Leo (Dali) Kaludjak returned to the winner’s circle by capturing the Senior Division of the Kivalliq Challenge snowmobile races in Rankin Inlet on May 8.
The races were scheduled to run in Rankin on May 5 and 6, but bad weather forced the championship heat in the Senior Division to be moved to May 8 from its originally scheduled time.
Troy Makpah captured the Junior Division crown (18 years of age and younger), while Ross Tatty grabbed the checkered flag in the Master’s Division (35 and older).
A total of $42,000 in prize money was handed out between the three divisions this year.
Race organizer and coordinator Noel Kaludjak has been running the Kivalliq Challenge races for the past five years.
He said this year’s track was about 5.1 kilometres long and stayed very smooth for the racers.
The juniors ran an eight-lap race, while the masters ran a 10-lap race. The Senior Division ran eight laps per heat in the qualifying heats, with the semifinals being 10 laps and the championship final 20 laps.
The number of racers in the Master’s Division was way down this year, with only six taking part, said Kaludjak.
“The number may have gone down because I lowered the top prize to $3,000 from $5,000 the previous year, but we also lowered the entry fee from $300 down to just $150 this year,” he said.
Noel said the competition was fairly close this year, especially in the Junior Division.
He said there were a couple of wipe-outs and one minor injury.
“The Senior Division was very, very fast this year,” he said. “Last year’s winner (Nanaouq Tanuyak) didn’t even make the finals this year. I think there may have been something wrong with his machine because he just wasn’t racing that fast.”
The weather was not great for this year’s senior final, but everything worked out in the end and the crowds were extremely enthusiastic.
Noel announced before the races that he would be stepping down from running the Kivalliq Challenge after this year’s winner was crowned.
“Next year I want to enjoy the races by just watching and taking lots of pictures and, besides, it’s time to let the younger guys take over,” he said. “The first few years were just awesome, but the past couple of years it was all starting to get to me. I almost didn’t do it this year, but, I thought, no, I’ll do it one more year and then step aside.”
“I’ll still help out here and there,” he continued. “But it’s time for someone else to take control of the event because I won’t be around forever.”