October 1, 2007

Shut Up And Race




What has happened to snowmobile racing? When did the sport go from hard-nose riders who challenged the terrain to spoiled prima donnas who expect to be treated like rock stars?

When did racing go from guts and glory to show and dough?

Thirty years ago racers would show up stacked three across in the front seat of a pickup with two sleds strapped to an open-place trailer and one sled dangling out the back of the bed—duffle bags crammed with gear stuffed anywhere there was room.

The racers raced for the thrill of racing. They might have their name painted on the windshield of their sled; perhaps a decal from a local dealership or business. But you could bet the money to compete was still coming out of their pockets. They didn’t complain about the cold. They didn’t complain about the track. They didn’t complain.

It was the proverbial “when the green flag drops, the bull crap stops.” Win or lose, they gave their all.

Today, racers show up to the race site with 40-foot gooseneck trailers and an entire support crew. They wear clothing with their name plastered all over it … as though their name is supposed to mean something to anybody. They demand special treatment … after all, they are the “show.” They expect the race track to be designed to their specs—not too fast, not too slow, not too rough, not too smooth.

And they just don’t go out and race. No. They have to have tune-up laps so they can dial in their sleds. They have to have parade laps so they can study the course and find the fastest lines. They have to have detailed introductions to list their sponsors.

Once they do start racing, if they go too fast into a corner and fall off the track, it’s the fault of the course design. If they go too slow and get wadded up in the hairpin with racers trying to get past them, it’s the fault of stupid racers. If they can’t get around someone on the course, it’s the fault of that slow, over-the-hill racer who shouldn’t even be on the course (even though he just happened to somehow be ahead of these great young rock stars).

If they go into a bump with another rider and fall off their sled (even though the other rider somehow managed to stay on his sled) then that other rider should be black flagged.

They bitch to the race officials. They bitch to the flaggers. They bitch to the track help who try to keep them safe and moving. They bitch to other racers.

Thirty years ago, guys like Rocky Sherbine or Rex Hibbert didn’t bitch. They just raced. But then, they weren’t disillusioned with a dream of winning the X Games and being a star on MTV. They knew that when the snow melts, they would be back out on the tractor making an honest living for their families.

When they showed up at a race site and saw that due to a poor snow year there were rocks and dirt exposed on the track, they made it a point to avoid those spots during the race. They didn’t demand to have snow trucked in to build a course worthy of their presence. They just raced.

They learned to pick lines, ride within their means and accept the consequences of their risks.

One would have to wonder what advice some of these old time racers would offer the new generation of racers if the two were ever to meet on the track. Perhaps it would be: Shut up and race.







Superclamp
Mountain View Historic Hotel


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