With the rescheduled ISOC New York National happening on the same weekend as the FIM Snocross World Championships in Russia, Tucker Hibbert was forced to do something he hated: choose.
After much agonizing, he’s opted to compete in the World Championships.
While that means he has a great shot at winning the World Championships for the second time in his career, it likely means he won’t win his seventh National Snocross Championship this year.
I talked with him about the situation and why he’s going to Russia instead of New York.
AI: I see that you’re sticking to your original game plan of racing the FIM World Championships in Russia, instead of the rescheduled ISOC National Snocross in New York. That had to have been a tough choice.
Hibbert: It’s been my worst nightmare, with seriously-negative consequences for either choice. We’ve agonized over it, and our whole team is really disappointed that we couldn’t race both events. We feel terrible for all our fans and snocross fans on the East Coast.
This winter has been a disaster, which has made it challenging for ISOC and anyone trying to put on races. I wanted more than anything to have the chance to win the ISOC National title. We set that goal last summer and have been working so hard to try and achieve it. It’s painful to think we might not have a shot now.
AI: You’ve mentioned to me multiple times how important the East Coast fans are to you. What do you say to those fans?
Hibbert: First off, I’m sorry. The East Coast fans are some of the most enthusiastic and die-hard, and they’re so important to me.
Worse, we race out east just once a year, as opposed to Midwest where we race 5-6 times. So to pull out of that event is such a bummer.
The snowmobilers on the East have great events. We went to grass drags and snowmobile show in Epping, NH, last fall, and I was amazed how big and cool that event was. There’s so much going on out there.
(Long Pause) I hope people can understand how difficult this decision was.
AI: What factors led to your decision?
Hibbert: Last fall we set my schedule to compete in all of the ISOC National races, the FIM Snocross World Championships and Clash of Nations in Sweden. That was set and that’s what we built our program around, in terms of sponsors, sled preparation and testing
So when the weather forced a schedule change and conflicting race dates, the first thing we did was contact our sponsors for input. Both Arctic Cat and Monster were conflicted about the choice, because both markets are important to them. They were supportive of either decision, but ultimately they leaned towards racing the World Championships.
We also had to weigh whether ISOC would even be able to pull-off a make-up race in New York given the uncertain weather. We knew that there would definitely be a World Championships, but we still don’t know if there will be a race in New York.
Next, we considered the massive amounts of time and energy we’ve put into racing the World Championships. We spent nearly a month building and developing a sled for the race, since the FIM rules have different sound and fuel requirements than what we race here in the U.S. Then we organized and shipped the sled and all of our gear to Russia, plus arranged for help from Arctic Cat distributors once we get there. So there was all kinds of momentum and work that had already gone into preparing for the World Championships that it was really difficult to walk away from.
And finally, we also considered just how much enthusiasm and motivation we get when we go overseas and race. I and everyone on the team gets really excited about World Championships events. Going to Europe is a great experience and adventure, which fuels our motivation for all races, including here in the U.S. This is my 15th year of racing, and to have something that’s still new and exciting is really important for me personally, as well as my dad.
AI: I think for many of us in North America, it’s difficult to understand the size and importance of the World Championships, in part because there is the belief that the best racers are here, but also because we don’t really know how big the World Championships are. Describe how big and important that race is.
Hibbert: That’s something I learned two years ago when I raced my first World Championship in Sweden. That event and experience opened my eyes to how huge the World Championships are. The atmosphere there is electric, they market and promote a first-class event, the tracks are longer, there are 22 racers lined up across one start line and there are thousands of people with air-horns and banners. The whole event is way bigger than most people imagine.
AI: Do you feel like you’re representing your country when you contest the World Championships?
Hibbert: Yeah, it’s definitely a cool feeling to go to an event where there will be 9-10 countries represented. I do feel like I’m representing our country and all of the racers here in the U.S. who don’t have the opportunity to go to the World Championships themselves. I want to bring back the championship like we did in 2010.
AI: How has this season gone for you so far, and how do you see it going for the remaining races?
Hibbert: So far it’s been decent, but not great. If I compare my results to previous years, it hasn’t been as good, with two wins and some podiums.
It’s been disappointing, but we’ve made huge improvements on our sled this last month. Huge improvements! My goal is to win the remaining races this year. I feel with the sled we have now, combined with my own training and track time, that we’ll accomplish that goal.
AI: What kinds of improvements have you made to the race sled?
Hibbert: We’ve been testing and working non-stop since November. We’ve worked really hard, and it’s always a challenge to work with something new. Really, it takes time and lots of hard work. And most of what we’ve improved can be chalked up to fine tuning. Shocks… suspension… clutching... rider position… that stuff. The sled is very comfortable for me now.
It hasn’t come easy. It’s taken lots of testing and lots of trial/error, but it’s brought huge progress. If I had to compare where we are now with where we were at the first race at Duluth, I’d say we’re 50 percent better, maybe more.
AI: Thanks for taking the time to talk, Tucker. How can fans follow you at the World Championships?
Hibbert: Stay connected to my website, Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be pushing information on those sites. We’re still getting details on when and where the race will be broadcasted. We’re going to do our best to post updates, pictures and videos so everyone at home can follow the race.
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