The famed Derby racetrack will get a three-day vintage racing warm-up this Friday through Sunday, Jan. 10-12, as a prelude to the 57th annual World Championship Snowmobile Derby Jan. 16-19.

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 19th year that vintage racing will officially kick off Derby-related racing, according to track co-owner Russ Davis, who called it “Derby Week” at the World Championship Derby Complex. Joining Davis as the owners of the facility in the fall of 2018 were Tom Anderson and Craig Marchbank, along with several other investors.

“We are already at over 700 entries right now and we are expecting more,” said Davis on Monday. “The Vintage Derby just continues to grow.”

While the early winter — including early snowstorms, a thaw and rain, and more snow — 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 very good to excellent shape, with plenty of awesome ice on the straights,” said Davis. “We left the snow on the ice when it rained last week, so it had little effect on the ice. It’s absolutely excellent.”

Racing will begin this Friday with World Championship time trials at 9:30 a.m., followed by head-to-head competition in dozens of classes. Spectators gates open at 9 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

With more than 700 entries, Davis said racing will start at 9:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 8 a.m. Sunday. 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 race


Last year’s Vintage world champion was Brice Pretzel of Belding, Mich. Behind Pretzel was Jacob Goede of Carver, Minn., and third place went to Troy Dewald of Au Gres, Alberta, Canada. The top three finishers all rode a Polaris.

They were followed by Curtis Peterson of Fargo, N.D., in fourth, Nathan Feucht of Cambellsport in fifth, Andrew Darraugh of Whitney, Alberta, Canada, in sixth, Bradee Mlaskoch of Willow River, Minn., in seventh, Ryan Wolfe of Swartz Creek, Mich., in eighth, Dakota Harris of Morley in ninth, Jeffrey Stoxen of Rhinelander in 10th, Sabrina Blanchet of Drummondville, Alberta, Canada, in 11th, and Justin Ernst of Rhinelander, in 12th.

Polesitter Blanchet, on a Ski-Doo, took an early lead in the 2019 race, attempting to become the first female to hoist the championship trophy. An apparent seized engine locked the track on her machine and sent Blanchet sliding into the turn two hay bales, ending her day and stopping the race with four laps to go. From there, Pretzel took over.

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. 10-12.



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 57th 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. 16-19 will include time trials for the World Championship Thursday, Woody’s Friday Night Thunder, World Championship qualifying Saturday afternoon and a full day of last-chance races and finals Sunday.



New title class

After much discussion with other tracks, the United States Snowmobile Association (USSA), and manufacturers, the new Pro Champ 440 class will be the sleds competing for the title of World Champion at the 2020 Derby Jan. 16-19. This newly formed class replaces the old Champ 440 class for the World Champion title.

The change is being made to facilitate increased driver safety, less expensive racing equipment and to bring more competitive excitement to the show, according to Davis. The new Pro Champ 440 class is also the class supported by USSA’s ProStar Cup Series at all their events.

The old Champ class will still run, but now as a regular class.

The also new Formula III class being approved by International Snowmobile Racing Inc. (ISR), supported by contingency monies from the four original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and included in the USSA ProStar Cup Series, will be featured in all its future events.



The schedule

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 polesitter 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 second straight World Championship on a Polaris. 

The 57th Derby will climax at 3 p.m., when the best Oval racers in the world will stage their new Pro Champ 440 sleds on the starting line across the ice oval in front of thousands of race fans. The winner will then be cheered in the Ultimax Winner’s Circle.

For information about the Derby Week activities, call (715) 479-4424 or visit derbycomplex.com.