Ahh . nothing says winter like the refreshing scent of race gas in the air. That's right. Another racing season is upon us. Track stands lined along orange snow fences, tool boxes collecting snow dust and race crews warming their hands over propane heaters. It's another season of swapping paint and crushing plastic just to come out of the first turn in front of the pack. Another five months of hitting rocks and stumps as hard as possible with a $20,000 mod hillclimber. Another season of big air, rough tumbles, deep moguls, steep hills and high octane.
Bring it on.
The top three most physically demanding sports these days are soccer, motocross and rodeo. Of course, the folks who created that list have obviously never seen a snocross race. Snocross is a brutal, abusive, punishing sport. And that's just the registration part.
The national circuit still belongs to WSA Racing. The 10-race series begins in November at Duluth, MN, and wraps up in March at Lake Geneva, WI. All 10 events are scheduled to be televised on ESPN or ESPN2 during the winter months.
Since most of the nation's top Pros are contracted to race with WSA, the competition at these 10 events gets pretty hot. Last year's big matchup was between Blair Morgan and Tucker Hibbert. Morgan, accredited with changing the riding style of snocrossers and the ergonomics of modern snocross sleds, has dominated entire seasons in the past. Tucker Hibbert, son of legendary Team Arctic racer Kirk Hibbert, made a quick jump from the Semi-Pro ranks to the top of the Pro classes last season. Look for last year's top Semi-Pro, Shaun Crapo, to battle with the leaders in the Pro class this season.
As many of you already know, the Rocky Mountain Cross Country Racing Circuit is the breeding grounds for many of the national circuit's top pros. Kirk Hibbert, Jack Struthers, Dennis Durmas, Kurtis Crapo, Nathan Titus and Brian Call are all good ol' Western boys. These and many other Rocky Mountain racers cut their teeth on terrain so naturally rough it would make a groomer weep. That's one of the reasons RMXCRC is so popular. The racing is always exciting, the track is always rough, and even on a bad snow year there's still plenty of snow to cover a track.
Few sporting events compare to the wild rides of professional snowmobile hillclimbing-mainly because it can be dangerous, but also because it's expensive. But, lucky for us spectators, danger-lovin' guys on $25,000 sleds make for some quality entertainment.
The main circuit for hillclimbing is Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Hillclimb Association, or RMSHA. It has the most events, the gnarliest hills and ties to the biggest vertical race in the world-the World Championship Hillclimb at Jackson Hole, WY.
Another western hillclimb circuit, the Mountain States Snowmobile Hillclimb Association, has been making a name for itself with a few races in the northern Idaho/Montana area. MSSHA's claim to fame is side-by-side racing up the hill.
The International Freestyle Snocross Association (IFSA) is in its premiere season. IFSA is taking its FSX tour through five states this season-Alaska, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Colorado. One of the world's best-known freestyle riders, Chris Burandt, will participate in the 2003 FSX tour. Burandt will be joined by Ryan Britt, Heath Frisby, Tim Needles, Jim Fejes and other top freestyle riders. The FSX Tour kicks off Dec.13-14 in Anchorage, AK.
When big cross-country racing fizzled out, a lot of racers and XC fans were left with nothing but snocross to placate their wants. This winter, a new circuit is starting up and should bring new life to the once-dominant sport.
The Unites States Cross-Country Snowmobile Racing Association (USCC) will have seven events in Minnesota, North Dakota and Manitoba. The circuit's showcase event will be the Skydancer I-500, held in Belcourt, ND, on Jan. 17-18, 2003. The event will feature a large guaranteed purse and will run a lap format, providing more racing excitement for spectators.
There is an aura of giddiness each fall as manufacturers prepare to release their new racing hardware. This year was no different.
Ski-Dooreleased its new race sled at Hay Days in Minnesota last September. The 440 Rev-X entered the 2003 season as a stock version of last year's Open sled, with a 440 under the hood, of course.
Ski-Doo race shop managers made improvements to different aspects of the sled. What's different from last year's 440? Here's the list:
Engine Timing Control (ETC) is a two-position switch that controls octane and ignition timing. The switch is mounted on the bars near the left grip. It controls timing for fuels from 91 octane to over 100 octane.
Airbox intakes are designed to draw in cold air.
Carburetors are easier to tune.
Tuned exhaust improves horsepower.
Wave brake disc saves weight and cools better.
SRF brake fluid has a high boiling point for consistent performance under racing conditions.
Improved drive axle has an aluminum sleeve with snap rings that better locate the outside driver.
Recoil has a metal shaft for durability.
Chaincase is longer for better track approach angle and tunnel clearance.
Track has a new profile and design for improved traction.
Steering has aluminum rack system pivots for weight savings. New tolerances reduce play, too.
1/2-inch sway bar saves weight.
Remote reservoirs on front shocks are mounted under the hood.
Reinforced chromoly A-arms are lighter and more durable.
Rear suspension has a larger coupling window for more weight transfer.
Slide rails have a new shape that better matches the Rev platform.
The rear arm is reinforced for durability.
The rear shock has a revised lever arm.
Rear mounting shaft is stronger.
All four shocks are C-36 design.
Remote reservoir HPG shocks cool better than piggy-back shocks.
External compression adjusters have 18 high-speed settings and 16 low-speed settings.
16mm diameter piston rods in shocks are more durable.
Aluminum shock bodies are lighter.
Spring calibrations are optimized for weight savings.
Rear snow flap is extended.
Heat exchangers are optimized for weight savings.
Bar-mounted hand guards.
Single gauge for rpm and speed.
Clear five-gallon fuel tank.
Lightweight seat material.
Aggressive seat shape.