Hibbert continues early-season dominance
Arctic Cat rider sweeps Pro classes at Bad River
Story by Snowmobile.com Staff, Dec. 15, 2008Email a friend Print Friendly RSS
The Bad River Lodge and Casino National featured a long half-mile track with multiple elevation changes and two dramatic up and down hill runs. Described by competitors as a national motocross-type track with multiple lines and passing opportunities, virtually every final featured intense racing throughout the pack.
Such was the case in the Pro Open main event, as a string of talented Polaris riders led early but were eventually hunted down by Hibbert. In the early going it was Brett Bender with the holeshot and lap-one lead only to be ejected while ‘bombing’ the downhill portion of the track. This opened the door for fellow Polaris pilot TJ Gulla, followed by Ryan Simons on his Arctic Cat; Levi LaVallee on a Polaris and Ross Martin also on a Polaris.
But soon Hibbert was on the gas, picking off riders with spectacular setups and passes.
Averaging lap times as much as a second faster than his fellow competitors, Hibbert took over the lead by lap 8 and then proceeded to post taillights for the remainder of the 20-lap final.
At the checkered it was Hibbert followed by the Polaris duo of TJ Gulla and Levi LaVallee. Rounding out the top five was the much improved Arctic Cat pilot Garth Kaufman and last year’s Pro Open year-end champion Ross Martin. Factory Yamaha made its first final of the year in Ironwood, and Steve Taylor turned in an impressive eighth place finish. Ski-doo’s top finisher was Dave Allard in 11th.
“I spun at the start,” says Hibbert. “I wanted to get out front early because the snow dust was pretty bad. I saw TJ and Levi were starting to pull away and I knew they were gonna be tough to pass so I didn’t want to waste time. I found some really good lines which allowed me to catch them before they got away.”
Earlier in the day, Hibbert won the Pro Super Stock final in a more familiar fashion - nailing the holeshot and riding away in the 20-lap final. Early on fellow Arctic rider Ryan Simons rode a strong second, but a lap-six bobble bounced Simons back to fourth, as TJ Gulla and Levi LaVallee slipped by.
While Tucker proceeded to checkout, Levi pressured his teammate Gulla and at the halfway mark Gulla was bounced on a downhill portion of the track. That allowed Levi to slip by and moved Polaris rider DJ Eckstrom into third while Simons hung onto fourth.
The top four remained the same for the remainder of the race, but a great battle shaped up behind them, as the Polaris trio of Ross Martin, Shaun Crapo and Brett Bender battled in a tight-knit group with Martin eventually picking up the fifth place finish at the line.
“TJ was flying,” says LaVallee. “Once I got behind him I was pushing him pretty hard as we were doubling on the downhill. Then he just snowballed and I had to check up…he’s pretty sore but I’m glad he’s okay.”
In Semi Pro action, Arctic Cat pilot Dan Ebert capped his first major race of the season with an emotional victory in Semi Pro Super Stock. Ebert snared the lead on the first lap of the 15-lap final and didn’t look back, while his teammate Cory Davis kept pace for a one-two punch at the finish.
Completing the box at the final was Polaris rider Ryan Carey, who scored a second-place finish in Duluth. Ryan held off a hard charging Tim Tremblay of Quebec at the line on the last lap giving him the final podium position.
The final wasn’t so smooth for top qualifier Christian Salemark of Sweden, who holeshot the pack but had a lap-one ‘get-off’ shuffling him back to tenth. Salemark then proceeded to post the fastest laps of any racer in the main event, eventually working his way back to fifth at the line.
The victory for Ebert was an emotional one. Unable to compete at Duluth due to a wrist injury, Ebert competed at Ironwood with his wrist heavily wrapped giving him limited movement and range. It appeared to have little impact.
“This is unbelievable,” says Ebert. “My goal was to just make the final this week, I can’t believe I won it!”
In the Semi Pro Open ranks, the roles were reversed as Ebert nabbed the holeshot and it was top qualifier Salemark who emerged in fifth midway through the first lap. However, early in the race Ebert overshot a berm near the top of the track relinquishing the lead to Ski-doo pilot Paul Bauerly.
But soon it was Salemark once again posting the fastest laps on the track and by mid-race claimed the lead from Bauerly. Behind them it was Ebert and teammate Cory Davis swapping positions throughout the second half of the race followed by Ryan Carey on a Polaris and Bobby LePage also on a Polaris.
In the final laps, Ebert finally took over the final spot on the box from Davis for good as LePage did the same to Carey to round out the top five.
“It was nice to be out front early,” says Bauerly. “Dan (Ebert) gave me a bit of gift when he went off the track, but Salemark ran a good race and was just too fast for me today.”
Christian Salemark, who made the trek to North America to compete for the entire season in the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series, commented on the challenges of coming from another country to compete.
“It’s not easy,” says Salemark. “I’m thankful for all the people who have helped me since I’ve arrived. It has been a lot of fun so far.”