The Year of the Dolphin, 2007 was known for a lot of reasons: the beginning of the 30,000-strong U.S. troop surge in Iraq, Gordon Brown replacing Tony Blair as the prime minister of Great Britain and a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate saying “with high confidence” that Iran froze its nuclear weapons program once and for all. The big Oh-Seven was also the year of Anna Nicole Smith’s peculiar death, along with Evel Knievel, Ike Turner and famed Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
In other news, President Bush signed an energy bill requiring passenger vehicle fuel-mileage ratings to go up 40 percent over the current standard by 2020, with increased ethanol and other biofuel production by 2022. Unemployment remained at 4.6 percent, the federal debt had grown to $9.2 trillion, and gas prices soared to new records topping out near $3.20 per gallon in May.
In sports the Indianapolis Colts beat out the Chicago Bears 29-17 at Super Bowl XLI at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Boston Red Sox won its second World Series championship in four seasons over the Colorado Rockies, and Anaheim’s Ducks overtook Ottawa’s Senators 4-2 for the Stanley Cup.
Album of the Year: “Not Ready to Make Nice” – Dixie Chicks
Highest Grossing Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Best Male Country Vocal Performance: “Stupid Boy” – Keith Urban
At The Track
Tucker Hibbert won his second X Games gold medal. The superstar had just returned to snocross competition in the fall after a brief retirement to focus on his motocross career. Hibbert raced the first half of the WPSA circuit and then called it quits when his motocross season kicked in. Robbie Malinoski rode a Yamaha FX Nytro to a WPSA Pro Open win in Brainerd, Minnesota.
Also a two-timer, Gary Moyle won his second Eagle River World Championship. Moyle followed the leader for the first nine laps as a strategy to get in a groove and stay relaxed. Finally, he made the pass and held the lead until the checkers flew. Chad Gueco won the Soo 500 race, adding to the Yamaha brass’s jubilation soon after Malinoski’s win in snocross. Ski-Doo again won the USCC Red Lake I-500, but this time it was Ross Erdman. Snow was scarce in Minnesota that year, which took its toll on a lot of sleds.
Low snow made Exhibition Hill especially difficult at the 2007 Jackson hillclimb. “It was a lot more challenging riding up a hill when we were aiming at rocks instead of snow,” said Kyle Tapio after he had earned the King of Kings title that year. “It was very challenging, and a little intimidating at times.”
Oval racer Dustin Wahl was named Snow Week Racer of the Year, making him the first Polaris driver to win the award since Jack Struthers in 1991. He raced on three different circuits, made 19 appearances and took a podium in all but three races, including second place at Eagle River.
Andy Busse won the Pro Open Ovals class at the Grantsburg watercross. After several years of sweltering heat and humidity, Haydays finally cooled down as weather was more seasonable for early September in Minnesota. On the racetrack, Craig Marchbank’s grass drag heat continued, though, as he won 10 modified classes on his fleet of Ski-Doo sleds. Hibbert won the Pro Open season opener at Duluth and Ross Martin took the stock win.
The Year In Sleds
Late winter 2007 saw the release of the 2008 models, including Ski-Doo’s next revolutionary sled: the REV-XP. Ski-Doo claimed XP-based sleds weighed 50 fewer pounds than equivalent REV models. The MX Z TNT was slated to be the first full-sized, liquid-cooled sled to break the 400-pound barrier, but a production sled weighed by Snow Goer magazine tipped the scales at 408 pounds.
Yamaha pulled the wraps off of its FX Nytro platform, marketing it as the first four stroke-powered bumps sled. With a cool design and hot new 130 hp engine, it had some redeeming qualities, but unpredictable handling plagued it.
Arctic Cat and Polaris were conservative with their offerings of 2008 models. The no-frills, 600 IQ Shift stormed to showrooms exclaiming cheap fun. And fun they were! Cat dropped the 570cc fan-cooled Suzuki engine under the hood of the F chassis to build a comfortable, entry-level sled.
The MX Z 600 H.O. SDI X was the Snow Goer Sled of the Year for its lightweight design that certainly has and will influence how other sled manufacturers design and build their sleds so they, too, can be light. Top 10 sleds announced late in 2007 were the IQ Shift, MX Z 800R X, Phazer RTX, Jaguar Z1, Summit 800R X 154, TZ1 LXR, FX Nytro, MX Z TNT, RS Vector GT and 700 Dragon Switchback.