The 2016-2017 ISOC National Snocross tour kicked off the weekend after Thanksgiving with the 25th Annual Duluth National Snocross. Although the event was shortened this year, there was still plenty of racing action taking place in Duluth, Minn. Races were completed Friday and Saturday night before heavy fog rolled in, blanketing Spirit Mountain ski hill. The poor visibility prompted ISOC National Snocross officials to call off Sunday’s races, including Round 2 of the Pro Open class.
Action began Friday night with the traditional AMSOIL Dominator race that pitted the top 16 Pro Open racers in a head-to-head, winner-take-all competition for $10,000. Ross Martin won his first round elimination heat over fellow Polaris rival Kody Kamm. Martin, a two-time winner of the $10,000 prize was then knocked out in the quarterfinals by Tucker Hibbert, but came up short of racing in the Dominator final. In the end, it was Pro rookie sensation Elias Ishoel who came out on top in the bracket-style event.
Saturday featured the first of 17 Pro Open rounds of racing that will be contested this winter for the Pro Open Championship. Hibbert, the defending champion, went 4-3 in his qualifying rounds to qualify ninth for the 15-rider, 18-lap final. In the final, he had a top-five start off the line and knew he had to move quickly to make his way to the front. Fighting heavy, dirty snow roost, a mistake on lap seven set him back a position. With five to go, he moved into third to secure a podium finish behind Lincoln Lemieux and Tim Tremblay.
“I’m fairly happy with my results," said Hibbert. "Having a podium in the main event is good but I want to win races. I’m not completely satisfied but, on the same note, it’s not a terrible place to be. We (the team) have a lot of opportunity to improve — me as a rider and mechanically with the snowmobile. We’re in a good place. Obviously, I’d like to be leading the points but it is what it is. I’m excited about the rest of the season and all the work that’s ahead of us.”
Pro Lite racers and team members Jake Angove and Nick Lorenz opened the 2017 snocross season in style Saturday night, finishing first and third in the 15-man final. It was a perfect day for Angove, who swept his qualifying rounds and led the main event from start to finish.
"It couldn't have gone any better," said Angove. "To go 1-1-1 at Duluth, I usually don't have very good Duluths, so to start the the season off like this it just pumps me up so much. And to have Nick on the podium with me makes it even better."
The rookie Lorenz qualified inside the top three in both of his heat races and was running second to Angove when a broken idler wheel forced him to nurse his machine through the closing laps of the final.
It was a mad rush up to the start of the season, with weather hampering snow-making in northern Minnesota. A massive cold front moved through the area just five days before the event allowed race officials to not only build a track, but one of the biggest layouts the Spirit Mountain ski area has ever seen.
To make up for Sunday's racing being canceled, an additional day of racing is expected to be added to the event in Shakopee, Minn. (Jan. 6-7, 2017). The national tour now takes a two-weekend break before hitting a new venue in Winter Park, Colo. (Dec.16-17).
For the full ISOC schedule, visit www.snocross.com.