A Snowmachine Race is different from many other races. The top 5 teams win cash prizes, but other “contingency” prizes are awarded based on different things. For example a Team can win a prize by being the fastest between certain checkpoints. Another example is winning a prize for using certain equipment. Team 19 didn’t win any prizes for the 2014 Iron Dog, but won the respect of many of the Teams and was singled out as being the first Team in history to finish two consecutive races with the same machine. An amazing feat to be sure. All the rural Race Teams were recognized for the added burden of travel and expense that they must endure to compete in such a race.
I know the recognition was very well received by Gux and Steven. It is a special challenge to run a program from Rural Alaska, but the competition is totally worth it.
As an editorial, I must share something that I noticed during the banquet. There are two classes of Teams that compete in the Iron Dog Pro Class. I won’t say that there is anything unfair about it, but it must be recognized as well when comparing teams and finishes. The first Teams are a TOTALLY different animal than about half or more of the competitors. Let’s call this Extreme Pro. The Extreme Pro has a totally different program than the Standard Pro. We heard during the banquet about mechanics and pilots. Pilots to the extent that one Team may have 3 or more aircraft AND helicopter support. Planes containing a full array of parts AND a mechanic. This Extreme Pro program has multiple machines and race training programs that allow the Team Racers to practice as far as Nome and Fairbanks. They practice using the trail of the Iron Dog. When you compare this against a program like Team 19, the playing field is maybe not as level as it could be. What it means is that it is VERY hard to compete in this field.
What does this mean? It means that if you discount the Teams with Air Support and Professional Training Programs including Mechanics and such, Team 19 really finished way higher than 12th. Gux and Steven spend many hours and many dollars to make their program work. They were lucky to have Frank Neitz for a small air support network, but nothing like the full time pilots and helicopter.
We even heard about a Team whose helicopter warned them about trail conditions!
Steven and Gux ride, mechanic, and finance their program with the gratuitous support of our Main Sponsors– Yamaha Motorsports, Bethel Prop Shop, Donlin Gold, Drew’s Foundation, and the other many Businesses that open their checkbooks and help support this important program.
So bottom line– Team 19 did a GREAT job! They will never have the resources to compete with the Extreme Pro class, but they can hold their heads very high because they improved AND placed in the top 10 of the Normal Pro Class.
How can this be fixed? We need to come up with sponsors who can offer contingency prizes to those Teams who are competing in the Normal Pro Class. This is the Iron Dog’s next challenge so that others can break into the winners circle and help finance their programs.
As I looked around the room it was fun to look at all of the teams gear and what they were supporting. In the photos you will see all of the major sponsors and teams represented in the clothing of the Teams. We even got a photo with a celebrity. It was a very fun evening and I can’t wait for next year!