Whether its cars, mountain bikes, wheelchairs or snowmobiles, racing drives innovation. Cross-country and snocross racetracks are where the Big Four sled manufacturers research and develop their innovations that might be part of your next new trail sled.
Arctic Cat, Polaris and Ski-Doo each build stock sleds to compete in the International Series Of Champions (ISOC) Super Stock classes. Yamaha will compete in the Pro Open class with a top secret version of its FX Nytro. Flip the page to learn about new technology from each of the stock race sleds and see who makes up Blue’s factory snocross team.
Ski-Doo debuted the MX Zx 600RS last season on the new REV-XP chassis. Results were good in cross-country racing where Bryan Dyrdahl mopped up at most of the United States Cross-Country circuit’s races, but success wasn’t as widespread on the snocross tracks. For the 2009 version, Ski-Doo engineers worked on suspension geometry and calibrations, and to make the sled easier to drive and service.
The front suspension has a wider ski stance with new ski spindles and new A-arms. The caster and ski stance are adjustable to suit rider preference and terrain. The front shocks also have rebound clickers.
The drivetrain received upgrades, too. A new track is said to be more durable and provide better traction. Last year’s brake caliper would flex in some cases under extreme heat and cause inconsistent brake performance, but a stronger Brembo caliper casting this year resists heat transfer. The brake caliper’s piston has been updated to resist heat transfer from the brake fluid.
Arctic Cat raced with an all-new sled last winter: the Sno Pro 600. Cat racer Tucker Hibbert won a points championship in the WPSA Pro Super Stock class and the X Games Snocross Gold medal aboard a modified version of the sled. Engineers worked to make the sled faster for 2009 with an all-new 600cc engine and a streamlined chassis.
The air intake has been refined to reduce snow ingestion. The air box’s internal screen has been eliminated and internal routing was cleaned up for better flow. The sled’s nose uses frog skin screens to filter snow dust and another air draw was added under the hood.
Rails for the rear suspension were modified for less rolling resistance. The rail bend was moved back to put less pressure against the track as it rolls off the driveshaft, which was lowered more than one-quarter of an inch. The new rail profile is said to cause less front-end push through turns and allow more speed in loose snow. It also has a stiffer front track shock spring.
Reinforced castings throughout the chassis not only make the vehicle more durable, but they make its suspension performance more consistent and easier to tune due to less flex and twist. The package includes stronger engine supports and wider, stronger running boards with integrated footrests and toe holds.
The skidframe has new rear arm geometry and a new shock linkage for better all-around performance. A stronger rail design and stronger coupling system improves durability. The rail also provides better cornering and braking performance. New C-40 Racing Clicker shocks have 16mm shafts. The piggyback shocks have external high- and low-speed compression adjusters.
The Sno Pro 600’s biggest change lies under the hood with the all-new, high-output Suzuki engine. It has new single-ring pistons, a three-piece head and new cylinder. The crank and case are essentially unchanged from Cat’s laydown 600. A new pipe was developed to match the engine’s power curve.
The front suspension was modified to improve high-speed stability. The “sliding ski system” is a unique design that lets the skis stay planted while the spindles “float” through heavy snow. A new ski/spindle rubber tips the skis back to put more load on the heel of ski.
This marks the fifth season Polaris will run its snub-nosed IQ racer (we expect something all new next year). The machine and its drivers have enjoyed a lot of success since the 440 IQ hit racetracks in 2004. After winning four class championships on the national snocross circuit last season, Polaris made few changes to its 2009 600 IQ Race Sled. Engineers focused improved durability, reduced weight and less rider fatigue so they can stay fresh during long races.
Polaris powertrain engineers focused on developing more low- and mid-range horsepower from its Liberty 600 engine for quicker holeshots and improved corner-to-corner performance. This engine is different than what’s used in the consumer machines like Dragons and RMKs, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see a fuel injected version of this powerplant harnessed in trail sleds for 2010.
A new independent front suspension gives the sled a lighter front end that is more responsive and requires less steering effort for improved racer stamina. New aluminum spindles designed by Holz Racing Products, an aftermarket company based in Washington, and aluminum idler arms replace steel components.
The engine works with a new cooling system that cools more efficiently. The system uses the same heat exchangers, but the flow pattern has changed so it can use less coolant, and therein carry less weight.
Steve Taylor and Iain Hayden will pilot Yamaha four-stroke sleds in the International Series Of Champions Pro Open class this winter. This is Hayden’s first year driving for Yamaha, but Taylor returns after his Blue debut last season.
Steve Taylor, No. 2, Age: 26
Hometown: Prince George, British Columbia
Career goal: Taylor says he won’t be happy until he wins a Winter X Games medal in snocross. As the sole Yamaha in a field of Cat, Polaris and Ski-Doo sleds at the event last year, he battled through traffic and finished just a few feet out of third place. With more experience, maybe 2009 will be Taylor’s year.
Iain Hayden, No. 93, Age: 23
Hometown: Espanola, Ontario
Hayden’s History: Hayden won two Canadian series pro points championships before crossing the border to race the defunct WPSA series. As a member of the Blair Morgan Racing Team last year, Hayden qualified for nine pro finals, but suffered an injury that cut short his season.