World Championship Snowmobile Derby winners celebrate the past, race toward history

Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 8:29 AM CST
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EAGLE RIVER, Wis. (WSAW) - The 58th World Championship Snowmobile Derby takes the green flag this weekend at the World Championship Derby Complex in Eagle River.

For nearly six decades, snowmobile racers from all over the country and beyond have traveled to the Northwoods for a chance at glory, making it the biggest snowmobile race in the world.

50 years ago, it was Minocqua’s own Mike Trapp that captured his first World Championship Derby win, edging race-favorite and defending champion Yvon Duhamel in a hard-fought race that is dubbed by many as ‘The Greatest Race,’ as Trapp fought lap after lap on an underpowered machine until he was finally able to capture the checkered flag.

“I think it was the biggest win of my career,” Trapp said.

It was the following year that made history, Trapp returning to the Derby as the defending-champion on a machine that had suffered reliability issues throughout the season leading up to the big race.

“I really didn’t focus on too much of a chance on that second year because we were having engine problems,” Trapp explained. “No other Yamaha actually qualified due to all the problems. I think it was very fortunate that I won that second race.”

Trapp was the first racer ever to capture back-to-back Derby wins, helping get him signed by a factory team and launching a career that would last throughout a good portion of the 1970s taking him to races all over the country, as well as earning him a spot in the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain.

On the 50th Anniversary of Trapp’s first win at Eagle River, Minnesota’s Blaine Stephenson is hoping to write some more history of his own.

After winning the race in 2018 and 2019, Stephenson became the first rider to win the big race three times in a row in 2020. Should he capture the checkered flag again in 2021, he would become just the second racer in Derby history to win four times; the first to do so in consecutive years.

“You just think about, dream about being able to make it at one point in time,” Stephenson said about the World Championship final, where only the fastest 12 racers from the weekend have a chance to claim victory in the 25-lap final. “To win not only three, but three in a row; to have a chance at four is pretty special.”

It won’t be an easy task an estimated over 20 other riders looking to knock Stephenson off the top step.

“I don’t expect the other top guys not to be there and push and be really good,” Stephenson said. “Just got to be aware of everything.”

With this year’s World Championship being the first race of the season for most competitors, Stephenson has confidence in his team and the momentum from a championship-winning season last year in the USSA ProStar ice oval racing circuit to carry into 2021. He admits, however, at Eagle River it always takes a little bit of luck.

“I’d rather be luck than good any day of the week,” he laughed.

Along with hopefully some luck, Stephenson will also have the support of a former champion at the Derby who knows a thing or two about making history; hoping to see it made again.

“Just to be there at my age, 50 years later,” smiled Mike Trapp. “It’d be neat to see that young man do that.”

Trapp will be honored for his victory with a lap of honor before the green flag drops for the World Championship Final on Sunday. He will also be honored with a 50th anniversary snowmobile ride next month. Those interested in signing up for that ride can do so here.

Both Trapp and Stephenson offered thanks to the volunteers and workers at the World Championship Derby Complex who have made it possible to celebrate Mike’s victory as well put on a race during what has been a challenging season thus far.

Racing action begins Friday night with the World Championship Final slated to take place Sunday afternoon.

For more information you can visit the track’s website here.

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