The following is a press release from Polaris:
MEDINA, MN (Oct. 8, 2009) – Darin Gould, a longtime Polaris snowmobile hillclimber and past winner of a King of the Hill title at the Jackson Hole World Championships has been named as Race Coordinator for the Hillclimb Program by Polaris Racing Manager Tom Rager, Sr.
Gould succeeds longtime coordinator Rick Ward, who died from injuries sustained in a traffic accident on September 1.
“Darin will be the coach for our hillclimbers, especially helping the younger ones, and he’ll be our communicator, making sure everyone in the hillclimb program has the setup information they need to succeed,” Rager said. “He’s our eyes on the ground out West and will look after our best interests to ensure Polaris is as successful as possible. It’s a very, very important role in our racing program.”
Gould, 47, started racing cross-country in the early 1970s, and he began competing in snowmobile hillclimbs in 1988. He estimates he won 14 class titles at the Jackson Hole World Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb, the sport’s premier event, and he won the Improved Stock King of the Hill title in 2000. In recent winters he supported the hillclimb effort of his son Ryan, 23, and competed only at Jackson Hole. He said he looks forward to the challenge of serving as the Western Race Coordinator.
“Nobody will ever replace Rick, but I feel good going into this and as soon as we get snow, we’ll be on the sleds to get a baseline about setup and what our guys need to do to succeed,” Gould said. “My job will be to communicate to all of the guys the information Polaris gets from its R&D [research and development] and what other [aftermarket sources] come up with. I need to make sure everybody on the team has everything possible so they can win and that everybody gets the same information.”
Gould said the testing on early snow will generate information about how to optimize the performance of the 2010 Polaris models the hillclimbers will be riding.
“The sleds are pretty good right out of the box, but there’s always room for a little improvement,” he said, noting that the test team will focus on suspension setups. “During the season, we’ll keep the Polaris hillclimbers organized, we’ll be at all the races and we’ll have some parts there to support them. All the key guys will be back on Polaris and they’re fired up.”
Gould said Ward was instrumental to the long-term Polaris hillclimb support because of his technical expertise and his interest in mentoring young racers.
“We’re all going to miss Rick, there’s no doubt,” Gould said. “In my eyes, he’s probably one of the most intelligent guys I’ve ever met in terms of knowing a snowmobile and how to make it work, especially in terms of suspension. Plus, one thing Rick had going for him was that while he was still interested in taking part in racing, he wanted to see the young kids step up and take over. He wanted to hand them everything he could in terms of information to help them win. I’m kind of the same way – been there done that – and I want to see Polaris do very well.”
Lifelong Friends, Long-time Teammates
It is impossible to overstate the special nature of the friendship between Ward and Gould. They met when they were kindergartners, Gould said, and their houses are less than a half-mile apart. They were long-time racing teammates and each was the best man at the other’s wedding.
“It was more than just a friendship, it was more like a brother-friendship thing,” Gould said. “Rick was a good guy. He set an example for a lot of people. He wanted to see young racers succeed.”
Ward was one of the all-time greats in hillclimbing, yet he was humble and preferred to talk about other racers.
“He was a quiet kid,” Gould said. “When he would win at Jackson Hole and get up to get his trophy and speak, he would talk about other people and how great they had done or how much they had helped.”
Rager said of Ward and Gould, “They were best friends for life, teammates and close friends since day one. It was almost like two peas in a pod.”
Rager sees a lot of the same leadership characteristics in Gould that he saw in Ward.
“Darin no longer races, so he’ll be the coach and make sure the communication flows to all the racers,” Rager said. “He’s the communicator between this department and the hillclimbers.”