After taking a year off of building a race-specific snowmobile, Arctic Cat jumped back in the fray this year, releasing three new race sleds – one each aimed at snocross, cross-county and hillclimb racing – while tying them together under the Team Arctic brand.
Released were a 6000 R-SX for bumps racing, a 6000 R-XC for terrain racing and an 8000 R-M for hillclimb racing. Each is built on an existing, familiar platform for 2021, though each machine also has some interesting twists that make them particularly interesting.
In recent years Cat would unveil its race sleds and maybe a specialty machine or two on the Saturday of the Hay Days Grass Drags and Swap Meet, but with that event cancelled this year Cat pushed them out early.
The R-SX and R-M will be true race-specials available only through the Arctic Cat race program, whereas the R-XC was available for order this past spring by any Arctic Cat customers, though the sled being released now has notably different specs than the one previewed earlier. The machines are expected to be built in October or November.
As much as anything, folks in the race community are likely excited to see Cat more directly re-engaging in their sport.
“Three new sleds for three disciplines, with lots of excitement around that,” Brian Dick, director of product strategy, said in unveiling the sleds. “We’re rebuilding Team Arctic stronger than ever. We understand the impact that racing has on our business, and we support it…. We race to innovate, we race for the passion and we race for the exposure. It’s something that is in our blood and we’re going to continue down that path.”
For Snocross: 6000 R-SX
Last winter Cat snocross racers had to carry over their 2019 models into the 2020 race season after the factory didn’t build a new snocross-specific race sled during a year of reorganization under relatively new parent company Textron. There were, however, kits that Cat racers could put on their sleds to improve them last year, and for 2021 some kit items are now standard equipment.
Perhaps most interesting is a return to throttle body injection and away from the dual-stage injection that Cat has previously touted on the 599cc liquid-cooled engine. Cat officials said some teams used an available throttle body kit year and experienced more consistent performance, quicker low-end throttle response and an easier-to-tune package.
“Not only did we see some gain in performance that we obviously want on the race track but it also seemed like it was a more forgiving package for varying weather conditions and the locations we were racing in,” said Mike Kloety, Team Arctic race director.
The sled’s rear suspension also benefits from 2-inch longer front torque arm that should help keep the skis closer to the ground when accelerating out of corners. The sled will also include a stiffer snowflap – something mandated by the International Snowmobile Racing rules for this coming season to try to limit the roost and make it easier for following sleds to compete for positions with the sleds in front of them.
Returning features include Fox shocks all around – including FLOAT 3 EVOL RC units up front; a 2.0 Zero C on the front arm and a 2.0 Zero RC on the rear arm – plus a 3 gallon fuel tank that required pre-mixed fuel and oil, C&A Pro XC skis and a 15- by 136- by 1.75-inch SX track.
From Cross-Country: 6000 R-XC
When Cat introduced its 2021 model lineup way back in November of 2019, it included a ZR 6000 R-XC 137 model for cross-country racers and wanna-bes that Cat officials acknowledged was likely to be further developed before it was officially released. As it turns out, a couple of major changes brought it closer to the machine that Cat racers previously utilized.
Eschewing the direction of its regular trail sleds, Cat designers ended up going with a shorter 129-inch track platform on this sled plus opted for the pre-2020 Arctic Race Suspension (ARS) front geometry – the previously announced sled has a 137-inch track and the ARS II front suspension.
In explaining the moves, Cat officials said that they relied on the feedback of racers and race teams when deciding that the shorter track and older geometry was better for cross-country race conditions.
“We’ve tested and developed both versions,” said Brian Dick, Cat’s director of product strategy. “Both carried their benefits but when we looked at the different race courses and the race venues, the decision was that they would like to stick with the original ARS front suspension.”
Dick said Cat reached out to those who ordered the 2021 R-XC to inform them of the move to the shorter track and older front suspension geometry, “to make sure they were still satisfied with what they had ordered, because some of the specs did change.”
Otherwise the R-XC benefits from changes made throughout Cat’s full-sized ZR lineup, including a carbon-fiber Torque Control Link (TCL) that shaves a couple of pounds and other updates related to durability and maintenance. Returning are the full size fuel tank, oil injection, Fox Zero QS3 shocks all around, the Torque Overload Sensing (TOS) bottom chain sprocket and a 129-inch RipSaw track with 1.25-inch lugs.
“We’ve got setups for ice racing, for terrain, ditch/river running,” Dick said. “We’ve got a couple of years under our belt with this model with little changes when it comes to the suspension and handling that is really to help us be ready to go at the first race this season.”
For Hillclimb Racing: 8000 M-R
For its hillclimb racers, Cat is very closely following the pattern of its consumer-focused 2021 M 8000 Hardcore Alpha One sled that it had previously unveiled. And that means racers will utilize the single-beam Alpha One rear suspension in competition this year after sticking with the dual-rail design last year in the Stock classes. Power from the 794cc semi-direct injected engine will be sent to the 15- by 154- by 2.6-inch track with a 2.86-inch pitch that Cat first unveiled for its 2021 Hardcore.
The R-M will also share the reinforced running boards, vertical steering, stronger rear tunnel, and QS-3 shocks with the previously announced Hardcore. Hillclimb racers with the R-M will have the option to add rail braces, traction kits, a snowflap kit and a lightweight mod package they can get from the factory, Dick said.
Dick also pledged additional technical support to Cat hillclimb racers going forward.
“We’re going to be working closely with them to help develop additional kits, setup techniques and tips so that we can continue to spread that information as we’re learning throughout the season across all of our competitors,” Dick said. “We’re all looking at it from a team standpoint.”
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.