I’ve been thinking a lot about you guys (and gals): the readers of this site. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about if you want to be the first across the lake?
There were several comments in the 16 Things to Know About Arctic Cat for 2017 story last week that indicated that being the quickest/fastest was indeed very important, at least to some people.
Seems to me that the desire to be the fastest has evolved over the last decade, maybe even significantly.
I think back to when I got into this sport in the late 1970s, being the fastest was woven into the fabric of everyone’s snowmobile suit. The factories were racing; the speed run wars from early in the decade had produced machines like the Boss Cats; and there was a progressive increases in engine displacement/horsepower from various brands that fueled the culture.
In the 1980s I remember desperately waiting for the issue of Snow Goer magazine to arrive that had their annual Shoot-Out results. I remember going up to Forest Lake north of the Twin Cities one weekend, and there seemed like hundreds of riders who gathered just to race one another. It wasn’t an organized event, but apparently it occurred most weekends. Plus, there were all kinds of radar runs throughout North America.
It was similar even in the 1990s. The four remaining OEMs continued to build ever-more-powerful machines. The fence along the drag strip at Hay Days was lined four-deep with spectators as the four brands battled for supremacy in multiple stock classes, with chest-thumping ads to follow in the magazines for those who won. Sleds soon took to asphalt at NHRA events; aftermarket companies sold clutch kits by the truckload; and everyday snowmobilers like me and you still seemed to care about who would be first across the lake.
It seemed to me that change to this mindset began to occur in the 2000s. I saw the OEMs putting less emphasis in grass drag races, which coincided with less spectator interest. Instead of talking about which brand had the fastest 600, I remember way more conversations about stuff like rider-forward; 4-strokes vs. 2-stroke; mountain and crossover sleds; and the like. There was only a fraction of the number of local radar runs compared to a decade earlier. I probably saw the most change in my personal sphere of riding friends. We hardly ever “lined ‘em up” anymore.
It’s been a similar story these last six years. Arctic Cat is pretty much the only brand racing grass drags in the stock classes the past couple years; there’s very little (if any) marketing that swirls around being the fastest; engine displacement categories from the OEMs have stayed pretty much set; and I simply don’t see or hear a lot of conversation about who has the sled to beat.
Now…I’m perfectly willing to admit that it could be ME who has changed, and I’m simply unaware of a still vibrant current of drag/speed supremacy flowing through our sport. And for sure there are still speed runs, drag races and aftermarket companies focused on the task. And every time I ride with Arctic Cat engineering people, they’re constantly drag racing each other.
So I’m asking you: Do you still (or did you ever) race your friends? Does it matter if your sled is the fastest/quickest sled in its displacement class? If you were the person in charge of Arctic Cat engineering, would you place a priority on speed/quickness? Even if it means a sacrifice in handling or ride quality or bump compliance? Is fast top speed by itself good enough, or does it need to be fastest-in-its-class? How frequently do you race against other machines?
There are no wrong answers here, I’m simply curious what you think.
Thanks for reading (and responding).