo driver and a notable Polaris family driver were joining Thene Motorsports. Most startling about that announcement, though, is that there was no mention of five-time defending points champion Elias Ishoel, who drove very successfully for Thene the last two seasons.
The Ski-Doo driver jumping to Thene is Francis Pelletier. That young French Canadian rider had finished second, third and fifth in points in his three years as a Pro, competing for Warnert Racing. That made him one of Ishoel’s main challengers.
Considering that both ride for Ski-Doo teams, and Ishoel has a history with Warnert, logic might dictate that Ishoel would slide over into Pelletier’s spot at Warnert. However, two days before the Thene announcement, Warnert issued its own press release about its 2023-24 team. It included no mention of Pelletier or Ishoel.
UPDATE: Ishoel has signed with the Skogquist Racing Team. Get the story here.
Let’s get you caught up, chronologically.
Snocross News: A Busy Summer
Earlier this summer, the snocross world was abuzz with activity. It started when the All Finish Racing Arctic Cat team announced in May that it was leaving snocross. It had previously been Cat’s top team, hosting drivers Dan Benham and Jacob Yurk. Then on July 2, news broke that longstanding Polaris superteam Hentges Racing was also leaving snocross. That left Kody Kamm and Oskar Norum without rides. Also, Logan Christian announced he was retiring, opening his seat at the Scheuring Speed Sports Ski-Doo team.
Shortly thereafter, though, some of the holes got filled and drivers found new teams. It started with the Judnick Racing Polaris team announcing it had signed Kamm and resigned Emil Harr to lead their Pro effort. Then came news that Norum was signing with the expanding KC Motorpsorts Polaris team.
Next, a new Ski-Doo team called Elite Motorsports signed former Green Mountain fill-in Gustav Sahlsten to run the Pro class this coming year. The Zandstra Motorsports Arctic Cat team then announced it was leaving the sport. Shortly thereafter, LaVallee Racing announced its main drivers were coming back. That said, Ryley Bester is jumping to the Pro class and will compete alongside teammate Adam Peterson.
Snocross Latest News
Then on August 30, Warnert Racing issued a press release with two big pieces of news, and one big omission. The anticipated news was that Jordan Lebel – a dominating force in Pro Lite – is moving up to the Pro class for the team next winter. Interestingly new is the signing of Topi Posti, an emerging star from Finland in Pro Lite.
Missing from that announcement was Francis Pelletier’s name. On September 4, we found out why. That’s when Thene Motorsports unveiled its team merely by posting a social media picture. It included Pelletier in a Thene hat, and also Cole Cottew. And no mention of Ishoel.
In Pelletier, Thene gets one of the sport’s top young racers who previously won Pro Lite championships for Warnert. The Cottew news was shocking because Cottew previously raced for his family’s Cottew Motorsports team. Currently recovering from a massive crash late last season, Cottew jumps teams and brands by going to the Ski-Doo-based Thene effort.
So does that spell an end to Cottew Motorsports? Heck no! Also over Labor Day weekend, that team announced it’s moving forward with Travis Kern in the Pro class and Cameron Cole in Sport.
Notable teams like Ski-Doo’s Green Mountain Racing and Skogquist Race Team plus returning Arctic Cat team Woodies Racing haven’t disclosed their team plans for this year. So, there are still landing spots available for guys like Ishoel, Dan Benham, Jacob Yurk, Aki Pihlaja and Petter Narsa. [UPDATE: Ishoel has signed with the Skogquist Racing Team. Get the story here.] But not many. Plus, there are some pretty good teams who previously focused on Pro Lite that could, in theory, step up to the Pro racing with one of those drivers. With the massive Hay Days event coming up in five days, we’re expecting more answers – including news on Ishoel’s future – soon. Stay tuned.
Snocross: Where It Stands
So let’s look at the pro field driver by driver, based on where they finished in last year’s points.
- Elias Ishoel – unsigned.
- Emil Harr – staying with Judnick Racing Polaris on a new contract.
- Kody Kamm – newly signed with the Judnick Polaris team after the shutdown of Hentges Racing
- Hunter Patenaude – back with Scheuring Speed Sports.
- Francis Pelletier – newly signed to Thene Motorsports Ski-Doo, departing Warnert Racing.
- Adam Peterson – back with Team LaVallee Polaris
- Daniel Benham – Unsigned after the shutdown of All Finish Racing.
- Logan Christian – retired.
- Petter Narsa – Rumors are floating that he may not return to the U.S., but there’s been no official announcement from the Skogquist Racing Ski-Doo team for which he ran last year.
- Aki Pihlaja – No official word yet on his status. Competed for Green Mountain Ski-Doo team last year.
- Cole Cottew – Joining Thene Motorsports Ski-Doo team, leaving his family Cottew Racing Polaris effort.
- Travis Kern – Returning with Cottew Polaris team.
- Gustav Sahlsten – Signed with new Elite Motorsports Ski-Doo team after fill-in work with Green Mountain last year.
- John Malmstrom – After racing as a fill-in for an injured racer last year, there’s no official word on whether he’ll return to North America.
- Oskar Norum – Signed with KC Motorsports Polaris team after the shutdown of Hentges Racing. Was injured early last season.
- Jacob Yurk – Unsigned after shutdown of All Finish Racing. Past winner was Injured entering first weekend of racing last year.
- Jordan Lebel – Back with Warnert Racing Ski-Doo team but jumping up to the Pro class after dominating Pro Lite.
- Ryley Bester – Back with Team LaVallee Polaris team but jumping to Pro after finishing second to Lebel in Pro Lite
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