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Motorcycle hillclimb postponed

The popular Motorcycle Hillclimb in South Range has been postponed to September 19. The event that draws fans and racers from throughout the Midwest was scheduled to happen on June 20.

The Mid America Snow and Terrain Expert Racers hillclimb has its origins in the 1970s and 80s. For years the event took place as a part of the South Range July 4 festivities. When the motorcycles returned to Whealkate Bluff in 2018, the race also happened on the July 4 weekend.

“However with the Fourth of July falling on a Saturday, we didn’t want to compete with Fourth of July festivities happening all over the Western U.P.,” said MASTERS Racing Circuit race director Jason Kleinschmidt. “Thus we planned on moving it up to the third Saturday in June.”

The MASTERS is the Promoter and Sanctioning body of the Hillclimb. The MASTERS has been a part of Snowmobile Hillclimbs since working with the Range Snowmobile Club in 1991. The circuit was formed in 1995.

“With the uncertainty as to what the guidelines will be with the coronavirus pandemic, we decided to postpone the Hillclimb,” Kleinschmidt said. “There was many factors in postponing the hillclimb, including the health and safety of our racers, race crews, fans, and our officials. We also were concerned about the ability to get sponsors, since many of them have been closed for months or have had a major decrease in business.”

Many events, from July 4 celebrations, to the Rodeo in Iron River, have been canceled for this summer. The MASTERS did not want to cancel the hillclimb, but to postpone it to a date that they feel State guidelines will be less restrictive.

It was last year the hillclimb not only had racers of all ages competing on Motorcycles, but also snowmobiles raced up the steep 500 foot bluff. The MASTERS plans on having the snowmobile’s return, along with something new for the fans to see.

“We had planned on having a group that races radio controlled vehicles put on an exhibition as they attempt to run up the Bluff,” Kleinschmidt said. “We don’t know at this time if they will have the (Sept.) 19th off or not. We hope so.”

This year the MASTERS is going to have the Pro Class Motorcycles go around three gates as they attempt to make it over the top of the hill. In the winter, the snowmobiles go around five or six gates. All the other motorcycle classes and snowmobiles will go straight up the hill.

“We brought up the idea with Mike Chopp of Houghton. Mike (Chopp) is one of the top professional motorcycle hillclimbers in the Midwest and he had no problem having to go around three gates,” said Kleinschmidt. “Our top Pro Motorcycle class will be in memory of Tim Tousignant. “Tim died after battling cancer. He was one of the top motorcycle hillclimbers in the 1970s and 1980s, and was instrumental in bringing the motorcycle hillclimb back.”

Tousignant was from Ontonagon. His brother, Craig, is another one of the top Pro Motorcycle Hillclimbers. Kleinschmidt was also diagnosed with cancer nearly five years ago.

All of the hillclimbs have been sponsored by the Ojibwa Casinos of Baraga and Marquette. Vollwerths Meats has also been a major sponsor of the hillclimbs, which draws hundreds of fans. The hillclimbs have also had hundreds of thousands of views on the YouTube videos.

“This event not only promotes South Range, but also has an important impact on the areas tourist economy. That is why we believed strongly that we would postpone the event, not cancel it for the year,” Kleinschmidt said. “That is providing Governor (Gretchen) Whitmer does not have any restrictions limiting the amount of people can get together for an event in September.”

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