Haven Bouverette thrives on the thrill of speed and of winning.
By Keri Guten Cohen, Contributing Writer
Haven Bouverette of Bad Axe loves to win. And this focused young woman works hard to ensure she keeps on winning in snowmobile races in lower and upper Michigan and in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
A recent graduate of Cass City Senior High, Haven also excelled at four sports —basketball, softball, volleyball and track. And she’s interested in farming as well, being just as at home on the family tractor as she is on a fast-moving sled.
“I’m a tomboy, for sure,” she said during a virtual conversation this summer.
Speed is definitely an attraction for Haven, who has been snowmobile racing — and winning — since age 7 when she started driving her first snow scoot. Now she’s 18 and still winning, always pushing to go faster and win smarter. She modestly says she cannot recall how many first places she’s earned.
A review of her portfolio of 2021 highlights includes no less than 17 first-place finishes, including two at the prestigious Vintage World Championship in Eagle River, Wisconsin, home of the World Championship Derby, snowmobile racing’s Big One. Though more women are racing now, they still are in the minority.
Haven says she raced about 30 women racers during her career. To put it into perspective, she estimated about 10-15% of all racers are female. “Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was very rare to see a woman in this kind of sport,” she explains. “I do not think there was ever a time where it increased dramatically. I think women slowly started to get into it as it became more ‘acceptable.’”
“Not too often do you see a female win when she is racing against a bunch of guys, especially in the very competitive classes,” Haven says. “The last couple of years, it has been very good for me. Usually if I don’t win the race, I am in the top three.”
Her dad, Rocky Bouverette, a longtime snowmobile racer himself, is clearly proud of his daughter’s skills, her successes and her attitude.
“She likes it when she wins,” he says, “but she is very humble and doesn’t put herself on a higher standard. She shows good sportsmanship.”
Rocky and Haven make up a father-daughter team — Bouverette Motorsports — devoted to snowmobile racing year-round. During the off-season, they work on their sleds, making modifications and doing maintenance on the six sleds she used during races earlier this year. In total, they have seven or eight race sleds and 13 trail sleds. Most are made by Polaris.
“All have been trail sleds in their lifetimes,” Rocky says. “I don’t work in the winter, so Haven was on co-op and worked for me. She was able to be in the shop from 7:30 a.m. until the afternoon, and then she went to school. Then she’d be right back in the shop until midnight or 2 a.m.”
Haven enjoys working in the shop as well as spending quality time with her dad.
“I’m pretty good with a wrench, but there are things you need help with,” she says. “We are our own pit crew and team.”
At races, they work well together. They need to.
“There’s no ritual, just a system and routine,” Haven explains.
“When the truck is in park and the trailer door gets dropped, it’s race mode,” Rocky says.
Each of the six racing sleds she used last season can run in two classes and she can race in nine different classes. Haven will go from heat to heat, from race to race. Rocky always has her sled waiting for her at the next starting line.
“It’s always a long day and I’m tired,” she says. “It’s high adrenalin all day, then it’s going down. I take protein to help with muscle cramping.”
On race day, Haven is laser focused.
“When I hit the track, it’s show time,” she says. “I have to be focused and have the mindset that I’m going out to win. With some bigger races, I get nervous, but I get that out of my head. There are a lot of great racers. I keep my cool and stay calm.
“When I’m out there on the line, I’m just thinking about what I’m doing. When it’s time for the flag to drop, I make sure the sled is at the right rpm, the clutch is engaged, that I’m getting my hole shot and that I’m the first one off the line.”
While racing, she keeps an eye on all competitors.
“If I’m behind someone, I watch what line they are going to take and find a line that works from the outside,” she says. “I keep my head, race clean and smart. I watch the track and people when I’m not racing, and I see what works and what doesn’t.”
Haven’s smart racing and her winning record have afforded a significant new opportunity this season.
She’ll be driving a WV Performance Racing sled in semi-pro enduro races at MIRA tracks in Michigan and in Eagle River, Wisconsin. MIRA is the top organization Haven races in. The enduro is a 50-lap race; Haven usually races sprints, with up to seven times around the track. Last year, she did mini-mini enduros of 15 laps on her F 500 for the first time.
Charlie Wiltse, MIRA vice president and co-owner of the Unionville-based WV Performance Racing team with Brent Vermeesch, says they were attracted by Haven’s talent.
“She just dominates everything she does on the racetrack. I mean it!” Wiltse says. “We have won the enduro championship for five straight years and we are particular who we bring on. It’s the person we think will win the title for us. Hand’s down, Haven is that person. She’s just good. Her potential is amazing. I absolutely see her becoming a professional and winning. Time will tell what she can accomplish.”
Though Haven has raced for a decade at her young age, does fear ever enter her mind?
“When I first started racing the bigger classes, I was scared a little bit,” she says, “but now I find it pretty fun. I love going fast, so you could say I’m an adrenalin junkie.”
Still, safety is always a concern.
“Racing is a sport where it’s when not if you’ll have an accident — and how bad,” she says realistically. “I’ve had four wrecks in the 10 years since I started racing. Luckily, I haven’t collided with anybody. I have flipped my sled in the infield after someone ran into me. People dodged and I slid the sled into bales. Last year at MIRA, I high-slided the sled and flipped. I was still safe enough to race and got second. My worst injury was a bruised hip.”
