Tuesday, March 30, 2010. The springtime ice on the Lake of the Woods near Warroad, Minn., is dark, with 10-ft. gaps between it and the shoreline where Arctic Cat engineers Larry Coltom (left) and Ryan Hayes are testing prototype ProCross and ProClimb snowmobiles.
The deteriorating ice conditions will soon force the various engineering crews to move to Colorado’s Grand Mesa and to Thompson, Manitoba, to continue development of the prototype machines.
But there are still a few days worth of testing in Minnesota, and on this day Coltom and Hayes are comparing and calibrating the F800 and XF800 prototypes, as well as other 800-class Arctic Cat snowmobiles, on a bay of Lake of the Woods that has been used for decades by Arctic Cat engineering and field test crews racing to beat the oncoming season.
I watch the two make pass-after-pass with the machines, testing acceleration from various throttle positions… testing top speed… testing steady-state fuel delivery and myriad other variables.
What strikes me most as I watch them work is their efficiency and synch. Each knows the exact protocol for a particular test. There are no verbal cues to indicate it’s time to swap machines. Both instinctively know when it’s time and, without so much as a head-nod, simultaneously switch to the other’s sled for another comparison pass.
While one refuels the machines, the other makes a calibration change. As Hayes jots notes on his computer, Coltom inspects belt deflection. And so it goes.
Clearly this isn’t their first dance (or their first dance together). Nor will it be their last.