Arctic Cat makes no bones about the fact it hangs its hat on
snowmobile racing. Team Green has a long and successful history of snowmobile
racing in most forms of snowmobile racing and this year doesn’t look to be any
If you haven’t noticed thus far this snocross race season
Team Arctic, led by super snocrosser Tucker Hibbert, is cleaning up.
So what you say. You aren’t really even interested in
snowmobile racing and you don’t base your buying decisions on whether green,
yellow, blue or red crosses the line first. You just want a good deal on a
Whether you realize it (or even care) or not, some of the
best snowmobile R&D taking place these days is one the race course.
That’s why, during the annual sneak peek at the 2009 crop of
Arctic Cats, it was almost as interesting to hear what Cat CEO and president
Chris Twomey had to say as it was to see what Arctic Cat was revealing for the
Prior to unveiling the 2009 models, Twomey extolled his
company’s racing roots and how that heritage has helped Cat engineers develop
some of the best sleds on the snow—because they’ve been battle tested on the
snocross track as well as in various forms of cross country racing terrain and
We’ve all heard the phrase, “What wins on Sunday sells on
Monday.” Twomey shot that theory full of holes. “All the data shows that what
wins on Sunday doesn’t sell on Monday,” he said. “But you do find those
features on consumer products one, two or three years later.”
Look at any number of Cat components and you’ll be able to
directly trace that heritage to some form of racing.
“Race development is important to us,” Twomey said.
No doubt the boys at Cat like to go fast. That’s why it was
no real big surprise when the Z1 Turbo, which Cat claims has the most
horsepower of any stock snowmobile on the planet was unveiled in Thief River Falls, MN.
The Z1 Turbo flat out flies with its 177 hp. That’s a 50-plus bump in
horsepower compared to the 2008 Z1. We
were included in a little radar run set up on a frozen waterway in the netherlands of northern Minnesota. We were able to stretch the legs
of that Cat to the tune of about 104 mph as recorded on a radar gun. We were
facing a slight head wind and when someone rode it the other way (with the
wind), that number crept up to 111 mph. Yea, she goes fast.
But where we had the most fun on the Z1 Turbo was in on the
twisty trails. Corner to corner riding was a blast as you squeezed throttle and
in an instant you were to the next turn.
Did we mention the Z1 is a four-stroke? A really fast
Some nifty engineering and inherent character traits of
turbos allow Cat to boast that on the Z1 Turbo altitude compensation for boost
pressure maintains power at any elevation. Also, there are no clutching changes
needed to ride at different elevations.
Definitely, the Z1 Turbo is a headliner for the 2009 model
So, can we speculate just for a moment? Those two last
features that were mentioned—the altitude compensation and clutching
benefits—really caught our attention. Trail riders in the Midwest
don’t really need to worry about altitude compensation and clutching changes at
elevation. And we don’t think you’re going to see a pack of Z1 Turbo Cats in
the West next season.
Those obvious benefits on the Z1 Turbo beg the question: Can
a four-stroke mountain sled from Cat be far off? Of course, Cat officials from
top to bottom are mum on the prospect. It’s an interesting idea to say the
least. Yamaha is dogged by its weighty four-stroke mountain machines. Can Cat
overcome the weight issue and impress with power? Stay tuned.
Now that we’ve briefly discussed the go fast machine from
Cat, let’s look at the changes with the M6, the smallest cc sled in Arctic’s mountain line.
The M6 gets all the changes the M8 and M1000 get except the
reversed engine. That simply means it loses out on the few pounds of weight
savings from that switch in engine direction and the changes to the ACT. The M6
does, however, shed 14 lbs. compared to the 2008 version. The M6 gets the Power
Claw track, new skid, new rear tunnel design (bumper, LED light etc.), as well
as the changes to the front suspension hardware (aluminum axles, shaved down parts,
etc.). All those details are in the M8 story. And they aren’t details you’re
gonna want to miss. Cat is working hard to stay in the mountain game and these
new changes across the M Series lineup should do the trick.
Crossing The Line
The M Series aren’t the only models that get the reversed
engine and resulting weight savings of nearly 10 lbs due to the changes in the
ACT drive. Cat’s entire performance lineup of sleds in the 800cc and 1000cc
classes get engine reverse. That includes the crossover segment, the
Those drawn to the crossover segment will be interested to
know that Cat’s Crossfire 800 and 1000 now come with the 1.25x141-inch Cobra
track with a 3-inch pitch. Previous year’s Crossfires were fitted with 136 inch
tracks so the extra five inches of length will provide better flotation on
those deep snow days off trail. Cat was obviously thinking of what trail riders
might think of the longer track and the potential for longer tracks to lose
some trailability. The 141-inch track—of course depending on the snow surface
(say hardpack trail versus deeper snow)—averages only one more lug on the
ground than the 2008 sleds with the 136-inch track.
If you bump up to the Sno Pro version on the Crossfire 800
and 1000 you’ll get the telescoping steering column and Fox Floats in the rear
skid. The redesign of the rear portion of the tunnel that the ’09 M Series
snowmobiles now have is also found on the Crossfires, which features a
one-piece LED taillight housing and snowflap In all, the tunnel is about six
inches shorter than the 2008 Crossfires. In fact, if you were to look at just
that portion of the snowmobile, you wouldn’t be able to tell the Ms or
One reason the SnoWest
SnowTest crew is so comfortable on the Crossfires is that they have many of
the same characteristics as do the M Series sleds, which makes them more
familiar to ride versus some crossover sleds.
Cat even went one step farther (or back, depending on how
you look at it) with another version of the Crossfire—the Crossfire R. The
notable difference between regular Crossfires and the R version (800s and 1000s
only) is the track. The Crossfire R, aimed at those trail riders who really
crave the Firecat experience of speed, acceleration and handling, comes with a
14x128-inch track. You’re not going to be looking for any deep snow with the R
version—leave that to the 141 incher—but you’ve got a little more bite on the
trail than the 121 inch trail models.
Is all this enough to keep Cat on the minds of snowmobilers
across the snowbelt? Perhaps.
If Cat’s success on race courses across the snowbelt is any
indication of things to come, sledders might want to take notice of Cat’s
We think it’s a winner.