Earlier this year, after Polaris unveiled its 2016 600R IQ race sled at the Haydays Grass Drags & Swap Meet with absolutely no fanfare, we took a little shot at Polaris, saying “Once more, the sled returns in a snub-nosed IQ race chassis that Polaris has been using since the Eisenhower administration… OK, maybe it hasn’t been quite that long, but considering it’s going on its 12th year, it’s still highly competitive.”
Well, in a reference to a TV show that started airing a couple of years after Eisenhower left office (Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.), all we’ve got to say today is “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”
Today on social media, Polaris released a photo of snocross racer Ross Martin’s 2016 Pro Open sled, and it features new bodywork with definite styling cues from the new-for-2015 Polaris Axys chassis. The Axys look is definitely evident in the sled’s profile, with an angular, narrow, chunked-up side panel relating directly to the Axys sleds. The sled features a full tunnel and traditional-looking rear suspension, however, so it looks more like a short Pro-RMK, for instance, than a consumer-available Rush Pro-S or Rush Pro-X. Also, compared to an Axys sled, the race sled has no front bumper (because it will always be in the lead, right?! Actually, many racers don’t like front bumpers because they can catch if they nose into a jump face on a landing and cause a tumble known as “an endo”), no evident headlight and there appears to be ventilation by the driver’s left foot, likely to cool the clutches.
The sled shown also features Walker Evans piggyback shocks, C&A Pro skis, a tall seat with notable side-gripper material and big Rox Speed FX handguards, but some of those things might be more related to Martin’s specific sponsorships and preferences than to any grand Polaris plan. In fact, the seat looks much like the one Martin ran last year, with the added gripper bumps (see Martin’s 2015 race sled in the background of the photo below). But either way, fans can expect an updated look when their favorite snocross racers compete on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Series and the X Games this winter. For a preview of the season, click here. For a look at the race teams for each brand, click here. For those who don’t follow racing closely, the top racers in the sport – the guys who run at the X Games, for instance, compete in the Pro Open class, which has rules that allow for more modification. In the other race divisions, including the semi-pro Pro Lite class for up-and-comers, competitors will run the standard 600R IQ shown at Haydays.
For the record, Polaris had very little to say about this semi-unveiling of the Pro Open sled. The only thing we could get after rattling some corporate doors is this statement:
“Polaris continues to work with our race teams on new innovations and advancements. For the 2015-16 snocross race season, race fans will notice something new. Polaris mod race sleds will feature a new body style and plastics design that may look familiar to them as it features some similar qualities to the AXYS models available to consumers now. It was engineered by utilizing AXYS design philosophies and race-inspired, improved ergonomics that will improve driver mobility on the race course.”
That leads us to believe that most components under the bodywork remain unchanged. The front suspension between the new and old sleds certainly looks similar.
If nothing else, at least the new look ties into modern Polaris snowmobiles that are available to consumers. For years Polaris racers have been competing on the track with a sled that had little resemblance to anything people could buy when they went into Polaris dealerships – not exactly the norm, considering that racing is a form of marketing. Are there also styling cues here for a future Indy snowmobile line in the Axys chassis? Time will tell.