Rookie Bester Best of Pro Lite in Opener
DULUTH, MINN.~ When the AMSOIL Snocross National, Presented by Kwik Trip was held last year, Ski Doo’s Elias Ishoel was nowhere near Spirit Mountain in Duluth, Minn. Instead, the feisty Norwegian was home rehabbing a leg injury that curtailed his championship hopes. What a difference a year makes as the hard-charging pro returned for the start of the 2018 campaign with something to prove.
Ishoel is on almost every list of championship contenders, and just one night after making the semi-final in the AMSOIL Dominator, Ishoel showcased his no-holds-barred riding style as he entered the Pro final as the fifth overall seed thanks to a first round win over fellow Ski-Doo rider Lincoln Lemieux.
That heat race would be a precursor to Saturday nights Pro final as it was Lemieux, the top qualifier, who grabbed an early lead over Ishoel and rookie Daniel Benham (Arctic Cat). Lemieux seemed to be in control for much of the 18-lap race, but lapped traffic allowed Ishoel to keep him in reach. On lap 15, the two went bar-to-bar with Ishoel coming out of the treacherous downhill turn with the lead. Lemieux held pace with a second place finish, ahead of veteran racer Tim Tremblay, who charged to the podium after a mid-pack start.
Ishoel wasn’t perfect in the win with a few mid-race bobbles, but the victory was certainly a source of redemption for the third-year pro.
“I just tried to find good lines and it was hard” said Ishoel after the race, “and I went off the track and I just tried to get back on and get first. It’s good to be back healthy, so now everything is good.”
An exhausted Lemieux was encouraged for his strong showing and podium finish, and heads into round two with the points lead.
It was going pretty good out there, but I just didn’t feel great at the end,” said the Scheuring Speed Sports driver. “I was pretty gassed at the end. I knew Elias was there and I was hoping he would fade, but he didn’t. But we are healthy and ready for Sunday.”
The Rookie Can Ride
The Pro Lite class lost several top riders after last season, including the aforementioned Benham and Aki Philaja, but a new wave of championship contenders have quickly emerged and the best of the bunch, at least for one night, was Arctic Cat’s Ryley Bester.
After a successful run in the national Sport class, including second overall last season, Bester jumped into the Pro Lite fray this season and quickly found out he belonged. As the fifth seed, the Frattalone Racing/Arctic Cat rider was the top rookie to qualify for the final, and after turn one, he was simply the top rider.
Bester and Francis Pelletier would battle early on, but Bester never missed a mark, and had more than enough to hold off the field in front of a sold out Spirit Mountain crowd.
“Just consistent laps, that was the main thing I was thinking,” said Bester. “These guys were pushing me the whole race, and at the end it was white flag, and I was like, thank God.”
Pelletier cruised across the AMSOIL finish line in second, with Hunter Patenaude charging through the field to round out the podium.
Saturday Night Success
While racers can’t win the title in Duluth, the historical race, (now in its 27th year), can set the tone for a great season. Several classes got their start to the 2018-2019 AMSOIL Championship Snocross POWERED by RAM season, and some familiar faces found the top of the box.
- Defending Pro AM Women champion Meghan Brodeur (Ski Doo) picked up where she left off by holding off last years Pro Rookie of the Year, Taven Woodie in the final.
- ISOC is the official home of the AMA National Snow Bike Series, and 19 riders lined-up for Saturday nights final. Harris Huizenga led them all, utilizing a clean start to pick up the win in the debut of the Snowbike class.
- Zach Pattyn hasn’t raced much at all the past few seasons, but the former Pro racer seemed right at home, picking up his second win of the weekend in Pro AM Plus 30. Mr. Everything Wes Selby finished second ahead of Matt Pichner. Selby will swap his snocross sled in for a cross country model in a couple of weeks.
- Kellen Chapuran pulled a double-double down on Saturday. He was the top qualifier and winner in the Jr. 10-13 and Transition 9-13 classes.
- Dylan Lebel was the top qualifier and winner in Transition 8-10.
- Andy Pake battled with Drew Freeland early in Sport Lite before taking control for his first win of the season.
Round two of AMSOIL Championship Snocross continues on Sunday. Fans can watch the catch the live stream at snocross.com.