Friday, August 19, 2011

Excitement starting to build for 2011-2012 ECS season


While summer’s heat may be at its peak, a loud buzz is already building within snocross circles as plans for the 2011-2012 season begin to take shape.
For teams and riders within the East Coast Snocross (ECS) series, summer is when plans are made and new sleds are ordered. The month of July has already produced some big news, and more pieces of the 2012 puzzle will start falling into place on a weekly basis.
Headlining the off-season news is the announcement that 2011 ECS Pro champion Mathieu Morin has signed with Winnipeg-based BOSS Racing to compete on the International Series of Champions (ISOC) circuit. This swings the doors wide open for a new champion at ECS, with several skilled athletes lining up to take Morin’s place atop the mountain.
One of the big guns looking to claim those titles is Lake Shore, Minnesota, native Matt Piche. The veteran rider with national experience raced a Polaris for Hulten Speed Sports (HSS) last season, but will now pilot Arctic Cat sleds for Nate Tatro’s Green Mountain Racing squad.  Piche is lightning-fast and silky-smooth on any brand of sled, so look for him to adapt to Arctic Cat’s mighty Sno Pro 600 with ease.
Another athlete with national experience returning to regional action this season is Quebec veteran Renaud Alexandre. The 21-year-old Val-D’Or native competed as a privateer on the ISOC circuit last winter, but is now a member of the high-profile Quebec-based Damexco Racing team. Alexandre has ridden Polaris the last four years, but returns to his roots at Ski-doo for 2012.
“I’m really excited to be part of Damexco Racing and am anxious to ride Ski-doo’s new race sled,” Alexandre said. ”I had surgery on my knee last Spring, but was able to start training again in early July. I think running ISOC last winter helped raise my intensity level, I plan to race at that level from the moment we go green. I’m also very excited to be running the new ECS series, I know the competition will be tough, but with more training, fast sleds and a great team, I’ll be ready for the challenge.”
Alexandre will compete in the Pro classes, while teammate Lucas Brunelle will race in the new Pro Lite class (formerly known as Semi-Pro).
Going into their inaugural season, nobody at East Coast Snocross could have predicted a rookie performance in the Pro division like the one put forth by Corin Todd. After riding BRP/Ski-doo products his entire career, the gifted athlete from Otego, NY, switched to Arctic Cat last season at the same time he advanced to Pro.
Most thought the challenge would be too great, yet Todd felt otherwise. He landed on the podium his first time out at Vermont's Burke Mountain Ski Resort, then astounded the most seasoned of fans as he went wire-to-wire and held off Morin to win the 25-lap Pro Stock final in Ossipee, New Hampshire, just two races later.
After finishing third in Pro Stock points and fifth in Open (he didn’t even have a Mod motor until Salem, NH) last year, Todd will return to ECS competition in 2011-12 as a member of Camara Slate Racing and will be riding Arctic Cat sleds. Todd’s teammates will include Chris Ackerman (Pro) and Jesse James Bonaduce, who will compete against Brunelle and many others in the new Pro Lite class.
While most talk in snocross centers around the Pro and Pro Lite riders, the importance of Junior classes is not to be overlooked. This is where the next stars of the sport hone their skills, and starting in 2011-12, many of them will do so aboard an exciting new sled. Arctic Cat has released its new Sno Pro 500 model that will be utilized for a number of Junior classes.
As for the 2011-2012 ECS schedule, that too, is starting to take shape. For its second season, the sanctioning body will once again present eight or nine points races, hosted at a mix of existing and new sites. While negotiations are still being finalized, six events are already locked in starting with the season opener in East Burke, VT (Dec. 11-12); Plattsburgh, NY (January 2012 TBA); Boonville, NY (with ice ovals, Jan. 27-29); Farmington, NY (Feb. 4-5, w/ISOC); Findley Lake, NY (March 24-25); and Killington, VT (Pico Mtn., March 31-April 1).  
More details on team and rider plans, as well as news on the schedule as it develops will be released in the coming weeks. Don’t let summer’s heat get you down, the cold nights and deep snow will be here before you know it.