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What I Learned at the ISOC Duluth Spirit National Snocross


(11/28/2011)

Duluth Spirit National Snocross

Despite several hours of rain on Saturday, the crowds eventually came and Duluth fulfilled the season-opening promise its delivered for the past 20 years.

 

Team Arctic Cat/Monster Energy superstar, Tucker Hibbert

After a decade of winning (and usually dominating) the Duluth opener, Tucker Hibbert found himself in the unusual position of notching a fourth and third in the two Pro Open finals.

The most exciting race of the weekend took place on Saturday when, on the second of 20 laps, Hibbert went from third to 14th following a weird tail-swap that put him off the track. Upon re-entering the track, Hibbert put on a show of speed, determination and brute force that was nothing short of stunning. There is no doubt in my mind that had the off-track excursion not occurred, Hibbert would have won the final.

 

Team Arctic Cat/Monster Energy superstar, Tucker Hibbert

With Hibberts finishes and some sparse success in other classes, there's naturally some talk and concern about Team Arctic's prospects for the season. I'll post something about that subject later this week, but for now I'll simply say this: With an all-new sled that has had very little test time going against two VERY developed competitors, and a race program that doesn't have the massive budgets of those other brands, expecting the usual success at the season opener was an unrealistic expectation. The wins will come, but it's going to take some more seat time.

Tucker is going to win races this year.

 

Team Arctic's Dan Ebert

Dan Ebert is another racer who will continue to improve this season as he figures out the nuances of his machine and logs important test time.

 

Team Arctic's Cody Thomsen

The first race of the season also happened to be the Pro class debut for Factory Team Arctic's Cody Thomsen. Cody commented to me that the big differences between Semi Pro and Pro was that ALL of the Pros are fast, and that getting a holeshot is critical in the big class.

Cody had a few bobbles during the weekend, and a few moments of blazing speed. This will be a learning season for him as he adjusts to the intesity of the top class.

 

Team Arctic's Kyle Pallin

Cody's teammate, Kyle Pallin, also made the jump to the Pro class for this season. With its two top Semi Pro's gone from the class (which is now named Pro Lite), Team Arctic had a tough weekend.

Give them a few weeks of testing the new sled and racers like Matt Pichner, Taylor Meuwisson, Devin Bertoch and others will find greater speed, comfort and success in Pro Lite.

 

Team Arctic/CBR Pro Logan Christian at Duluth

An off-season knee injury/surgery put Logan Christian on the injured-reserve until a week prior to Duluth. With zero test/practice time, the Christian Bros. Racing/DRIFT racer wasn't expected to go full-pace. But Logan is a racer and, once the doctor gave the green light, he wasn't about to wait for his form to come later in the season.

 

CBR/Team Arctic's Cory Davis

CBR/DRIFT/Arctic Cat teammate Cory Davis is also back in the saddle after working through injury last season.

 

Magnus Lindback

2011 European Snocross Champion Magnus Lindback of Alta, Norway, returned to Duluth for the second year in a row. Riding for the Frattalone/Arctic Cat team, Lindback looked fast and stylish despite competing in the Pro class aboard a mostly-stock Sno Pro.

 

Factory Team Arctic Race Rig

With three Pro racers, the Factory Arctic Cat team's race rig was a flurry of activity throughout the weekend.

 

Factory Team Arctic Race Rig

Keeping the Mod race sleds of Dan Ebert, Cody Thomsen and Kyle Pallin running at their best is serious business. So much work is compressed into such little available time, especially this season with an all-new race sled that, in Mod form, wasn't completed until Tuesday prior to Spirit weekend.

 

Factory Team Arctic Race Rig

Battling a nasty case of the flu, Crew Chief Russ Ebert soldiered through the weekend to help tune and calibrate the all-new Sno Pro race sled. Here he talks with Team Arctic Race Manager, Mike Kloety, about changed they'd implemented on the skidframe.

