Racing is tough business.
While the limelight typically shines on the winners and thrill of victory, it’s the ups and downs that happen in the trenches that characterize most racers’ experience.
Arctic Cat Wildcat racer Alex Fortune is a perfect example. His first-person recap of the 2014 season is an example of the joy and frustration that all racers experience.
2014 Wildcat Race Season: True Test of Patience
By Alex Fortune
2014 was a true test of the word patience. We started the season with really high hopes, the major goal was to try to obtain top-3 in points at ERX, race as many of the TORC races as possible and then maybe try to squeak in a few of the IATVHSS races as well as the Heartland Challenge. We definitely fell short of those goals.
I pulled the wildcat out after a late winter , we had a drift in front of the building that I store it in that was mid chest tall (I’m 6’1” so you can imagine how much snow was there) and pulled it into the shop, where I then stripped it down to bare frame , I knew I had a ton of things I wanted to do and even more things that I HAD to do so I dug right in. it went down to bare frame no body panels , and half a motor after discovering at some point last year I had blown a head gasket.
Soon thereafter the men and women of ups/fed ex showed up and it was like Christmas, new parts daily including Oem Arctic Cat replacement body panels, Speedwerx goodies, Evolution powersports suspension components , ITP wheels and tires, A whole new SSI decals wrap and Dragonfire racing safety and chassis components.
I wasted no time digging in as we had a fairly short window for completion, we modified the 2013 spindles to give ourselves a tighter turning radius, increased wheel stud size , along with other adjustments and fabrication work.
We really came down to the wire for the first race of the year and the weekend before the race the following Thursday night I Told Jeremy (Houle) at Speedwerx I didn’t think I would make it, he again stepped up HUGE for me and told me to bring it up and they would finish it up that week. The guys in the shop finished the motor assembly, tuned it, clutched it, and the day of the first race I picked it up then made the cross town drive to ERX motor park in Elk river MN.
We showed up to ERX on a rainy Thursday afternoon , having no test time in the Wildcat we didn’t know what to expect, we went out for practice and everything felt awesome, great traction, and the Wildcat felt strong. In the last lap of the first heat I realized I hadn’t changed into a fresh belt for the race when the belt failed ending my night. The belt failure was my fault, it was the belt from the year previous and I had not changed it with a race and some joyride time on it. Typically we change them every race.
The second round we had an awesome evening, pulling great starts, running towards the top of the field all night then in our main event we had 3rd around the last corner on the last lap when a competitor ran square into my driver’s door flipping me hard enough to crush part of my cage, rip the heim joint off of my rear suspension, break an axle, bend a tie rod, front bumper, wheel hub, rear suspension mount, roof and leaving me with a badly beaten body and wildcat.
It made me even more thankful for the great safety products Dragonfire racing had to offer. The track staff at ERX were incredible. They were there right away before I was even unstrapped, these guys put safety as a top priority and I can’t speak highly enough of them.
We wasted no time and dug into the cat days later finding everything broken bent and needing replaced, LaDawn at the Arctic Cat race department became my best friend, she took great care of me and got my replacement parts in no time (She deserves a medal for putting up with my constant phone calls and emails).
Because of the crash we missed the TORC rounds, the next round at ERX due to the crash, but trying to stay positive we focused in for the heartland challenge and the remaining ERX races. We spent two weekends at a private track looking to get our program back in order but to only find more broken parts we hadn’t known about before.
The next round at ERX (and what we would find be our last due to mother nature’s fall rainy season) we showed up , new wrap , new everything as we had started out the year and hoping to bounce back with some good luck and a podium.
In the first heat I took 4th again in the Wildcat, then came into the second heat feeling good but after the first lap it felt like it had lost power. I would get on the gas the motor would rev but it didn’t seem to pull like it had, by the end of the night it wouldn’t come out of gear and we were once again wondering what was going on or at this point what we had broken.
We returned home and I inspected the clutches finding a broken spider in the primary was what had stolen our Wildcat’s thunder. Unfortunately this also ended our chances of racing the Heartland challenge as the parts needed we were not able to get our hands on in time.
All and all this year was a learning experience and a lesson in patience and perseverance; I look forward to another year strapped into my Arctic Cat with much better things ahead and a brighter future in mind. We no doubt have the best companies and people in our corner and with that we cannot go wrong. I hope in the next year we can expand our program as this sport grows into even more series and events possible to run.
Special thanks to Team Arctic, Speedwerx, Storm lake Arctic Cat, Elka Suspension, Evolution powersports, Twenty7 promotions, Pat Oberg customs powder-coating, Dragonfire racing, Itp wheels and tires, Ssi Decals, TiLube/TiFuel , BiLTRiTE manufacturing, Iflyphotography, Upper Iowa tool and die, and Autodrive inc.
I’d also like the thank the Houle family for all their help and support, as well as Jeff Zak and Jamey Harold for their help in the pits, and all of the Arctic Cat race dept. staff for giving me all the info, support, and expediting things so we could keep my Cat on the track. I couldn’t have done it without these people – they’re amazing to work with.