It had been a full 21 months since the last round of a ProStar Cup Tour race had been run. A worldwide pandemic, border restrictions, venue uncertainty and more forced high performance race sleds to sitvidle. But racing must go on.
Round 1 of the 21-22 ProStar Cup Tour was held on a beautiful crisp sunshiny day in Beausejour, MB, Canada. With travel still uncertain for some US based teams, the great folks at the CPTC were still able to field 7 Pro Champ sleds for the opening round of the ProStar Cup Tour.
Gunnar Sterne after winning at Beausejour. Image from Darryl Gershman and the CPTC.
The Tour format for the 21-22 season includes three rounds of heat racing with each heat being 7 laps. With safety a concern and being the first race in 21 months, heat 1 was broken into one race of 4 followed by a field of 3. In heat 1A, Blaine Stephenson on his Wahl Brothers Polaris took the victory after an early race challenge by Travis MacDonald. A weekend of mechanical gremlins for MacDonald began about half way through the heat when he shredded a belt. Matt Szalai lost a throttle cable early on as well, leaving the lone female racer, North Dakota’s own Madison Phillips, to finish second.
Heat 1B placed the #220 Red Bull Ski-Doo of Gunnar Sterne on the line with Polaris racer Calvin Cook and local favorite Quinn Wojick. With many years of experience on the field, Sterne took an early lead and never looked back. He also never let up putting his fast Ski-Doo through seven laps of full power. At the finish line, it was Sterne well ahead of Wojick followed by Cook.
Heats 2 and 3 found the field bunched at the line together. In Heat 2, the top 3 Tour veterans ran a great competitive race until the mechanical gremlins bit MacDonald again but this time with a cylinder issue ending his race. In a more concerning moment, Tour rookie Madison Phillips reached up to clear her visor as she left turn 4 losing control of her sled and crashing hard into the front stretch bales. The sled was damaged and done for the weekend. Thankfully, Madison walked away bumped and bruised with no serious injuries. At the checkered flag, the field was scored as Sterne, Stephenson, Cook, Szalai, MacDonald, Phillips, Wojick.
With more mechanical issues behind the scenes, only four sleds pulled to the line for the final heat. Like the other two heats, mechanical issues had a significant impact on the results. With Sterne, Stephenson, Cook, and Wojick on the line, Sterne and Stephenson chased each other into turn 1. Competitive racing at the front only lasted about 3 laps when Stephenson dropped a cylinder. The final order at the line after 7 laps was Sterne, Wojick, Cook and Stephenson (dnf).
After much mechanical thrashing, the Round 1 final found 6 of the 7 entered drivers at the line. When Riley pulled the green flag, it was a close race into turn 1 between Sterne, MacDonald and Stephenson. Over the course of the next 8 laps, Sterne and MacDonald were nose to tail with MacDonald constantly looking for an opening. Stephenson was watching all of this from a close third place vantage point. The mechanical woes for MacDonald continued as a flipped belt brought his Ski-Doo to a halt outside of turn 1. The rest of the 15 lap final ended uneventfully with Sterne taking the checkered first followed by Stephenson and Cook, the only 3 remaining sleds running at end of 15 laps.
After Round 1, Sterne’s clean sweep of the weekend puts him at the top of the 21-22 ProStar Cup Tour with 130 points followed by Stephenson with 116, Cook 104, MacDonald 84, Wojick 82, Szalai 64 and Phillips 14. Round 2 of the ProStar Cup Tour presented by IncredibleBank, Advanced Compressor Technology, Woody’s Traction, Polaris, and FlyRacing is set for Jan 9 at the Ironwood Snowmobile