DECADE OF SNOWMOBILING: Looking Back At 2005

Released in 2005, the Yamaha Apex raised the bar for performance four-stroke sleds. It won the 2006 <i>Snow Goer</i> Snowmobile of the Year award.
Another day, another year, and this time it’s 2005. After a devastating tsunami in late December 2004, the whole world mobilized early in 2005 to send assistance and supplies to the affected nations in Asia.

Iraqis held their first National Assembly elections and ratified a new constitution, Pope John Paul II died in April and brain-damaged Terry Schiavo became a national debate after Congress voted to send her case to federal court. It was also the year of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on Monday, August 29, devastating New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast. The U.S. unemployment rate was slightly above 5 percent.

In sports, the New England Patriots won again, this time over Philadelphia Eagles 24-21, while Chicago’s White Sox beat the Houston Astros in four games in the World Series. Texas won the NCAA football championship and Roger Federer defeated Andy Roddick at Wimbledon.

Album of the Year: “Genius Loves Company” — Ray Charles and Various Artists

Highest Grossing Movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Best Country Collaboration With Vocals: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw – “Like We Never Loved At All”

Gabe Bunke and his teammates outlasted the competition on a rough and dirty Soo 500 track.
At The Track

Just as it went down the year before, the 2005 Eagle River World Championship race was full of drama. Polaris-mounted Terry Wahl led until late in the race when Gary Moyle and his John Hooper-powered Arctic Cat made the pass on lap 23 of 25. Two-time champ P.J. Wanderscheid sat on the sidelines as a faulty tether switch prevented him from advancing through qualifying.

Blair Morgan returned to the top of the box at X Games, taking the gold medal over silver medalist Tucker Hibbert who hadn’t raced snowmobiles in almost a year’s time and bronze medal winner Steve Martin. Hibbert had left snocross competition after the 2003-04 season to pursue his passion to race motocross, but T-Train was running smoothly as he pressured Morgan for the entire race. “I didn’t expect [Hibbert] to be riding that fast,” Morgan said. “I definitely felt him there….”

The Soo was a mess due to warm weather that turned the ice oval track into a rough mix of dirt and snow. Gabe Bunke, together with teammates Corey Davidson and Josh Davis, outlasted 30 other teams to take the win. “It’s a beautiful thing,” Bunke said with Davidson and Davis at his side. “I couldn’t have done it without these two guys.”

A few weeks later, Davidson piloted his Polaris Pro X to win the USCC Red Lake I-500 cross-country race. Cat rider Brian Dick started the final day of the race with a 28-second lead, but Davidson took the lead within the first 30 miles. Dick had taken a hard tumble, cracking his hood and windshield, undoubtedly hurting the machine’s aerodynamics and top speed.

Vinnie Clark was King of Kings at Jackson on his Ski-Doo Summit and Shilah Dalebout became the first woman to conquer Upper Exhibition Hill. In summer racing, Dale Lindbeck won his third Grantsburg World Championship. This was also the summer longtime Polaris cross-country and enduro racer Corey Davidson switched from red to Yamaha blue.

Haydays was hot, muggy and dusty again in 2005, as the event was in the midst of a string of years where temperatures soared well above the 90 degrees F mark during this late-summer grass drag. Craig Marchbank again decimated his competition in Improved Stock and Pro Stock classes, while his Ski-Doo partner Chris Anderson took four top 3 finishes in the Stock classes, too.

Heavy fog rolled in on the final day of the WPSA season-opening snocross race in Duluth, Minnesota, so finals were delayed until Round 2 a few weeks later in Gaylord, Michigan. There, D.J. Eckstrom won the Pro Open final on a brutal, rutted track. Warnert Racing rookie Mathieu Morin won the Pro Stock final after being acquired to fill in for injured racer C.W. Sirjane. The young racer was fresh off of an X Games qualifying round win a few weeks earlier in Duluth and seemed to be on his way to a quick rise to snocross stardom.

The Year In Sleds

The 2006 models were released in spring of 2005. Polaris dealt with some of its Fusion problems by updating the drive train and spindles, and the 600 H.O. Fusion that came out this year was a big step toward righting the Polaris ship.

Yamaha continued its aggressive pursuit to gain marketshare when it released the next-generation four-stroke Apex model with the 150 hp fuel-injected engine. This sled ran sweet and smooth, but like the RX-1 it replaced, it had ride and handling problems.

Ski-Doo refined the REV platform, lowering it and bolting on a new ski for better handling and a more predictable front end. The Freestyle was a new platform aimed at kids who were too big for the 120s, but not ready for a full-sized sled. Reverse was standard fare on a majority of snowmobiles by now, but Arctic Cat didn’t have a system finalized for its ACT Diamond Drive drivetrain. The company offered chaincase-driven Firecat models to satisfy demand for the backwards gear on the those models in 2006.

Snow Goer Sled of the Year honors went to Yamaha for its new Apex that re-defined and reinvented the high-performance four-stroke class it invented just three years earlier. Top 10 sleds were the Crossfire 6, Mach Z X, MX Z 600 H.O. SDI Adrenaline, M7 EFI 153, FST Switchback, Freestyle, Attak, 600 H.O. Fusion, 700 IQ Touring and GSX 800 Limited.

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