The CSRA Canadian Snowcross season opener at Calabogie Peaks Resort outside of Ottawa this past weekend proved to be a little light on the snow side, but the event proceeded anyway, albeit as a curtailed program.
Fortunately the rain that scoured the Ottawa area bypassed Calabogie and the machine-made snow was spared a total meltdown. Although muddy and gravely conditions were the operative words as the weekend progressed.
Team Rockstar Energy Polaris Racing was in full force at Round 1 with defending Pro Open Champion Iain Hayden, his teammate No.3 ranked Lee Butler, and their protégée, JB Dennis, who is campaigning the Pro Lite Open and Stock class.
Despite being roughed up in a crash one week earlier in Duluth, MN, Hayden showed no indication that he wasn’t feeling 100% at Calabogie. The Espanola, ON native totally dominated the Pro Open Invitational Dash For Cash on Saturday.
The four-time champ shot out of the gate on his Polaris IQ 600 racing sled, unleashing its awesome power to snare the holeshot and then put on a clinic all the way to the finish line.
On Sunday, Hayden easily won his first qualifier, but a bobble in his second qualifier saw him tip over his sled while going for a pass to take the lead. He was able to get back into the fray, however, and still take the checkered flag in third place.
In the final, starting in third position, Hayden was a bit too anxious to take control of the lead and ended up jumping off the track a few laps into the race. Having to come to a complete stop before re-entering the track, he lost some eight positions.
Undaunted, Hayden put his head down and set off to make up ground, logging laps that were four seconds faster than his rivals and picking off driver after driver to install himself into an impressive second place by the time it was all said and done.
“It’s a bit hard getting into a snowmobile racing mode when there isn’t much snow and it almost feels like t-shirt weather, but the organization did a great job to at least pull off the event,” said Hayden. “My IQ wasn’t too concerned about the poor snow conditions, however, and ran great all weekend. I got some points and that’s what counts.”
Butler’s weekend wasn’t quite on the same level as Hayden’s, especially on Saturday. In the Dash for Cash, he got tangled up with another driver in the first corner, relegating both of them to a back of the back remount. Butler still managed to pull off a top-10 finish, greeting the checkered in seventh place.
The former champ stepped up to the plate on Sunday, however, claiming 1-3 heat results and fifth at the finish line in the final.
“Saturday I was a bit trigger happy off the start and it proved to be counterproductive. Sunday I decided to ride a bit more conservatively, if you can call it that, because we were racing the track conditions as much as we were racing each other,” said Butler. “It was a real grind. It paid off, though. The qualifiers went well. I was aiming for a podium finish in the final but I had to take satisfaction with fifth.”
Meanwhile, JB Dennis, in his pro debut, hammered down top three finishes in the Pro Lite Open and Pro Lite Stock qualifiers. Unfortunately, in the Open final his sled succumbed to the gravel, sand, and snow mix. In the Stock division, the former amateur champ more than lived up to expectations by nailing down a noteworthy fourth in the final.
“The first race of the season is always a bit on the ragged edge and you’re dealing with a case of frayed nerves because you want to impress everybody,” said Dennis. “I was happy with my qualifying finishes, my sled handled awesome. It kind of sucked that I had to pull off in the Open final but the Stock went okay.”