Red — The staging light holds the attention of the six “Shoot-Out” sled riders! Yellow — The starting light phases down for the start! Yellow — One more time, throttle thumbs start to squeeze into the handlebars! Green — Go! Go! Go! Five hundred screaming horsepower tears from the starting line! Skis jump off the ice in unison as carbide-tipped track studs rip into Lake Namakagon’s plowed surface!
Fourteen seconds — Sleds scream past the quarter mile! Twenty-five seconds — The half mile is history! Forty-one seconds — Sleds and drivers blow by the mile and the checkered flag. Heat one of SNOW GOER’s second annual Shoot-Out is over!
It’s March 4, 1981. A mile-and-a-half long scar stretches from The Lakewoods’ dock past the checkered flag as six sleds, representing John Deere, Kawasaki, Moto-Ski, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha, shoot it out to earn titles as Overall Winner,” Fastest,” and Best Handling.”
Winners in each phase can earn titles, but only the sled with the most points overall can be the 1982 SNOW GOER Shoot-Out Champion. Turn the page and discover who won what.
Interceptor — Kawasaki’s single passenger rocket — wins the second annual SNOW GOER Shoot- Out based on overall points and consistently strong overall second place finishes in both the acceleration and handling phases. Of an available 180 points, Kawasaki earned 155.
Off the line there is nothing else “box stock” for ‘82 that can touch it. When the sled’s 530cc Kawi twin slams horsepower to the track, the “acceleration prioritized suspension” rocks into action like a Sno Pro racer.
In acceleration the Interceptor is strong through the quarter, capable at the half and mortal at the mile. And, while built primarily as a lake dragster, its second place finish in the handling phase shows that it has a liking for the trail.
Interceptor, the winner!
For the first two heats of the acceleration phase, Ski-Doo’s Blizzard 9500 was first at the quarter, first at the half mile, and first at the mile! It won 83 of a possible 90 points. It was the fastest.
Ski-Doo’s performance re-establishes the Blizzard 9500 as a top-rated speed machine. The changes that made the difference were recalibrated clutching, new ignition, re-worked carburation and a desire on Ski-Doo’s part to show that last year’s poor “shoot-out” performance was a fluke.
Remember, the changes made on this 440cc Rotax-powered lake racer for 1982, were available on production sleds last year, but not on last year’s “shoot-out” entry. And, consider, the 440 Blizzard had to knock off 500cc sleds to win the title, “The Fastest!”
In the handling phase, each sled had four timed attempts, of which only the best three counted. Of those three, Deere’s Liquifire was first, third, and fourth best overall. The second best time was almost a full second and about half a mile per hour slower! That the Deere proved it was the “Best Handler” was no fluke. It proved it — going away!
Scoring a perfect 90 points in the handling phase, the Deere earned another 52 points in acceleration, making a total of 142, which qualified as third overall.
With a 440cc engine delivering 65 horsepower, the Deere suffered against its higher-powered, larger displacement competition. So its victory in the handling phase shows that design can win over muscle.
Last year’s Shoot-Out champion, the Polaris Indy 500, slipped a notch to second this year. Third place finishes in both the acceleration and handling phases enabled the Indy to slip past the Deere for overall second place honors — 144 points to 142.
In acceleration the Indy had a strong first run, where it finished second at all three points. So you know the power is still there from last year. In handling, the difference was a mere 1.11 seconds between second (Kawasaki) and third (Polaris).
It was consistency that earned Polaris the overall Shoot-Out title last year and it was consistency that kept the Indy in the top two points-getting positions this year. Performance-wise the Indy may have lost a step, but trail-wise don’t count it out!
In spite of the problems, the Shoot- Out sled managed to beat out the field in heat three of the acceleration run, capturing a first at the mile and seconds at the quarter and half. That was enough to tie the SRX with the Indy for third overall in acceleration.
But there is better news to come:
Yamaha plans a 500cc, “V-Max” SRX for ‘82 — new engine and new clutching. What we saw at the Shoot-Out won’t be what you’ll be seeing on the lake. You’ve been warned!
