Feel the need for speed

Taniel Schellbach, 16, of Rush City, has sights set on breaking father’s world record in National Straightline Snowmobile Racing circuit

Taniel Schellbach is in pursuit of becoming the fastest female on ice in the National Straightline Snowmobile Racing circuit.

Her ultimate goal is to break the world record in the Open Modified 800cc class. To do so, however, the 16-year-old will need to exceed 152.112 mph and conquer the emotions that come with surpassing her father, Rick Schellbach, who has held the record since 2009.

And she appears ready, as this Rush City High School junior achieved her personal best speed by hitting 148.709 mph on the regulation 1,000-foot track at competition earlier this month in Forest Lake.

Taniel, along with older sisters Tomi and Taylor, started snowmobiling with Dad around the time they started school at Jacobson Elementary. Riding recreationally turned to joining the racing circuit for the sisters who enjoyed much success and many trophies along the way.

While Tomi, 23, and Taylor, 20, are now focusing on college, the racing spotlight is on Taniel, who has been racing competitively since age 12. She joined the circuit with her father on the R&R Racing team last winter when he handed down the reins of his Open Mod 800 sled.

The Schellbachs have been racing for three generations. It began with Rick’s father, Dale Schellbach, who built the first three-cylinder for Arctic Cat in the early ‘60s. Rick began his own racing career in 1976, and he has many awards and records to his name.

During an interview last week at the Rush City-based family business, Dale Tool Automotive & Towing, Taniel talked about the spark that drew her interest in snowmobile racing.

“It was a chance to spend more time with my dad,” she said. “I liked what he did, and I wanted to try it. I started doing vintage snowmobile racing, but (over time) it wasn’t fast enough for me.”

In other words, racing at speeds of up to 100 mph was not doing it anymore for this teenager, whose driving skills and knowledge of safety improved with every race. It was a talent that came natural to Taniel, said her mother, Robin Schellbach.

“She learned pretty quick,” added Rick Schellbach. “There is an art to it.”

While black ice is considered dangerous on the road, it, along with 10-12 mph tail winds and temperatures ranging from 15-20 degrees, add up to be “ultimate conditions” for Open Mod racing, Rick explained. Races are held on lakes due to their spaciousness from start to finish (1,000 feet) to shut down.

Typically, there are only four sanctioned races per season when records can be recorded or broken. These circuit races offer three to four runs per competitor who often use the first run to get a feel for the ice conditions and make any adjustments for the following runs.

“They actually shave the ice because our sleds hardly have any suspension,” Rick noted.

A few Saturdays ago, Taniel participated in the annual Radar Run event on Rush Lake. In her first run, she got to about 50-75 feet before she hit the throttle. The result: 135 mph.

“You need to go slower in the first run, too, in order to test the shut down” (or the slow down zone after the finish line), Robin said.

In Taniel’s second run, she “hit the throttle” sooner. Result: 145 mph.

For her third and final run, she stretched the sled’s legs even more and hit 147 mph.

“When I’m at the (starting) line, my knees are shaking, and when I get the thumbs up, I take a deep breath, keep straight and hope everything is going to go well,” she said.

The Forest Lake race was a week later when she reached her personal best speed of 148.709 mph in her final run.

“My sister was proud of me, too, and almost tackled me,” Taniel recalled.

She also enjoys the reaction from fellow competitors and racing fans who will watch and even snap a few pictures of her out on the ice. The announcers at racing events add to the fun, as well.

“The announcers at NSSR events are good entertainers,” Robin said. “One time an announcer said of Taniel, ‘For a 16-year-old, she must have the boys around because of all the fun toys she gets to play with.’”

As for Taniel’s 336-pound “toy,” it runs on 268 horsepower with triple rotary and Union Bay motor. At 8 1/2 feet in length, the sled has an Anderson chasse. Rick fabricates all of the aerodynamic hoods, which increase speed and stability.

So how does Mom feel about her teenage daughter reaching speeds of just under 150 mph aboard this kind of machine?

“I get a little nervous watching her,” Robin confessed. “I’ve ridden on her sled, too, and I competed in a race in Brainerd. Racing has given me some peace of mind. Plus I know Rick is there, and the team does a great job making sure everything is safe. I’d rather see her with her dad having fun than maybe (doing) some of the other things teenagers do.”

While Taniel had a chance to break her father’s record last Saturday at Chetek, Wis., the event was canceled due to the snowstorm that struck the region. It remains to be seen if the last sanctioned race of the season will be rescheduled.

Otherwise, the family will have to wait until next year.

“I look forward to all the races,” Taniel said.

And so does her father, who is working on breaking yet another record — that is, exceeding 168 mph in the Super Open Mod 1620cc class.

In addition to the Schellbachs, crew members of the R&R Racing team include Jerry Scheffer, D.J. LeMon and Denny Hattenberger.

Sponsors are Dale Tool Automotive & Towing, Rush City; Competition Sports, Stanchfield; Mohawk Salvage, Hibbing; Great Ideas, Rush City; Creekside Photography, Rush City; and O’Reilly Auto Parts, Pine City.

 

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