In many ways, 2001 was a shocking end of the best, most prosperous era in America’s history. The economy was screaming ahead, recovering from the crash of the “dot-com bubble” the previous year, and George W. Bush was sworn in as our 43rd President. Mr. Bush signed in the largest tax cuts in 20 years and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed. Then the U.S. suffered horrific, coordinated terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 — followed by the Anthrax scare and American Airlines Flight 587 crashing into a neighborhood in Queens after taking off from JFK. This was not a good year for America. At least the Arizona Diamondbacks knocked off the Yankees, for a change, in the World Series.
Album of the Year: “Two Against Nature” — Steely Dan
Highest Grossing Movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Best Female Country Vocal Performance: Dolly Parton — “Shine”
At The Track
At Eagle River, Arcola, Saskatchewan’s Jeremy Johnston earned the World Championship title one year after crashing while leading the event.
In snocross, the results flipped – Tucker Hibbert won more regular season finals on the World Snowmobile Association (WSA) circuit, but Blair Morgan is the driver who earned X Games gold. Hillcross was introduced at the X Games that year, and Morgan’s pal Carl Kuster claimed gold in that event. The Indoor Super Snow Cross series was in full stride, filling arenas with motorsports fans. Freestyle and trick riding was starting to explode.
In Michigan, Russ Chartrand earned a victory in the Soo I-500 in his 24th year of running in the fabled enduro race. In Minnesota, Troy Taggart won the Warroad 500 – that year’s version of the historic cross-country I-500, finishing 37 seconds ahead of Todd Wolff.
A different Zollinger claimed the Mod King title at Jackson, as Nathan Zollinger came back from a one-year hillclimbing hiatus to re-take a title he first earned in 1998. Rick Ward earned the Stock King title, while Norm Hebert was the Improved Stock King.
After the lakes thawed, Dale Lindbeck won his second watercross championship at Grantsburg, while Mike Knapp put down a steaming run of 146 mph on asphalt on a modified Vmax-4. Pat Hauck won the Minnesota Cup at Haydays on Yamahas, while Greg Catrabone led a Polaris charge in Stock.
The summer and early fall of 2001 also brought major free agency news from the snowmobile market, with Blair Morgan leaving Arctic Cat for a high-priced deal with Ski-Doo. The Duluth season opener was pushed back two weeks due to a warm fall (sound familiar?) but when it was held, Justin Tate and Tucker Hibbert started the season with victories. Blair Morgan swept the two Pro classes at the season-opening Indoor Super Snow Cross event two weeks later.
The Year In Sleds
In early January, Yamaha was already showing off its lean and mean SXViper 700 snowmobile, a styling and substance leap for the company, while we also got some serious ride time on the FAST Blade 1W-X during the early winter. Arctic Cat’s 4-Stroke Trail and 4-Stroke Touring were helping to usher in new engine technology, and Polaris answered with its own Frontier and Frontier Touring four-strokes – though each of these powerplants were sluggish, industrial-feeling engines that felt out of place in the snowmobile market.
The machines driving sales, however, were the 800 twins. Polaris, Ski-Doo and Arctic Cat all were moving away from the triple-triples to torquey twins, in both mountain and flatland sleds. That trend was reflected by the 2002 Snow Goer Snowmobile of the Year choice in the November 2001 issue – the Ski-Doo MX Z 800 in the ZX chassis. Other top 10 sleds for the coming season were the Polaris Indy 800 RMK, Ski-Doo Legend 600, Arctic Cat ZR 800 EFI, Yamaha SRX, Ski-Doo MX Z Renegade 700, Arctic Cat ZL 600 SS EFI, Polaris Indy 440 Pro X Fan, Arctic Cat 4-Stroke Touring, Yamaha SXViper and Polaris Indy 600 XC SP.
In the aftermarket, the Black Diamond Extreme drive system was starting to gain acclaim – it would later end up as the Diamond Drive on stock Cats – and chrome windshields were all the rage.
Check back tomorrow for Part III of our 10-part series on snowmobiling in the first decade of the Millennium