Alaskans are fast on the snowmobile. Yukoners are faster.
Whitehorse sledders captured three out of four divisions at the Alcan 200 International Snow Machine Road Rally on Jan. 21.
That’s the most divisions won by Yukoners since 2012, when the race had six divisions.
A total of 26 sledders, including 11 Yukoners, raced in last Saturday’s 48th annual event, billed as the longest on-road snowmobile race in North America.
Yukoners, who clearly have a need for speed, won two-thirds of the race’s podium spots.
“It’s kind of like an addiction,” said Whitehorse’s Nathan Peterson. “It’s an extreme adrenaline rush.”
After five previous attempts, Peterson won a division for his first time, taking first in the 551-650cc liquid class.
The 27-year-old completed the 250-kilometre course from the Canada-U.S. border outside of Haines, Alaska, to Dezadeash Lake and back in one hour and 38 minutes even.
Peterson finished with an average speed — counting fuel stops — of 152.7 kilometres per hour. He topped out with speed of about 178 km/h on his 2003 Polaris machine.
“(I took) more time testing and adjusting, changing clutch hitting and gearing. I rebuilt the engine,” said Peterson.
Whitehorse’s Scott Smeeton finished just 21 seconds behind Peterson to place second in the division and win Rookie of the Year.
Peterson’s brother, Justin, took the 0-440cc liquid class for a fourth time and third year in a row. The 29-year-old finished in 1:45:01 and an average speed of 142.5 km/h.
Whitehorse’s Jeff Schamber and Donna Chambers placed second and third, respectively.
Whitehorse’s Mario Poulin has a machine that just won’t quit. Poulin and his 1980 Polaris TX 440 topped the 0-440cc fan class at 1:57:52.
Five sledders started the division but only two made it to the finish. Ken Schamber of Takisha, Yukon, took second just under a minute behind Poulin.
In fact, a total of 10 racers did not finish the race, which is not uncommon for such an extreme event. Conditions were toilsome this year with temperatures below minus-30 and high winds.
“It was tough, really tough, but it was the same conditions for all of us so I guess it was an even playing field,” said Nathan. “I was bundled up pretty good and wasn’t cold.”
The course was also hard on the sleds with about 50 kilometres of bare asphalt this year.
“They say it’s the worst year in 20 years,” said Nathan.
“I had one wipeout, ended up in the ditch, but wasn’t hurt and the machine was fine, so I kept going.”
While Yukoners rose to the top in three division, the big trophy for fastest overall stayed in Alaska.
Haines’ Christopher Brooks and his 1997 Yamaha, won the 651-800cc liquid class and was fastest on the day for the second year in a row with a time of 1:31:43 and an average speed of 163.1 kilometres an hour.
Whitehorse’s Cory Magnuson placed third in the 651-800cc division at 1:38:26.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Top three results:
0-440cc fan class
1st Mario Poulin (Whitehorse) — 1:57:52
2nd Ken Schamber (Takisha) — 1.58.43
0-440cc liquid class
1st Justin Peterson (Whitehorse) — 1:45:01
2nd Jeff Schamber (Whitehorse) — 1:57:52
3rd Donna Chambers (Whitehorse) — 3:11:49
551-650cc liquid class
1st Nathan Peterson (Whitehorse) — 1:38:00
2nd Scott Smeeton (Whitehorse) — 1:38:21
3rd Michael Ward (Haines) — 1:51:01
651-800cc liquid class
1st Christopher Brooks (Haines) — 1:31:43
2nd Jack Smith Jr. (Haines) — 1:31:53
3rd Cory Magnason (Whitehorse) — 1:38:26