2010-2011 Snowmobile Racing Preview
Who's who and what's what in racing this season
Story by Jim Urquhart, Photography by Jim Urquhart, Nov 25, 2010
The AMSOIL National professional snowmobile circuit gets underway this weekend in Duluth, MN. And, while the big air, fast sleds and riders hoisting trophies on the podium are the end game of each snowmobile manufacturer’s race program, snowmobile racing generates excitement among its fans.
The saying goes that the first snowmobile race happened once the second snowmobile was built. That statement is telling because racing is such an integral part of the sport of snowmobiling and, even with the economy down and budgets being pulled back, snowmobile racing remains as important as ever.
Here’s a preview of what you can expect from the key manufacturer-supported racing teams in the season ahead.
Arctic Cat: Trying to Top Last Year
The big news with Arctic Cat is Tucker Hibbert. He’d be big news anyway, but this season Hibbert has announced he will be racing the full ISOC National schedule. In the past, Hibbert has raced the first half of the season, competed at the Winter X Games and then shelved his snowmobile program for other interests. This year, he’s going after the points titles. In the past two seasons wherever he’s shown up, he’s won every race except one, so he is THE rider to beat.
Team Arctic Race Manager Mike Kloety said Arctic Cat hopes to stay on the course it’s charted in the past two seasons. That’s a tall order because last season was one of the most successful race seasons ever for Arctic Cat. Cat riders won the Winter X Games snocross competition, the USCC Red Lake I-500, the Soo I-500 and a ton of other races.
“It’s not going to be easy to top last year’s race results, but if I would see some new names hit the podium along with those that have been there before I will be happy,” Kloety told Snowmobile.com.
But he still sees room for improvement.
“Arctic Cat plans to focus on the same race venues we have been, but there are a few areas in the country where we are going to try to improve racer numbers and there are some particular classes that we would like to have better numbers in,” said Kloety.
Kloety wants to increase numbers in snocross out East, particularly on the East Cost Snocross circuit. Also, he was disappointed in the mechanical failures top Arctic Cat riders suffered in the Red Lake I-500 last season, particularly track failures.
“I want all our racers running the new sleds to finish the 500 mile cross-country race without any mechanical DNFs,” he said.
The Sno Pro 600 saw little change for 2011 but will feature some new bracing and a new coupling system in the rear skid. With arguably the best race sled, Tucker Hibbert racing a full season and having won most of the big races last season, Arctic Cat is definitely in the catbird seat headed into 2010-2011.
|Notable 2011 Arctic Cat Racers|
Scott Davis and Cory Davis
Polaris: Strength In Numbers
Under the guidance of Race Director Tom Rager, Polaris has relied on a bulletproof snowmobile and sheer numbers to dominate the snocross tracks. Polaris riders have won three of four ISOC National Pro points championships in the past two seasons and snocross is where Polaris will continue to concentrate its efforts in 2010-2011.
“As long as we have a place to race snocross at a high level, like a National tour, I think snocross will continue as the top venue,” Rager tells us.
But in the past couple years, Polaris’ support for other forms of racing such as cross-country and ice ovals has increased and it has already begun to show success with some high-profile victories, in particular an Eagle River World Championship.
“We put a little bit more emphasis in oval racing and it paid off,” said Rager. “Polaris hadn’t won the Eagle River World Championship in 28 years so it was nice for Matt Schultz to get that win last year.”
Polaris riders will hit the track with a revised IQ race sled this season. It will have a new front suspension including new spindles, new control arms and a new steering post. While the IQ racer has proven to be an excellent handling sled in tight turns where riders can pivot the sled, the sled has struggled with long, sweeping turns and the new front end is said to work much better in sweepers. The sled also comes with a conventional spring/shock combo on the front track shock instead of an air shock.
Polaris will continue to expand its support program outside of snocross in small increments and one of the goals Rager has set is to win the Soo I-500 in Michigan.
“We built a Soo sled this year that we’re going to put Gabe Bunke and Aaron Christensen on,” said Rager. “I want to win that Soo.”
Rager has never won the race during his career as a race team manager with either Polaris or Ski-Doo. It has been five years since Polaris has won the famed enduro race.
|Notable 2011 Polaris Racers|
Bobby Menne IV
|Ice Oval Dustin Wahl|
Nick Van Strydonk
Chris Olds and Tyler Huntington
James Sweetsir and Mark Tope
Ski-Doo: On Track For More Success
Jeff Goodwin will have a hard time surpassing the success he saw in his first season as North American Ski-Doo Race Manager. Ski-Doo riders took home a handful of wins and a Pro Stock points title on the ISOC National snocross circuit. It was more success than Ski-Doo has seen in the Pro classes in the previous two seasons combined. Goodwin also inherited a program that had its budget slashed from previous years.
“I was dealt half the financial portfolio from the year before and I thought we were going to get half the results,” said Goodwin. “But our team went to work and we adopted the motto, ‘Do more with less.’”
Goodwin cited the people who surrounded him for the program’s success. And, moving into 2010-2011, there is more excitement than ever within the program thanks to a race sled that has a totally re-worked rear suspension and an engine, with revised cylinders, that puts out more power. It is tailor-made for snocross racers and that’s where most of Ski-Doo’s support will land this season. But Goodwin sees the value in grassroots racing and has made an effort to shift support away from Pro racing and into the lower ranks.
“My whole thing is I don’t just want to think about this year, I want to think about the next three, or the next five or 10,” said Goodwin. “We were competitive in the Sport class last year. People ask me why I care about that and I tell them its because those guys are our future.”
Goodwin also sees value in cross-country, ice oval and grass racing. While Ski-Doo participation in cross-country will again be low as far as rider turnout, there is more focus on the genre and Goodwin is looking for riders who can compete in the ditches and woods of the USCC.
|Notable 2011 Polaris Racers|
2010-11 Polaris Snowmobile Racing Preview
Team Arctic Announces 2011 Race Team
Tucker Hibbert to race full snocross season
Hibbert wins 2010 FIM Snowcross Championship
Polaris updates race sled for 2011
2011 Arctic Cat Race Sled Unveiled
BRP hosts schools to update racers on 2011 race sled
Iron Dog announces $10,000 Gold Rush Prize