Two oval racing legends, a speed run guru and a cross-country racing star will be inducted into the competition-focused Snowmobile Hall of Fame this winter, according to that organization’s social media pages.
The Hall and its ultra-impressive museum are located in St. Germain, Wisconsin, with annual induction ceremonies for a new class of inductees typically held in February. More details are to follow, but for now, let’s look at the ever-so-deserving honorees for 2020, in alphabetical order.
When it came to building and riding exotic sleds that made awe-inspiring straight-line speed, few compare to Maryln Englert. In his illustrious career, he set 45 world speed records on the National Straightline Snowmobile Racing (NSSR) circuit in an era that was an arms race of sorts for unlimited speed run sleds. He also earned 76 first-place titles at weekend events, season championships in Open Fuel I and Open Fuel II classes and received multiple year-end awards, including Driver of the Year, Best Crew Chief and Best Engineered Sled. He also served as a team-owner and lead designer/wrencher/fabricator for other record-breaking racers.
While Englert was piloting or building fast straightline sleds, Archie Simonson was blazing down ditches and through the woods. The Grand Forks, North Dakota, native burst upon the scene by winning the famous Winnipeg-to-St. Paul I-500 cross-country race in 1977 at the tender age of 18 on his No. 214 Polaris TX-L 340. He followed that with 11 victories on the ICCSF, WSRF and CCC cross-country circuits the following five seasons. He won Governor’s Cup championship in both Wisconsin (1981) and Minnesota (1982) as well as a season championship.
Meanwhile, on oval racing circuits, the career of a fiery, feisty and fearless French-Canadian was starting to take flight – and it was a career that would span multiple generations of other racers. Jacques Villeneuve at first lived a bit in the shadow of his older brother, Gilles Villeneuve, but Jacques’ long and impressive career turned him into a legend. He won his first Eagle River World Championship in 1980 and followed that up with victories in 1982 and 1986 – becoming the sport’s first three-time champion. His career continued almost another 30 years past that, though, with multiple victories at the Grand Prix de Valcourt, Canadian Power Toboggan Championships and many, many other venues. He was the 1987 Snow Week Racer of the Year.
The only man to top Villeneuve’s three championships is the fourth inductee in 2020: PJ Wanderscheid of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, earned his first Eagle River title in 2002 at the age of 18 on his No. 28 Arctic Cat. He repeated in 2003, won again in 2006 and then became the sport’s first four-time World Champion in 2011. Like Villeneuve, Wanderscheid also won countless victories on other oval tracks throughout the Snowbelt, including three times at Wausau, Wisconsin’s 525 Championship, and two Canadian Power Toboggan Championship before retiring in 2016. He was the 2003 Snow Week Racer of the Year.
The official press release is pending from the Snowmobile Hall of Fame.
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