 

Russ Ebert and Roger Skime

Russ also had several discussions with Riger Skime (r), VP of Engineering, comparing notes about where the new sled excelled, and where in needed more test time and calibration.

Both of these guys have seen many, many first-year race sled efforts, and both know that it takes a few races before the suspensions, engines, carburetion, clutching and shocks are optimized. Yet both are also tenacious competitors who hate to lose. After several years of dominating the Spirit National, experiencing a winless weekend was a bitter pill to swallow.

The determination I saw on their faces and heard in their voices is a powerful reminder that success will soon follow.

 

Steve Houle of Speedwerx

One key to Team Arctic's past and future success is Steve Houle, owner of Speedwerx and one of the very best motor and clutch men this sport has ever seen. The Team Arctic Pro racers are all using Speedwerx mod motors, while practically every Team Arctic racer uses his clutch calibration regardless if it's a mod or stock sled.

 

Steve Houle's hands, Dan Ebert's clutch

Steve Houle's hands work magic on Dan Ebert's clutch.

 

Rick Strobel of FOX talks with Dan Ebert

Another person who influences Team Arctic's success, Rick Strobel (r) of FOX Racing Shox discusses with Dan Ebert which direction to go with calibration the shocks on Ebert's sled.

This is a never-ending collaboration that plays out each and every weekend through the season. FOX is a key partner to Team Arctic's race and consumer sled program because of their outstanding knowledge, effort and support.

 

Factory Team Arctic Mod sled

I heard mixed reactions from the Pros about racing only Mod sleds and no stocker. For my money, I like when they race both and I see trouble ahead with ever-more-expensive Mod-only pursuits. Think about how twin-trackers nearly killed oval racing...that's where unbridled mod-racing can lead.

The Mod-only rule definitely favors the big-budget race programs, while hurting the more modest efforts.

Plus, I simply liked seeing how various racers compared to each other in both Mod and Stock classes.

 

The Hibbert/Monster Energy Race Rig

Next stop: the #68 race trailer. Tucker tries very hard to keep me out of the Hibbert/Monster/Arctic Cat race trailer, using these fancy signs and rugged chain, but I have my methods of avoiding this baloney.

 

Kirk Hibbert inside the race trailer

When I passed the armed guards and got inside, Kirk Hibbert was bleeding the brake on Tucker's race sled.

Races are an amalgamation of many things, especially the season opener at Duluth. For the crew, they represent a deadline to finish building and see where you stack up against the competition. With a late build date (followed by some even-later arrivals of key parts), Team Arctic racers entered Duluth with only a couple days of riding, and almost no testing.

Kirk was one of many who was running on very little sleep and a lot of Monster.

 

Teresa Hibbert inside the #68 rig

Mother T, aka Teresa Hibbert, has probably been to more races than anyone besides husband Kirk. She still watches some of the races, but she also catches up on some important reading. I think the book this weekend was about clutch and shock calibration.

 

Rick Strobel of FOX

After working with the Factory Arctic Cat riders, Strobel was inside Hibbert's trailer talking with Kirk and Tucker about calibration suggestions for the array of FOX shocks the team uses.

 

Troy Halvorson and Lynn Berberich

Arctic Cat engineers Troy Halvorson (l) and Lynn Berberich were watching, talking and planning throughout the weekend.

 

Brian Dick (l) and his father, Paul

Ditto for engineer/racer Brian Dick (l), who I captured here talking with legendary dad, Paul. These two are tackling the Iron Dog race together this season aboard Sno Pro 600 race sleds. I can't wait to hear the stories they'll tell.

 

Scott Davis, Iron Dog Legend

Speaking of Iron Dog and legends, Team Arctic's Scott Davis was at Duluth, drinking coffee and showing off his ability to rotate his right shoulder post-surgery. Davis raced the Iron Dog with his son Cory last season, but will stay on the sidelines this year while his shoulder heals.

 

Megan Campbell, early on Saturday at Duluth

Speaking of healing, that's what's in store for Megan Campbell. A crash in the Women's final on Sunday put the Michigan racer in the hospital, looking at the X-ray below. Get healed up, Megan!

