After Elias Ishoel wrapped up his fourth consecutive points championship on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross series in March, an intense debate was initiated among Snow Goer family and friends about where this young racer fits among the greatest to ever participate in the “modern” form of snocross racing – meaning the deep-snow, big bumps sort of racing that the sport evolved into in the early 1990s.
That discussion blossomed into this: The Top 10 Snocross Racers Of All Time list. It was created after polling many top snocross industry “insiders” including select race circuit officials, factory race directors, major team owners, media personnel, aftermarket industry leaders and others who were involved very directly in the sport over the past 30 years. We combined their input with an intense review of past race results and points standings to finalize our rankings. In addition, we also created an online poll and let fans create their own list. Read about No. 3 on our list below, then check out No. 10 Dennis “DJ” Eckstrom, No. 9 Kirk Hibbert, No. 8 Chris Vincent , No. 7 Robbie Malinoski, No. 6 Tim Tremblay No. 5 Ross Martin and No. 4 Toni Haikonen by clicking on their names. Check back next week to see the rest of the list as it is unveiled.
It is pre-mature to consider a 23-year-old racer this high up in an all-time Top 10 list? Normally we would say “absolutely yes,” but the case for Elias Ishoel is so strong that he is breaking the normal mold.
In his young career, the native of Norway has overcome the “wreckers or checkers” mentality that was his trademark in the Pro Lite class and has won an incredible four consecutive Pro class season championships while becoming a week-in and week-out consistent and dominating force.
The transition from being a wild and seemingly reckless wunderkind to an impressive superstar has been amazing to watch, and we’re sure to see a lot more before he hangs up the race bib.
SNOCROSS CLAIM TO FAME: The star of career Ski-Doo racer Elias Ishoel began rising in the Pro Lite class, where at times he’d open up a monstrous lead and crash while overdriving the course, then remount and climb back through the pack of racers again. His go-for-broke style was best on display in the 2015-16 season, when he won 10 of the 16 Pro Lite finals, but finished way back in fourth in points. It seems the then-16-year-old either won, or yard-saled his sled, sending debris everywhere.
He jumped up to the Pro class the next year and won on his third weekend out, but he finished 9th or worse in 10 of the 17 finals that season – reflecting the fact that he was involved in more than his fair share of carnage. He then missed most of the next season recovering from a broken femur. But maybe (just maybe) the severe injury was just was he needed? As harsh as that sounds, consider the stats since then:
- 2018-19: Five victories and 11 total podiums in 17 rounds of racing, and his first points title by a broad 49 point margin over second place.
- 2019-20: Eight victories and 10 podiums in 12 rounds of racing in a COVID-shorted season for his second points title, this one by 64 points.
- 2020-21: Eleven victories and 12 podiums in 16 rounds of racing en route to his third consecutive points championship by a stunning 103 points.
- 2021-22: Nine wins and 12 podiums in 16 rounds of racing for a truly amazing fourth consecutive championship (by 82 points) – after switching teams in the off-season from his previous Boss Racing team to Thene Motorsports.
That’s 34 Pro victories in four seasons – and, when he wasn’t winning finals, he was still finishing very well in heat races and finals to wrap up points championships all four seasons before the final day of competition. Forget “checkers or wreckers,” this guy is now a consummate pro. And, while the number of pro racers may not be what it was in the 1990s, the quality of racers that Ishoel has been dominating is still very impressive.
MOMENT IN TIME: Looking back at the video of Ishoel’s first win in Pro Lite (posted below) emphasizes a couple of things. First, the talent is very clear, but so is the “fast and loose” reputation he earned early in his career – watch how much that sled’s headlight moves back and forth coming through the moguls! Yet at the same time, if you watch it until the end, you’ll also see in the post-race interview how young Ishoel was when he came across the pond to chase his snocross dreams. The sport has seen its fair share of stars from Scandinavia, but it always seems like they’ve come from Finland or Sweden. Norway? Not so much. It proves that future champions can come from almost anywhere! If you haven’t been paying attention to snocross in recent years, you’re missing out.
BALLOTING: Among our “expert” panelists of race team owners, race directors, media personnel, race circuit officials and more, Ishoel was typically either rated very high, or left completely off the Top 10 lists by people who likely thought it was took early in his career for him to be considered for such a list. More than half of our panel rated him third or fourth, yet five people didn’t include him. Fans similarly were split on Ishoel, but those who included him rated him very high, which notched Ishoel in fourth overall.
WHAT’S NEXT? Ishoel undoubtedly goes into next season as the favorite to claim yet another points championship, but there is a group of younger racers who are snapping at his heals, including recent Pro converts Francis Pelletier and Hunter Patenaude. Plus, many are looking at the current Pro Lite dominator Jordan Lebel as a future champion. So, will Ishoel and his team do what it takes long-term, ala Tucker Hibbert, to stay on top? Based on his performances so far, we wouldn’t bet against him.
Editor’s Note: Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! This story is from the November 2021 issue’s Cold Tested department. Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.