There were no ‘82 SRXs anywhere to be had for the Shoot-Out, so Yamaha competed with a 440cc, Comet-clutched 1981 version. As any performance buff knows by now, the 440 SRX had its share of problems, with or without the late season Comet clutch update.
Moto-Ski’s Ultra Sonic prototype was faster than its Ski-Doo cousin when the two sleds were initially set-up. That meant that the factory wrenches on hand were re-directed to the Blizzard, which was brought up to specs before the dawn acceleration runs. Minimal time was left for the second sled, the Moto-Ski.
Both Bombardier sleds should be equal, but the Ski-Doo proved to be an indication of what fine-tuning, time and care will do for a performance sled. The “un-tweaked” Ultra Sonic finished fifth in the acceleration, ahead of the Deere. Its best run was second at the half.
With the undivided attention of top-notch wrench, the Ultra Sonic should rival its corporate cousin in overall performance.
FASTEST – Phase 1
If you took six of the highest performance, consumer available snowmobiles; put them in their highest states of tune; hired six of the world’s best snowmobile drivers to ride them; which would be quickest? Fastest? Best handling?
As SNOW GOER personnel readied the electronic “Christmas tree” starting light; as movie cameras recording the order of finish at the quarter and half, were rechecked; and as walkie-talkies squawked instructions; that was the point, to discover the answer to who was what!
It’s March 4, 1981. The shoot-out has begun! As acceleration heats are run off, you can feel the tension as a few starts are called back. Jump starts, anticipating the green light, signify driver tension, mark the importance of a good start.
Staged, readied, tense, alert, keyed, the drivers want to make their mounts and themselves do well. There’s a double entry from Bombardier a finely honed Blizzard 9500 under a Ski-Doo leathered Gerard Karpik, 1980’s number one cross country racer, and the orange Moto-Ski with Denny Roy, its French-Canadian test driver. Stan Hayes, the “professor,” knows that his Deere Liquifire is underpowered for the long haul, but wants a strong performance through the quarter and half to build up points heading into phase two of the shoot-out, the handling course where he anticipates his sled will do well. Aboard the new Kawasaki Interceptor sits a very nervous Jay Sperry, Jr. Although in his very early 20s, he is a veteran of cross country racing, having booted Rupps, Kawasaki Invaders and now Polaris Indys to top points finishes. Jomar Bernat, Polaris’ racing team a season ago, is very familiar with the Indy machines, but finds the 500cc triple cylinder a boon in acceleration and a handful for handling. Dave Hough is about as close anyone can be to being a Yamaha racing pro. Aboard the 440cc SRX, Dave, who races SR-Vs in cross country, has more experience with the telescopic strut Yamahas than all but factory test riders.
The pressure is immense. Every manufacturer wants to win the bragging rights for the year. Second place is no place.
There is no doubt that Kawasaki has brought a lake racer to the shoot-out. From its shortened, lightweight chassis to its “acceleration prioritized” suspension to its quad- plugged 530cc engine, you know this the machine that Kawi fans have been hoping for.
Ski-Doo, embarrassed in the initial shoot- out last year, makes absolutely certain that
Blizzard 9500 is ready. On hand are Jean Guy Talbot, factory racing engineer and father of the MX series, and Gerard Karpik’s racing entourage. At midnight before the shoot-out, Karpik has the 9500 turning 100 mph on the Lake Namakagon surface.
But, so do the others.
Bombardier’s number two entry, the Moto-Ski Ultra Sonic, suffers from neglect as it becomes obvious that there isn’t enough time or manpower to bring both the Ski-Doo and Moto-Ski up to spec in time for the shoot-out the next morning.
And with all the uncertainty facing Polaris this spring — budgets tightened, veterans laid off, and announcement of Textron wanting to dispose of its snowmobile connection — the first ever shoot-out champion suffers. Preparation is minimal as the crew of Jomar Bernat and Ray Monsrud, both cross country racing veterans and slated for unemployment after the shoot-out, have only two days to prepare the Indy 500. Their diehard fervor proves useful to score a second place finish.
(As of July21, 1981, a management team of Polaris executives bought back the company from conglomerate Textron. See Update for a full report.)