She admits her dad keeps her padded up for safety from head to toe; this includes a chest protector and a neck brace as well as orange gear that’s very visible even in clouds of snow dust on the track.
“Safety is No. 1 in my book,” Rocky says. “You’re going 80-90 mph on the track; you fall off a sled at 60-65 mph and, sliding across the ice, you can pick up speed. Going headfirst into a hard bale can take its toll.”
Just as he insists on safety equipment, sometimes Rocky can’t resist offering some constructive criticism. It’s an area where their love and respect for one another is clearly evident. For Rocky, the advice comes from decades of winning snowmobile races. Ironically, he’s only beaten Haven twice in competition. There’s a dry erase board in the trailer where she regularly posts her win over her dad — again.
“There are times I know I get on her more than I should, but I know she’s capable. If I don’t push her, she won’t push herself,” he says. “It’s her being open to learning and watching other racers. I want to say I coached her well, but I know she takes what I say and adds her own input.”
“I have my own way of thinking, and we might look at it a different way, but we usually listen to each other pretty good,” she says. “I am more openminded and he can be a little bull-headed, but it’s good talking it out. It’s just the two of us; we can’t afford to be bickering. I try to think like dad. We work pretty good together.”
Haven’s mother, Kathy, and her older sister, Kelsey, also ride snowmobiles, but they prefer to stick to trail riding, especially during long family weekends Up North. Kelsey tried racing but decided she didn’t like it; at races, she often positions Haven’s sleds at the next starting line. Kathy is a high school gymnastics coach and her schedule doesn’t allow her to make it to too many of Haven’s races. Both are involved, hugely supportive and proud of her racing accomplishments.
Haven’s record of wins has earned her sponsorship from several area businesses. Mickey Maier of Mickey’s Sleds and More in Midland gives her discounts on parts for her sleds and Woody’s Traction near Edenville has her on its racer program and offers discounts. Darcy McCarty of McCarty Repair in Bad Axe gave her $1,000 before the Eagle River World Championship and bought all her race fuel last season. She did so well that McCarty gave her another $1,000 afterward.
“I’ve been racing Eagle River for three years, and it’s a very big honor,” Haven says. In some classes, she was the only woman racing against men – young men as well as those in their 40s and 50s.
“There are not a lot of women competitors out there,” Rocky says of Eagle River. “Haven is within the top three winningest women.”
The woman racer Haven strives to beat is Sabrina Blanchet of Quebec, Canada.
“I think Haven can beat her in the 440 Super Mod class,” Rocky says. “I am fully confident, and it’ll be a darn good race. As a dad, I’m hoping she can beat [Sabrina] all the time.”
Until then, what’s it like coming in first place over mostly male racers?
“All men have their egos,” Haven says. “When I do win, there are guys who come up and congratulate me about my racing, not that I’m a girl. It is a guy sport. Some are impressed, some feel they have beaten by a girl.”
Rocky hears some of the talk after the races.
“There’s a lot of talk about her at their trailers,” he says. “A good percentage are very respectful. The younger boys, their egos get hurt and don’t like to come up and say, ‘Good job.’ The No. 1 thing is to teach these guys sportsmanship – to say, ‘good luck’ and ‘good job.’ Racing is another family to us. We want to have fun — and we’re going to win that race.”
Along with sportsmanship, Haven has learned to pass her enthusiasm and love of racing on to young girls coming up in the ranks at BEVRA vintage races in Lakeview, Michigan. Rocky says they look up to his daughter. Normally a shy person, Haven goes out of her way to give them a few minutes of her time and talk with them or offer a welcomed “good job.”
“They really appreciate it and look up to her,” Rocky says. “She’s an inspiration.”
Haven says she feels very fortunate because snowmobile racing is an expensive hobby and few kids get to race, much less have so many sleds in the game.
“I’m very thankful I have the opportunity and that I’m as competitive as I am. It’s not just the financial aspect but also the support,” she says.
INTO THE FUTURE
This fall, Haven became a student at Michigan State University in East Lansing. She’s in the agribusiness program, pursuing that love of farming she cultivated as youngster. The family raises a few cattle for beef, farms a little and Rocky’s business is manure hauling.
Haven knows that she’ll have to pick her races because of her college obligations. She says she expects to run in the champ class, then pro.
“The next few years will be pretty tricky,” she says. “I hope I get to race and do as well as last year. I definitely want to race against Sabrina. In my opinion, she’s the No. 1 woman racer. The first time I met her, I got her to sign my helmet.”
Rocky says they will do whatever it takes to make the racing happen.
In the meantime, they have the race videos taken by the small camera mounted on Haven’s helmet.
“We watch the videos over and over again after races,” he says. “Some of the passes she is making give me goosebumps. I’m so proud of what she does.”
As they look to the current racing season, which starts in December, their total love of the sport of snowmobile racing takes over.
Haven, who loves the thrill of speed and of winning, says simply, “I’ll be racing for as long as I can.”
To see Haven in action during races, go to Bouverette Motorsports on Facebook.