Valcourt, Quebec. ~ Only in Valcourt can two extremes of snowmobile racing come together for a weekend of outstanding competition and showmanship.
For the past 41 years, the Grand Prix Ski-Doo de Valcourt has brought the best pure snowmobile racers together in one place: the famed Circuit Yvon Duhamel. It has been several years since the top Pro racers from AMSOIL Championship Snocross joined the fantastically fast oval ice racers. This year, ISOC’s Pro Open, Pro Lite, and Pro Women headed into Quebec looking to keep their championship hopes alive while picking up a win at one of the sport’s most historic haunts.
Harr Holds of Pelletier for Top Pro Position
The big story coming into the weekend was the loss of five-time defending champion Elias Ishoel for the season after a crash in Deadwood. As much as Ishoel will be missed, the depth of this year’s Pro class runs deep, and if Saturday night’s opener in Valcourt is any indication, it will be a mad scramble to crown a new champion in Duluth two months from now.
Emil Harr will draw the spotlight during Ishoel’s absence. He entered the weekend 12 points behind Ishoel in the championship standings and was the round three winner. Jordan Lebel is Next on everyone’s list of potential champions and broke through in Deadwood with his first career overall. Francis Pelletier has a pair of second-place finishes and is a past Pro Lite champion. Add in a resurgent Jacob Yurk, a healthy Kody Kamm, and a long list of Pro racers who have won at the sport’s highest levels, and it is looking like a great time to be a snocross fan.
But it was Harr who handled his business best in Valcourt. He won the first two rounds of the Triple Crown format, mainly to great starts. He was second behind teammate Kamm in the first round, first in round two, and just behind Pelletier in the final showdown.
He snuck around Kamm midway through the first race and held off Pelletier in the second. In the third, Harr had a line that was working, but Pelletier was not giving up the lead, and Harr settled into the runner-up spot. That gave him a final finishing order of 1-1-2 and four overall points on the night for his second win of the season.
“My team had my sled fast today,” said Harr. I had good starts the whole day and had a good qualifying also. I was able to be consistent and be up top. The track was gnarly and rough, but I was able to find some great lines and had a bit of fun out there. So yeah, I’m happy to get the win up here in Canada.”
Pelletier’s night might have ended on top of the box if not for a tough start in round one, where he came out of the first turn outside the top ten. He put his head down and worked his way up to fourth. He followed that up with a second behind Harr in round two and an impressive, gutty win in round three. His seven points placed him second overall, the third time he’s been the runner-up this season.
Kamm continues his return from an ankle injury, and despite not being able to hit the practice track much in recent weeks, he rode inspired this weekend. After leading early, he finished third in round, fifth in round two, and capped the night off with another third-place ride. His 11 points were enough to lock town third overall and join his Judnick Motorsports/Polaris teammate on the podium.
Dillon Delivers Sixth Straight Win
Crayden Dillon’s control of the red plate continues. He overcame an early challenge before putting forth a dominant run in the Pro Lite final.
Adam Ashline looked to be on a mission from the get-go on Saturday. He grabbed the holeshot over Dillon and Kenny Mandryk and looked to secure his first Pro Lite win of the year. But Dillon found a small hole to sneak through to get into the lead and quickly pulled away for his sixth straight win to open up a fun-filled season.
“The whole Thene Motorsports crew. We have just been having a great time this year,” said Dillon. “Me and (teammate) Francis (Pelletier) have had our rough days, but in the end, we’re great friends and help each other out on and all that matters.”
Despite dropping off the lead spot, Ashline didn’t give up any more ground for the rest of the race. She stayed ahead of a trio of riders battling for the final podium position. The runner-up finish was Ashline’s first since the opening round in Ironwood.
For a brief moment, it looked like Anson Scheele would secure a podium finish from the back row as he matched lap times with Dillon. But Jeremy Beaulieu kicked it into high gear for the remaining few laps and rode to his first podium finish (third) of the season, finishing ahead of Mandryk and Scheele.
Cottew Continues Streak in Pro AM Women
Once again, the reality lived up to the hype in Pro-AM Women.
It usually doesn’t matter where Malene Cottew finds herself after the first turn because the end result is generally out front and atop another pro podium. Her dominance was on display from the start on Saturday, as the defending champion grabbed the holeshot and rode to her sixth win of the season, extending her overall points lead to 39.
“It was gnarly out there, and it’s been gnarly all day,” said Cottew. “But yeah, I stayed on my sled, and that was the goal, and I had fun.”
Tausha Lange moved into second overall thanks to an impressive ride to the runner-up spot on the podium. Lange nearly squeezed out Cottew for the holeshot and kept pace with the race winner before securing her fifth podium.
Naeli Lebel continued her upward ascent on the overall leaderboard as the hometown favorite finished third on Saturday.
The 2023-2024 AMSOIL Championship Snocross season returns to action on Sunday at the Grand Prix de Valcourt for a Pro Only show February 10.
For more information about the 2023-2024 AMSOIL Championship Snocross season, visitwww.snocross.com. You can tune in all season long, live onwww.FloRacing.com. Event day schedules and tickets will become available in the coming months atsnocross.com.