Motorcycles, snowmobiles climb Whealkate Bluff

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette A motorcycle hillclimb rider launches off the wall at the top of the hill during Saturday’s MASTERS hillclimb in South Range.

The second annual Mid America Snow and Terrain Expert Racers (MASTERS)-Ojibwa Casino Hillclimb took place at Whealkate Bluff this past Saturday. The hill that built its fame for motorcycle hillclimbs in the 1970s and 80s proved just how challenging the hill is to climb.

Of the 84 runs up the hill by the motorcycles, only four drivers made it over the top during the qualifying for the coveted Ojibwa Casino King of the Hill. A total of 79 attempts had the motorcyclists going for the highest mark on the hill. One driver, Craig Tousignant of Ontonagon, made it over the top twice.

Tousignant was the odds-on favorite for the King of the Hill, but he had to beat nine others that qualified for that top spot. Winning the King of the Hill was Mass City’s Randy Antilla, who edged out Tousignant by less than a half a second. South Range’s Randy Trudgeon took third, a mere two seconds off the pace.

MASTERS has been running snowmobile hillclimbs for over 20 years.

“Thus it only made sense for us to have a class for snowmobiles to climb the hill in the summer,” said Josh Bramble, MASTERS official. “They put on such a good show, I’m thinking I’m going to run my sled in this next summer.”

Winning the Vollwerth’s Meats “King of the Dirt,” for the sleds was Ontonagon’s Daymind Heikkila. His run was in 10.347 seconds. He defeated one of the top snowmobile hillclimbers in the winter, Jordan Wolfe of Montreal, Wisconsin, and his father, Tom Heikkila. Wolfe turned in a time of 10.701 seconds, the elder Heikkila had an 11.611 second run.

“This was a blast. I flew close to 50 feet in the air after going over the ‘wall’ at the top,” said Wolfe.

The big “air” the sleds got going over the top had the hundreds of fans applauding and blasting their horns.

The two “King” runs had the racers going straight up the hill. The qualifying in all the motorcycle classes, other than the Houghton Powersport Youth Classes had the bikes going around two gates. One gate was at the bottom of the hill, and the other gate was midway up the steep bluff.

“This really made it a challenge for the motorcycles. Most of the bikes had a problem, especially at that second gate,” said Joe Wolfe of the MASTERS.

Last year, the MASTERS brought the motorcycle hillclimb back to life. Last year they did not have to go around any gates, and the majority of the bikes made it over the top. After last year’s motorcycle hillclimb, Dan Tembreull of Triest Forest Products put in a steep dirt mound at the top of the hill. That has been called, “the Wall.”

Triest Forest Products is the landowner who was instrumental in giving permission for both the motorcycle/snowmobile hillclimb on the Fourth of July weekend, and the two snowmobile hillclimbs in February. Triest invested in grading the hill, and widening both the entrance and exit roads.

They also widened the cut on the hill. This provided the opportunity to run two motorcycles in the Dave’s Auto Repair/Patriot Towing Uphill drag, which was won by Antilla

as he held off fellow Mass City racer, Mike Kirtland.

The event had a memorial for Tim Tousignant, who lost his battle with cancer this spring. Tousignant was one of the top hillclimbers in the early days and was one of the past hillclimbers that pushed the MASTERS to bring the motorcycle hillclimb back to life.

Winning the Tim Tousignant Memorial class was his younger brother, Craig.

“Winning this plaque meant a lot to me. I even ran the tire on one of my bikes that Tim ran back in the latter 70’s,” said Craig Tousignant.

Craig made it over the hill twice, and set the fastest time during qualifying in that class honoring his brother. He ran a 16.507 second run.

Roger Trudgeon of South Range was the first to make it around the gates and over the top. His run timed in a 22.612 seconds. The Trudgeon family was also some of the top hillclimbers in the 70’s and 80’s.

Lucas Solberg edged out Clayton and Cole Kim by inches in the Houghton Powersports Youth Class. Tristan Gerzetich of Painesdale won the other youth class.

“The hillclimb has a positive impact on the economy of South Range and the area. With July 4, 2020, falling on a Saturday, this will be a great way for people to spend the Fourth of July weekend,” said Joe Wolfe.

The MASTERS will now find out from Triest Forest Products, Ojibwa Casino, and other sponsors if the motorcycle and snowmobile hillclimb will happen next summer.

The MASTERS will run two snowmobile hillclimbs this February. The first will be the Triest Forest Products-Vollwerth’s Mid America Championship Hillclimb on Feb. 1. The Ojibwa Casino Winternationals will be on Feb. 22.

MASTERS-Ojibwa Casino Motorcycle-Snowmobile Hillclimb

Presented by Triest Forest Products

July 6, 2019, Results

Ojibwa Casino Motorcycle King of the Hill: 1) Randy Antilla, Mass City; 2) Craig Tousignant, Ontonagon; 3) Dusty Raffaelli, Toivola.

Vollwerth’s Meat Snowmobile King of the Dirt: 1) Daymin Heikkila, Ontonagon, Ski-Doo, 10.347; 2) Jordan Wolfe, Montreal, WI. 10.701; 3) Tom Heikkila, Ontonagon, Ski-Doo, 11.611.

Dave’s Auto Repair/Patriot Towing Uphill Motorcycle Drag 2-Bike Final: 1) Randy Antilla, Mass City; 2) Mike Kirtland, Mass City

Tim Tousignant Memorial Open Stock: 1) Craig Tousignant, Ontonagon, 16.507; 2) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, 378 feet; 3) Dan Datto, Chassel, 326 feet.

Houghton Powersports Youth Classes: (Mini-Jr) 1- Tristin Gerzetich, Painesdale, 234 feet; (Micro-Mini) 1) Lucas Solberg, Ontonagon, 182 feet; 2) Klayton Kin, Ontonagon, 180 feet; 3) Madden Pulkas, Painsedale, 147 feet.

Krupp’s Mini Mart of Twin Lakes 150 2-Stroke/250 4-Stroke: 1) Craig Tousignant, Ontonagon, 465 Feet; 2) Steve Raffaelli, Toivola, 405 Feet; 3) Roger Trudgeon, South Range, 375 Feet.

Mosquito Inn, Toivola 250 2-Stroke/400 4-Stroke: 1) Dusty Raffaelli, Toivola, 22.604; 2) Craig Tousignant, Ontonagon, 411 Feet; 3) Jeremiah Johnson, 345 feet.

Matt’s Auto Glass & Body Repair/Tina’s Katalina 350 2-Stroke/450 4-Stroke: 1) Craig Tousignant, Ontonagon, 16.01; 2) Randy Laurila, Ishpeming, 366 feet; 3) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, 360 feet.

Campioni Convenience of South Range 500 2 Stroke/ 650 4-Stroke: 1) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, 426 feet; 2) Anthony Ernest, Mass City, 348 feet.

Triest Forest Products Stock 400: 1) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, 426 feet; 2) Anthony Ernest, Mass City, 348 feet.

Diamond House International Open Mod: 1) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, 25.273; 2) Randy Antilla, Mass City, 546 feet; 3) Chaz Forcia, L’Anse, 492 Feet.