Megan Campbell's arm

Ouch!

 

Team Arctic's Jacob Blanshan

There were some podium finishes in the other classes. Jacob Blanshan scored a pair of second-place finishes in the Sport class. Nice riding, Jacob!

 

Wakenda Peters finished second in Women's

Wakenda Peters finished second in the Women's Pro-Am final.

 

Tyler Adams photo by Wayne Davis Photography

Tyler Adams of Arlington Heights, IL, nailed a hefty second in Jr. 14-15 and a fourth in Jr. 16-17.

 

CBR vending trailer

Christian Bros. Racing has a spiffy new vending trailer that will be at all of the Nationals and a few of the USCC cross-country races. All kinds of DRIFT gear, as well as Troy Lee Designs stuff!

 

The slednecks

Good to see the sledNecks out in full-force at Duluth, even though high winds prevented the freestyle show from happening.

Thanks for reading.



Comments (20):

flintstone says:
11/28/2011 8:17:00 PM

if team tucker couldn't make it happen, these new ones must need a lot of help!!
Todd Ulschmid says:
11/28/2011 8:52:00 PM

I had a few observations and questions in the forum about the Duluth races.... I may have been a little too harsh on the new Sno Pro.... Too high of hopes, I guess.... I was wondering why there were no videos of the TEAM ARCTIC guys testing the new machines... John, your thorough/entertaining follow up report on the Duluth race just answered all my questions. I'll relax now and know that the Sno Pro will have success this season.... Heck with Tucker winning "a race", I believe he will win the whole damn thing! Pro Open Championship baby! I also think the young guns Thomsen and Pallin will surprise a few people, too... Ebert and Davis looked tough during the Dominator competition, too! Despite, the sleds looking a little uneasy, at times... They'll figure it out. They always do. : )
Clem says:
11/28/2011 9:32:00 PM

I thought this going into the races season after seeing the sno pro 600 for the first time at haydays, I turned to my cousin and said this sled will be great for cross country but it wont beat the old sno pro in snocross, and after seeing it at duluth i think im half right so far, i understand that there is some tuning that has to be done and the sled will come around but nothing like last years sled, and for cross country i guess we will just have to wait and see
MM says:
11/28/2011 11:11:00 PM

Hopefully they (team green) will get everything worked out, get some testing time in, and get things back to working ok. If not, hope then I hope 68 breaks out the 2010 sled.
arctic racer says:
11/29/2011 12:49:00 AM

Nice race coverage Jon, keep up the good work. Is the coverage going to be this good all year on the isoc races? How bout the Uscc later
Mike F says:
11/29/2011 9:06:00 AM

John, sweet coverage as always. Spot on analysis to boot. I too question the long term wisdom of a all Mod Pro class. Very cool pieces of machinery, but at what cost. Keep up the good work! See you in a few weeks, Mike
Hal Armstrong says:
11/29/2011 10:50:00 AM

I made the comment way back when the new Procross chassis arrived that Cat and everyone else always has their hands full when a new chassis raced for the first time. I think only Doo with the Rev and Blair Morgan in Nov.2001 had a successful debut.
I heard that Ross Martins sled is as trick as they get. A work of art and with more than 5 years development on the IQR chassis the Polaris team should have it sorted out. The new Doo's look impressive with the extra power and the Rmotion skid frame really does work.

Cudos to Cat for moving ahead with their new chassis and working out the bugs. It only means better consumer sleds down the road. Wonder why Polaris has not done the same with the Rush chassis for SnoX? It is a huge gamble for a manf to bring out new technology to the race track. If they succeed they look brilliant but if the opposite happens it could hurt sales at the dealer. The old adage "What wins on Sunday sells on Monday" is still true. I believe.
PDW says:
11/29/2011 1:32:00 PM

MM - I couldnt imagine if Hibbert broke out his old sled. Arctic Cat would have a crap. Thats basically saying the new chassis is not that good for racing if Hibbert chooses not to ride it.

