Vintage racers circle the ice at the famed World Championship Derby Complex during races held Sunday in Eagle River.
Vintage racers circle the ice at the famed World Championship Derby Complex during races held Sunday in Eagle River.
Hundreds of snowmobile racers from across the United States converged on Eagle River last weekend to take part in the 21st annual World Championship Vintage Snowmobile Derby.

In a pre­lude to the 59th World Championship Snowmobile Derby this weekend, the Vintage World Championships were held on the famous oval track in Eagle River. In classic North Woods January fashion, temperatures last weekend were brisk with wind chills during the final race of the weekend weighing in at a chilly 21 degrees below zero.

Capturing the Vintage World Championship was Matt Goede of Mayer, Minn., who won the 10-lap feature race Sunday afternoon on a 1973 440 Polaris Starfire.

Goede piloted his No. 28 Polaris to victory lane Sunday, avoiding a couple of early red flag incidents to claim his second Vintage World Championship in three years.

A total of five state were represented in this year’s championship race field of 12 sleds. Finishing behind Goede was 2021 champion Curtis Peterson of Fargo, N.D. on a Yamaha machine. Brice Pretzel of Belgian, Mich., was in third place riding a Polaris.

The rest of the 12-man field contending for the trophy included: fourth place, Paul Diefenthaler of Manitowoc, fifth was Troy Dewald of Au Gres, Mich., sixth was Mason Schuette of Rhinelander followed by Lucas Nast of Lancaster, N.H., Alec Nesbit of Princeton, Minn., Jeffery Stoxen of Rhinelander, Brandon Grendzinski of Schofield, Jeff Watson of Princeton, Minn., and Ryan Spencer of Flint, Mich.

Peterson looked to be in place to take an early lead as he won the hole shot to turn one, but slid up the track as he entered turn two which opened a lane for Goede who didn’t look back.

After Dewald was vaulted from his sled on the back stretch the field lined up again for a restart which gave Goede a chance to get to the first turn this time, which he did.

After two laps were in, Dewald got into the rear-end of another sled and turned over entering the front stretch, bringing out the red flag and bunching the riders up in a staggered restart with eight laps to go.

Goede checked out from there, and didn’t face a challenge as he rode away to claim the 2022 Vintage World Championship.

Goede has been racing since about 2009 and is a four-time Vintage World Champion.

He said that the World Championship Vintage Derby is the only race he goes to for vintage, and by far the biggest. He said he also will be here next weekend to race Champ at the World Championship Derby.

Goede’s Starfire was built in his garage and is a “440-cc, highly modified racing machine.”

Although the track had undergone some serious work leading up to the big race, Goede said there were definitely still some bumps and challenges out there.

“With all the wrecks it didn’t even feel like a world championship,” Goede said after the race. “It woulda been nice if it went the 10 laps clean, but I am definitely happy we were able to bring home another one.”

During the off season last summer, new WCDC General Manager Dan Peck said the entire track oval of “good old Vilas County dirt” was resurfaced, adding that the grade of the whole oval was changed, and that the resurfacing would allow more consistent icing. He added that some of the humps that were dangerous also were removed during the project.

Heading into the main event World Championship next weekend, WCDC Race Director Craig Marchbank said that track conditions should be in great shape.

He noted that there were some bumps and rough spots on the oval for the Vintage races, but trucks were out Sunday night and Monday morning pulling 8-hour shifts to water the track and get that ice smooth and slick.

Racer turnout for Vintage weekend set records, according to Marchbank, who said it was the largest snowmobile race in the world.

“What’s interesting about this past weekend is that even without probably 60 to 100 Canadian racers, this was the largest snowmobile race in the world over the last 10 years,” he said. “I told the drivers in just about every race meeting that they need to look at each other and pat each other on the back, because to be here in those numbers is just unheard of.”

And as it sets records, the sport continues to grow.

“The Vintage race circuit is definitely growing, and ice oval racing in general is still holding their own. These guys this weekend didn’t take a back seat to anyone. I always tell them they are the life and blood of this sport, and they really showed it by packing into Eagle River in record numbers,” he said.