Cross country veteran Dave Rough and Yamaha’s Gordy Muertz spend two days readying the SRX. Radar speeds move painfully from the mid-90s to low 100s. Dave notices a change of 4-5 mph when running with or against the wind. Running with the wind, the shoot-out sleds could top 100, or, against it, be lucky to be much faster than last year’s 92-94 mph speeds.
Only Stan Hayes knows that he isn’t going to crack any speed barriers. His Liquifire is easily the most underpowered machine at the shoot-out, giving away a potential 30 hp to the most potent lake racers. Yet, last year the sled proved that it has the guts to compete in the short run with all corners. With its low center of gravity and balanced handling, the Deere with Hayes, a former “Winnipeg” winner and oval pro champion, is expected to be in the running for the handling phase of this year’s shoot-out.
In the acceleration runs there were three chances to score points; quarter, half and mile. Motion cameras recorded order of finish at the quarter and half; still cameras at the mile.
Last year’s shoot-out was a first time effort for everyone involved. For the second shoot-out, we at SNOW GOER re-doubled our efforts to make the shoot-out a top-notch, professional annual event. We contracted an electrical engineer to build a special one-of-a-kind “Christmas tree” starting light that could be used for starting both the acceleration and handling segments.
To eliminate any questions of timing errors, we contracted with Bob McGraw, a Minneapolis-based film specialist, to photograph the quarter and half mile marks. Stop frame techniques proved our decision sound. In heat two of the acceleration runs, there was a .0022 second difference between the fourth and fifth place sleds at the half mile mark! That’s too close to call without an “instant replay!”
SKI-DOO – FASTEST
Ski-Doo’s Blizzard bested the competition at all three points in the first two heats. In heat one the Blizzard nipped the Indy 500 by .25 seconds at the quarter, held that margin at the half and crossed in front of the Indy at the finish. Heat two saw the Blizzard leading from start to finish again, but the bridesmaid was different. Kawasaki’s Interceptor fell .12 seconds short at the quarter and lost three-tenths of a second more by the halfway mark but held on for second at the mile. A bad start handicapped the Blizzard in heat three as the Kawasaki led the Yamaha SRX by almost a second at the quarter and the fourth place Ski-Doo by 1.14 seconds. By the half the Yamaha had cut the Interceptor’s lead to .7 seconds and the Blizzard had nipped the Polaris for third. At the mile the Yamaha was running free and edged the Interceptor. Ski-Doo’s Blizzard was third.
In acceleration runs Ski-Doo garnered the most points with its two start-to-finish heat wins. Kawasaki finished second, Polaris and Yamaha tied for third; Moto-Ski finished fifth and Deere sixth.
There was a maximum of 180 points available — 90 from the acceleration phase and 90 from the handling phase. The maximum 90 points in acceleration were broken into three segments of 30 each — 30 for best order of finish at the quarter, half and mile. Points were not awarded on a time basis nor highest top speed (92-94 mph, maximum against a wind). Order of finish was all that counted.
The handling phase gave a flat 90 points to the victor. But to earn victory, each driver/sled combination (the same combination that started the acceleration run) was given four timed runs over the half-mile slalom snow course. The best three were kept, totaled and used as the basis for the points award.
In the acceleration runs a sled showed its power. In the handling phase sleds showed trail ability. In some cases the first was counter-productive to the latter.
When it comes to trail speed, brute strength is a “sometimes” thing — sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t.
DEERE: THE HANDLER
Star of the handling phase was Stan “The Professor” Hayes and his low “e.g.” Deere Liquifire. Outgunned in the horsepower department and noticeably slower down the final straightaway, he used finesse and took full advantage of the Deere’s superior handling design to easily win the handling contest on the half mile slalom. His best time — 56.95 seconds for an average speed of 31.607 mph— was almost a full second and a half mile an hour faster than the next best time. The Deere had three of the top four best times, averaging 31.152 mph in the three timed runs for a total of 2 minutes, 53 seconds and 34 hundredths.
Sperry, who booted the Kawasaki Interceptor to second overall, managed the second best run and proved that the new Kawi can run both lakes and trails. Still, second place in the handling phase was almost three seconds slower overall than the Deere.
