Quick: Name your favorite Scandinavian snocross star!

When most North American snowmobile race fans think of racers from Scandinavia, the first name that pops into their head is Toni Haikonen. The “Flying Finn” came stateside in the mid 1990s and changed our sport with his high-flying, dynamic style that made him a joy to watch on the track.

What’s even more amazing, looking back at the pictures now, is that Toni made his big impact racing on an F-chassis Ski-Doo. They seemed mildly OK back then (though certainly not as nimble as the Polaris and Arctic Cat race sleds at the time), but go back and look at a photo of one of those behemoths now – would you want to air one of those beasts out?

Following Toni, we had several snowmobile racers come from across the pond and win a national snocross race here or there. Per Berggren proved he could come up big on occasion, and Tomi Ahmasalo was consistent and stronger than an entire team of oxen. Contributor Lynn Keillor reminded me this morning of Chris Hugo Vangen, a Norwegian racer who came over here for a race, made a splash but then was booted out of the country because his paperwork wasn’t complete to allow him to stay here and make money.

The last couple of years, we’ve seen a new wave of imports. In fact, last year Christian Salemark and Emil Ohman became the first Swedes to compete at the Winter X Games in snocross since Berggren and Jonas Perrson ran in 1999.

Well now you’ve got another name to learn: Johan Lidman.

Earlier this week, Team Sportech Racing announced that the 19-year-old Swede will be racing in the Pro classes this year aboard an Arctic Cat and racing out of their trailer. The full press release is below.

         Will Lidman be the next Toni Haikonen? That’s a lot to ask. But he’s talented, young and has tied himself to a good group at Team Sportech. Here’s the press release:

 Elk River, MN; (July 20, 2010) – One of the most talented, up and coming snocross stars in the world is coming to race against the best of the best in the International Series of Champions (ISOC) National tour this winter. Nineteen-year-old Johan Lidman (pronounced, “leed-man”) will join the Team Sportech Racing effort for the 2010‐2011 season and will compete in the pro ranks for the entire ISOC National tour.

Johan is no stranger to success, having won both the Swedish National Championship and the Swedish Super Stadium Snocross Championship last season. But despite those impressive year-end accomplishments, North American snocross fans may best recognize Johan for one race in particular during the FIM Snocross World Championship in Mala, Sweden this past April. It was here, where another accomplished racer, Tucker Hibbert, was abruptly introduced to the speed and ability of Lidman, when Johan rocketed past Hibbert for the lead in the second round of racing. While Hibbert eventually went on to win the race and the World Championship, Lidman finished second overall and almost instantly becamea global snocross sensation with his impressive showing.

“Johan really captured our attention with his outstanding performance on the track last year,” said Team Sportech Racing owner and manager Chris Carlson. “There’s no question in my mind that this young man can compete with the best riders in the sport.”

After several phone calls and discussions with Arctic Cat Race Manager Mike Kloety, Lidman and his father, Leif, made the journey to Elk River, Minnesota in late June to meet Carlson and his family; tour the facilities of Sportech, ERX Motor Park, which is also owned by Carlson; as well as the Arctic Cat headquarters in Thief River Falls. Throughout the trip, Johan met several people who proved instrumental in eventually making it possible for Johan to fulfill his lifelong goal of racing in North America against the best riders in the world.

Hailing from Pitea, Sweden, a small coastal town in northern Sweden, Johan started his racing career at 11 years of age. Now just 19, Johan has demonstrated he has both the physical and mental abilities to win at the highest level in the sport. While it’s unsure if Lidman will return to the United States in time for the SnoBarons Haydays World Championship Grass Drags and Swap Meet, which is often viewed as a kick-off to the winter season and a chance for snocross racers to meet fans and talk to members of the media, he definitely will be here in time to prepare for the first national race of the season in Duluth, Minnesota, November 26-28.

“We are ecstatic to have Johan join our team,” said Carlson. “He’s not only a gifted racer but also an outstanding person. His professionalism, strong family values and integrity fit the Sportech mold. Those values are just as important as winning on the track for us and our sponsors.”

Helping Johan adapt to the rigors of national competition in the United States will be Andrew Carlson, a fixture of the Team Sportech Racing effort for many seasons and son of Chris Carlson. After another successful season, where he captured a national win and finished second overall in the National Season Points in the Sport Super Stock 2 division, Andrew will move up to compete in the National Semi-Pro ranks.

With the addition of Johan Lidman to Team Sportech Racing, it will most certainly bring a heightened level of awareness and value to the partners and sponsors who are associated with the team. According the Carlson, rumors of Lidman’s agreement have already captured the attention of some new partners to the Sportech fold. “There are only a handful of athletes in this sport than can generate huge levels of awareness beyond the track,” said Carlson. “Guys like Tucker (Hibbert) and Levi (LaVallee) can do that and we believe Johan is quickly going to become one of those top caliber athletes.”

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