Arctic Cat Hillclimb Team Aims High

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M-Series Snowmobiles Provide Peak Performance

The 2006 Arctic Cat hillclimb squad scored the best results in the mountains of any factory. Last year was more of the same, as Cat men and women dominated the Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Hillclimb Association (RMSHA) circuit. Need proof? Cat drivers won 12 of 19 non-Masters class points titles and a whopping 46 percent of all RMSHA races.

So, what can Arctic Cat do for an encore in 2007-08? “Matching the success of the past two years won’t be easy,” Arctic Cat Race Director Russ Ebert admits. “But we believe we’ve got the equipment and the team to do it.”

Like 2007, the ’08 Arctic Cat squad won’t feature the largest group of racers. Instead, they’ll just focus on being the best. Again. Longtime Arctic Cat employee Al Shimpa will live out West and oversee the hillclimb effort. “Al pours his heart and soul into our mountain program and we’ve been very pleased with the results,” Ebert says.

“We did better than I expected last year,” says Shimpa. “We got a lot of wins, achieved most of our goals and were quite successful. The competition’s going to be even tougher this year, but our sleds should be better than ever.”

The M-series line of Arctic Cats has been improved in 2008, thanks in part to help from Shimpa and several Team Arctic competitors. And who better to provide feedback than RMSHA and Jackson Hole Hillclimb champions? But the best racers in the West do more than just accumulate titles, they’re also sidehilling, highmark enthusiasts who accumulate miles – and miles of vertical – in the steep-and-deep. They know mountain machines, and they know the ’08 M-series snowmobiles feature a redesigned rear suspension that’s both lighter and stronger than past models.

“The new rear skid is really sweet,” says Cat climber and past RMSHA class champ Ty Free. “It’s 8 pounds lighter and has new geometry that will help us build track speed faster for better acceleration. It’ll definitely get the power to the snow.”

“They’re so light and forgiving,” adds Shimpa. “Our engineers have done a great job and made the sleds really maneuverable; they’re easy to ride and go where you point them.”

And Shimpa has a stable of talented riders ready to point them straight to the top. In 2007, five different Arctic Cat racers combined to win six Pro RMSHA classes. Led by Todd Tupper, who captured two divisions and was second in another, all five of the RMSHA champs return to Cat in ’08.

“I think the whole team will do great once again,” Tupper says. “Cat is putting a great package together for us and the sleds are bulletproof; they’re so dependable. And all the guys work together so well; we develop setups as a group and always share information.”

Among those returning to Arctic Cat’s climbing crew are Les Keller, Chance Buckallew, Travis Zollinger and Russell Frisby. In ’07, Keller claimed Stock 700, Buckallew won Stock 800, Zollinger took 1000 Improved and Frisby earned Mod 800.

Travis Zollinger is one of several Zollinger family members flying the Cat colors; others include Nate, Tony and Amy Zollinger, who swept the Women’s classes in 2007. “They are so valuable to have on the team,” says Free. “They’ve got near 100 years of experience between them, their clutching knowledge is awesome and they’re always willing to help other team members.”

The Zollinger clan isn’t the only family act representing Arctic Cat: Kyle, Russ and Nels Tapio will all be back. Kyle is coming off another tremendous season. In 2006, the Brush Prairie, Washington, native became the first Arctic Cat rider to win the prestigious King of Kings crown at the Jackson Hole Hillclimb. He did it again in ’07. In addition, Kyle was voted RMSHA Racer of the Year and also earned a spot on Snow Week magazine’s exclusive Top 10 Racers of the Year list.

Other members of the ’08 Cat hillclimb squad include Ben Adams, David Brown, Alan Huntzinger, Casey Jump, Rob Kincaid, Lonnie Keller and the Cheeney, Ottobre and Stone families.

“I just can’t say enough about all of our guys,” Shimpa says. “They all work so hard and give it everything they’ve got. I love talking about them because they’re such a good group.”

It’s likely that the group will give Shimpa lots to talk about this season.

Supertrax Online
Supertrax Online
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