Old iron will return to the Derby Track this Friday through Sunday during the Vintage World Championships. —STAFF PHOTO
Old iron will return to the Derby Track this Friday through Sunday during the Vintage World Championships. —STAFF PHOTO
The famed Derby racetrack will get a three-day vintage racing warm-up this Friday through Sunday, Jan. 11-13, as a prelude to the 56th annual World Championship Snowmobile Derby Jan. 17-20.

Buzzing the ice oval in more than 40 racing classes will be the sleds of yester­year, going by names such as Rupp, Blizzard, El Tigre, Starfire, Snow-Twister, SnoJet, Thunderjet, Viking and Chaparral.

It is the 18th year that vintage racing will officially kick off Derby-related racing, according to new track co-owner Russ Davis, who called it “Derby Week” at the World Championship Derby Complex. Joining Davis as the new owners of the facility are Tom Anderson and Craig Marchbank, along with six other investors.

“We are approaching 700 entries right now and we are expecting more,” said Davis on Monday. “We have 40 entries signed up for the Vintage World Championship class.”

While a late-arriving winter has made it challenging for the track-building staff, it has been cold enough on some nights for tanker trucks to dump thousands of gallons of water on the track for the ice base used in modern-day snowmobile racing.

“The track is in good shape, with 8 to 81⁄2 inches of ice on the straights,” said Davis. “We will water more this week with some colder nights and days in the forecast. We also have good snow for the Sno-Cross course with 3 to 4 feet on the level inside the oval.”

For competitors in the Vintage World Championships, there will be practice runs on the Derby Track starting at 10 a.m. Thursday. Racing will begin this Friday, Jan. 11, with head-to-head competition in dozens of classes. Gates open and racing will start at 9 a.m. on all three days.

With more than 700 entries, Davis said racing could run as late as 5:30 or 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday  nights.

Racers will compete for cash prizes based on entry fees, Vintage World Championship trophies and Fly Racing jackets.

The Vintage World Championship Top 10 qualifying will start at 3 p.m. Saturday and the Vintage World Championship is scheduled at 3 p.m. Sunday.

“With at least 40 entries in the Vintage World Championship class,” said Davis, “competition will be fierce during the qualifying Saturday afternoon.”

Last year’s Vintage world champion was Justin Ernst of Rhinelander on a Yamaha, second went to Jacob Goede of Carver, Minn., on a Polaris and third went to Andrew Darraugh of Ontario, Canada, on a Polaris.

The Vintage World Championship features sleds from 1973 and earlier. After racing Sunday, an awards presentation is planned in the Derby Expo Hall.

Ticket prices are $25 daily for Vintage Weekend Jan. 11-13. A Super Ticket for all three days is $65 if purchased by Jan. 10, and $70 after Jan. 10.

Derby to follow

By next Wednesday, all of the major Oval and Sno-Cross race teams will have their trailers lined up around the Derby grounds, ready for the 56th running of the  World Cham­pi­on­­ship Snowmobile Derby. 

Davis said racers will shoot for the honor of winning at the first and biggest event in snowmobile racing history, as well as about $100,000 in cash and prizes.

Highlights of the Derby Jan. 17-20 will include time trials for the World Championship Thursday, Friday Night Thunder, World Championship qualifying Saturday afternoon and a full day of last-chance races and finals Sunday.

There will be a full day of Oval sprint and Sno-Cross qualifying all day Friday, with racing starting at 9 a.m.

After a fireworks display, Friday Night Thunder’s race schedule starting at 7 p.m. will feature the Sweet Sixteen Pole Position event where the winner from the 16 fastest qualifiers will become the first qualifier in the Top 10 and the pole sitter for Sunday’s world title race.

The Friday night show will also feature Pro-Open Sno-Cross races, Pro Snow Bike classes on the Sno-Cross course, and the Outlaw 600 class with racers in cockpit-style machines.

“The under-the-lights show is one of the innovative events that has made the Derby the Indy 500 of snowmobile racing,” said Davis.

Saturday will bring both class finals and qualifying in the morning, with much of the afternoon dedicated to qualifying the top finalists for Sunday’s World Championship event. The field will be determined through the traditional heats, quarterfinals and semifinals Saturday afternoon in some of the best racing of the weekend, according to Davis.

Last year’s Derby winner was Blaine Stephenson of Hutchinson, Minn.,  who won his first World Championship on a Polaris in a split-race format. Derby officials said this year’s race will not have a mid-point break.

The 56th Derby will climax at 3 p.m., when the best Oval racers in the world will stage on the starting line across the ice oval in front of thousands of race fans.