Eganville – The 2024 Castle Building Centre Bonnechere Cup presented by Honest Herb’s wrapped up late Sunday afternoon and when the checkered flag dropped after the 15 lap Champ 440 final, there was a new winner pulling into the victory lane.

Gunnar Sterne of Hampshire, Illinois, won his first-ever Bonnechere Cup title in a race he led from start to finish before a large crowd Sunday afternoon. Last Year’s Bonnechere Cup champion, Blaine Stephenson of Omemee, Ontario, finished second, having decreased Sternes’ once healthy lead to a few machine lengths at the end of the race. Matt Goede of Mayer, Minnesota, made a strong debut at his inaugural Bonnechere Cup, finishing third after winning the class on Saturday. Goede is a very accomplished driver on the United States Snowmobile Association (USSA) circuit, having won the World Championship in Eagle River, Wisconsin, in both 2023 and 2024.

In a post-race interview, Sterne said this was his third visit to Eganville, noting during his first Bonnechere Cup final in 2022 he was leading the final with about three laps left when he blew a belt and was forced to withdraw from the race.

“It means a lot to win here,” he remarked. “We were a close second yesterday.”

He said he was missing a couple of crew members for this trip, however the crew that was able to come did great job having his Red Bull-sponsored Ski-Doo running at peak performance.

“They work so hard to make us fast every single weekend,” he said. “And we love coming here.”

 Sterne said he knew Stephenson was closing the gap on him in the final few laps as he was having to manoeuver his way through some of the slower sleds in the field.

“I tried to change my line a little bit,” he explained. “The line I was working early with changes throughout the race.

“I had to go down a little bit more into the rough stuff,” he added. “It made it a little more difficult, but they (other sleds) got out of the way pretty good. They stayed in their lines.”

 He said knowing his name was going to be engraved on the coveted Bonnechere Cup with so many other racing legends meant a great deal to him.

“It’s awesome,” he remarked. “I’ve been here three years now and it’s amazing to see all those names on there and to have my name on there now too. It means a lot to me and my team.” 

He thanked his crew at home, his family, and his fans who were watching the live stream on the USSA network.

“Everyone who has supported me, I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “I love doing this for you guys; it’s a lot of fun.”

Blaine Stephenson, who runs for the Wahl Bros. Racing Team, said while second is nice, he always wants to win when he’s on the track.

“For how far off we were yesterday, and then we just kept digging at it,” he said. “I almost caught him, but the line I was running was quite a bit lower than anybody else, and it was working out.

“We’ve had a rough start to the year. We didn’t get the results we wanted,” he added. “But we’re going to keep digging and fighting.”

Stephenson gave a big shout out to the fans, noting his trailer was busy all weekend with people stopping by.

“It’s really, really cool, we love coming out here,” he said. “It’s just an awesome atmosphere and I love putting a show on for these fans.

“They have a great venue here so I look forward to it.”

He thanked his many supporters too, including his crew, his family and fans.

Matt Goede, who won Formula 3 and Champ 440 on Saturday, said he was happy with his result in Sunday’s final.

“We’re happy with third. We obviously want to win, but we’re happy to be on the podium.

“We had a good sled,” he added. “Yesterday, we got a good start and that was the key to yesterday’s W (win).  But you can’t complain with third. It was a good weekend for us.”

Bonnechere Cup winner Gunnar Sterne at the SnoDrifters Oval in Eganville, Ontario on February 4, 2024. Eganville Leader photo by Mike Carroccetto | 613.266.8505

Purse Could Grow

Scott Clark, co-chair of Bonnechere Cup Inc., and the Race Director for the weekend, promised the event will keep getting better and better, adding the drivers love to come to Eganville.

“It’s just the way we are. We love racing and we love you guys coming here,” he told the drivers at the post-race celebrations.     

“We really appreciate it and we’re going to keep making it worth your while to come out.”

Clark hinted he would like to see the $36,000 prize purse double next year for the 49th edition, and even triple for 2026, the 50th anniversary of the races.

“We worked our asses off, we had professional people, and I hope you guys are proud of how hard we worked.

“You love the track, you love the people, and you always keep coming back and spreading the word. And next year, if I can, I’m going to double your purse, because I love you guys,” he added of the drivers and teams. “Thank you so much for coming out. We’ll double it next year and triple it the year after.”

Ron Reiche, co-owner of the three Castle Building Centres, that sponsor the event, was certainly impressed the weekend.

“It was one of the best I’ve been too,” he said. “The weather was excellent, the track was excellent, and the racers you talk too are looking to come back next year.”

Mr. Reiche said he was hopeful of continuing their involvement until at least 2026.

“We’d like to hit the 50th anniversary,” he stated. “That’s going to be a big event for that year.”

He said they started sponsoring in 2015 and this year was the biggest fan turnout he has witnessed. 

Bonnechere Cup action at the SnoDrifters Oval in Eganville, Ontario on February 4, 2024. Eganville Leader photo by Mike Carroccetto | 613.266.8505