Although the Polaris Indy is the acknowledged champion of the cross country circuit, the Indy 500 proved to be less nimble than a lower-powered and less nose-heavy Indy 340. Polaris pilot, Jomar Bernat, pulled the fifth best run in the slalom and proved consistent enough to finish third overall.
The strut-suspended SRX was driven hard and well by Dave Hough but finished fourth overall, over six seconds back of the Deere and over a mile per hour slower on average.
Like the brutish powered Polaris and Yamaha, the Ski-Doo, fastest on the acceleration course, could not match the Deere’s agility, in spite of the current “king” of cross country, Gerard Karpik. The best time for the Blizzard 9500 was just a shade over a minute and two seconds. Overall the Blizzard averaged 28.7 mph for the three timed runs and was almost 15 seconds in arrears of the Deere when the times were totalled.
The Moto-Ski Ultra Sonic fared less well than the Blizzard, but part of the reason was a broken limiter strap which forced the Bombardier sled from putting in four complete runs. The average for the three timed runs was just over three and a half minutes, about 37 seconds back of the Deere and 22 seconds back of the Blizzard. Average speed measured 25.7 mph for the three runs.
Driving ability means a great deal in any handling contest, but when each sled has the advantage of one of the world’s best drivers, then the emphasis needs to be placed on the sled’s overall design and attention to handling characteristics — what John Deere engineers like to call “trail- ability.” With the clear cut victory in the handling portion of the shoot-out, it would seem that there is something to be said for Deere’s ideas!
Strict technical inspection is very important for two big reasons. First to assure manufacturers that everybody is playing by the same rules, and, second, to make certain that test machines are as close as possible to what the customer will buy this fall. Without that assurance the whole test would be pointless.
The technical inspection the machines had to go through was as tough as a Sno Pro race, with a few added items thrown in.
Half an hour before the start all of the machines had their gas checked. A sample was taken from the gas tank and tested with an H & H fuel tester. This meter detects any oxygen- carrying agents mixed with the gas that may give extra performance. A known sample of gasoline is used to zero the meter, and a tolerance of 10 percent negative or positive is tolerated to allow for different gasolines, oil mixes and some gas line antifreeze. All machines went through with flying colors within a maximum 5 percent variation on the tester. From that point on the machines were kept in a controlled area and no gas was allowed to be added.
After the drag races and the handling test the machines were all driven to the teardown garage where a thorough inspection began. First, the cranking-compression pressure was checked to make sure no motors had received extra high compression for the test. Next, we checked the clearance between the piston and the squish band on the head. High compressions and tight squish clearances can easily give extra horsepower if used with a premium or racing grade gasoline, but it is not usual on trail machines that have to cope with the regular grades available along most snowmobile trails. The next step was actually somewhat of a disappointment. We tore off the heads and inspected and measured all the ports in the cylinders. We had actually been willing to tolerate some “blueprinting,” knowing that many of these engines were prototypes, but everything was rough cast and stock appearing to a degree of boredom. In fact Kawasaki, who appeared with a brand new prototype 530 engine, had cylinders that must have come off production tooling. No “special treatment” had been given to any of these engines.
Exhaust systems contribute significantly to the power of two stroke engines, and we checked all machines for any irregularities. Only Ski-Doo and Moto-Ski had special hand-built pipes, but as far as we could see, they were not of the high-revving, mod-pipe configuration, but rather seemed to be tuned for a good midrange and smooth take-off, which is what you would expect from a trail machine.
Clutches were also checked for any sign of tuning out of the ordinary, such as extra high engagement speeds, but no great excitement was visible in this area either. Yamaha showed up with Comet clutches, but this is now an approved update change on all the 1981 SRX models. John Deere finally showed their new clutch, which we think will set a new standard of performance with its many good tuning features. This clutch certainly seemed to work flawlessly during Stan Hayes’s handling tests.
After hours of tearing down and inspecting the contestants, we feel these machines are very representative of what you would expect to pick up at your local dealer, and the results should be very indicative of the kind of performance you can expect when you take yours out on the lake. If there should be any difference at all, this would most likely be because of the fine-tuning a factory mechanic is able to give the machine, and if you pay enough attention to details you should also be able to get that kind of performance from your machine.