Clem - I couldnt agree more. When I saw this new sled the last thing on my mind was "now that's a snocross sled". It just looks heavy and awkward. Maybe good for XC but for SX I'd definitely keep my 2010 over the new one, that OR do the unthinkable and jump to Doo.....

Everyone I've spoken too loves the look of the new sled, but as a really aggressive trail machine.

A friend of mine who races saw the new sled and said "Oooo, is this the sled thats gonna cause Tucker to leave Cat?".... I dont think so, but if the results don't improve (which I hopek they will), it's possible.
Ryan Teach says:
11/29/2011 2:20:00 PM

Didnt Tucker have an issue last year with his hole shots?

I think we all expect too much from the new platform; and i'll say it like many others have... the others have "like a bazillion hours of wicked tooling in their sleds" (says, the sled necks).

It'll get there. Likely faster than our snow does!
Shawn Hopkins - Peer Pressure Racing says:
11/29/2011 4:32:00 PM

Hey John,
Good to see you this weekend. Too bad it seems we (Megan and I ) will be absent for some races now. Thanks for the recognition. (But she is from Michigan..Just outside the "D" (Detroit))
s.t.i.c.s.9 says:
11/29/2011 7:20:00 PM

Did you find Sandberg road just outside of Proctor? hehehehe.
Brian Bolier says:
11/29/2011 8:04:00 PM

Thanks for the great recap. I was trying to make it up to Duluth, but between the great ustream coverage and your detailed follow up, I feel,like I was there. Thanks!
Mike F says:
11/29/2011 8:12:00 PM

Megan Campbell,
So sorry about your injury. Hope you are feeling better, and on the road to a full recovery. Best wishes!
Greg Hallstrom says:
11/29/2011 9:15:00 PM

I'm sure Team Arctic will figure it out. After all, they have some of the best minds in the business. Most are pictured in this article.
Alley Cat says:
11/29/2011 10:07:00 PM

Only way to fix the problem is alot of testing, alot of testing. Two weeks is not enough time. A/C guys are good, Give them time.
Pluedy says:
11/30/2011 6:50:00 AM

Sand...great photos. Lots of hard work in this post. If Tucker wins all the time is it a good show anyway? Looks like this will be an exciting season.
akrider says:
11/30/2011 8:16:00 PM

Great article! Much respect to your blog for not editing out some not so positive comments about the new sled.
jeff says:
11/30/2011 8:57:00 PM

So now why would Cat change the Sno Pro? the previous one was still newer than both of the competitors, plus it was at the absolute top of the game, almost unbeatable. Its almost as legendary as the 93-94 ZR's were. I can see if they were starting to fall behind. So why gamble on a new sled? what a waste of time and funds for a limited build machine.
PDW says:
12/1/2011 7:25:00 AM

I honestly think it was to push sales on the new chassis. You can have the same sled (looks anyways) as the one Tucker races, with the bigger motors everyone has been crying for.

It seems that when a manufacturer puts out a sled based of their racer their sales are great. Think Ski-Doo's Mxz line, previous Firecats and ZRs. Polaris and Cat haven't done this for a while and on the trails it shows. They are seen less and less. Introduce a new sled lineup and racer and boom. Sold out sleds everywhere.

What I don't get is, everyone wanted a bigger motor in the SnoPro race Chassis. So instead Cat changes the race sled.
Dumb !


Captain says:
12/2/2011 9:03:00 AM

One compelling thing I witnessed at Duluth was that for a completely new sled the sno pro had few failures. True, the results may not have been there, but they weren't breaking down.
If I had a nickel for every Doo I saw break it would have at least a fist full of nickels. Those are on sleds that are relatively unchanged from previous years. I think that is an accomplishment in itself.
Clutching appears to be one area to work on because holeshots were not great. The conditions were slop at best so with some better conditions and time under the belt these machines will be back where Team Green is accustomed to being.

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