Video - 2013 Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby
Speed and endurance powered an exciting 50th annual World Championship Derby in Eagle River, Wisconsin. The pack of 15 racers included several world champions, and when the white dust settled 23-year-old Malcolm Chartier had earned his own place in history.
Chartier's #33 Ski-Doo led every lap until he was passed by the #747 Polaris of Jordan Wahl with just four laps to go. Chartier reclaimed his lead but felt Wahl’s sled bumping his own, including a strong slam in the last corner that led Chartier to lose his grip and briefly use his knee to maintain throttle.
“He’s a good sport and he’s a fast competitor, but I won today and I’m the world champion!” boasted Chartier. By comparison, 18-year-old Wahl was downright shy. “I did it. I finished,” he modestly said after winning second place at the world’s premiere snowmobile oval track. He chased Chartier the entire race and grabbed the lead for exactly one lap before drifting too high and losing the inside line. That’s when it got rough.
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“I lost some of my breaks. Got going in the snow and just couldn’t stop,” Wahl explained, “I got caught in the snow. Must have warped the disc or something.”
Since Wahl wouldn’t boast of his own prowess, Chartier did it for him. “Jordan ran a great race. I pulled away a little bit but he caught back up,” he said. Chartier’s enthusiasm at his victory pour into several loud hollers and cheers that were echoed by his team, and echoed again through Chartier’s wide-open smile. The champ from Marine City, Michigan, took home $60,000 for his effort.
And it certainly is an effort to hold onto the world’s most powerful snowmobiles as they enter corners upwards of 100 miles per hour. “I was definitely feeling it, with three or four laps to go,” he recalled.
Eagerly dogging the two leaders was Matt Schulz, last year’s second-place finisher who tasted his chance during the brief collision in the final corner, but Chartier and Wahl recovered so quickly that Schulz couldn’t pass either of them.
“I came up a little short again today. But we just kind of fought all weekend, so I’m pretty happy with third place,” he said, “It was a heckuva race.”
The first red flag came moments after the first green flag, when Travis MacDonald and Dustin Wahl fell off their sleds in the first corner. After that restart the next 10 laps ran like clockwork, free of the constant red flags that can be commonplace at this annual championship.
For the second year that 10-lap mark meant a mandatory 5-minute pitstop. Four-time champ P.J. Wanderscheid’s team seemed to use a different clock than the others, and they weren’t too happy when the officials shouted “Stop working! Stop working!”
Chartier restarted with the pack after earning a 2.9 second lead in those first 10 laps. Chartier had steadily extended his lead, finishing 2.9 seconds ahead of Schulz, who chased him in the number two spot for the first 10 laps.
Jordan Wahl and 2012 champ Nick Van Strydonk fought for third place throughout those quick first 10 laps, but Van Strydonk soon faded to last place with an oddly sluggish machine. He managed to fight back from 15th place to finish in eighth.
Temperatures of zero degrees affected spectators plenty, but Schulz says racers only feel the chill when they stop. The derby started on a cold Thursday and warmed up on Friday and Saturday.
“It definitely was a long weekend, with the weather changing and stuff,” Schulz said. “Once you get going adrenalin takes over and you really don’t feel anything. The main thing was the shield was getting fogged up and stuff. I kind of went back and forth from the shield to goggles and trying to make that work.”
The #225 of Matt Ritchie had problems in the third corner twice. He fell off his sled during the 14th lap, and during lap 22 his machine shut down in the same corner. Both red flags gave racers a new chance at hole shots and shuffled the order considerably.
In the final laps, Ritchie was one of two racers who pulled off. “We ran into a little technical problem," he said. "I couldn’t get to the corner as well as possible, but we’re going to come back next year and hope that it’ll run!”
The 50th anniversary race was filled with reunions and tributes. Old friends and competitors shared stories and banquet meals, and most of the Derby Queens were present, too, in their tiaras and personalized crew jackets.
A large tent displayed many of the winning sleds from the last 50 years, showing years of evolution in design and technology.
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2012 Eagle River Snowmobile Derby