Press Release –
M-Series Snowmobiles Launch Team to New Heights
Arctic Cat’s 2006-07 hillclimb team won’t be the largest group in the mountains – it will just be the best. A bold statement? Perhaps. But based upon the success Arctic Cat drivers enjoyed last season, more great results should follow this year.
In 2006, Team Arctic riders captured 6 of the 13 Pro classes on the Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Hillclimb Association (RMSHA) series as well as the Semi Pro Women’s title. Arctic Cat also shined at the Jackson Hole Hillclimb, earning victories in seven Pro divisions at one of the biggest events in snowmobile racing. It was there that Cat man Kyle Tapio was crowned King of Kings, the most coveted title in hillclimb competition.
“It’s no secret we’ve really shored up our hillclimb department in the past couple of years,” said Russ Ebert, Arctic Cat’s new race director. “We’ve placed a special emphasis on it and we’ve been very pleased with the results.”
While Ebert – a Lake Shore, Minnesota, resident and former crew chief for both Tucker Hibbert and famed stock car driver Dick Trickle – runs the racing division, longtime Arctic Cat employee Al Shimpa oversees the hillclimb effort. “Beating last season’s results is a tall order, but that’s our goal,” Shimpa said. “And with the M-series, we’ll have the equipment to do it, that’s for sure.”
Shimpa should know: He spends much of the year perfecting new mountain machines at Arctic Cat’s Western facility near Island Park, Idaho. When he needs testing assistance, he often calls on Arctic Cat hillclimbers Ty Free and Todd Tupper.
“I really believe the M-series sleds are the best machines in the mountains,” said Free. “They outperform everything else because they’re so light weight and their center of gravity is really low. The laydown engine makes them so easy to turn in the powder and they’re never tippy. What’s important at a hillclimb race – great power-to-weight, minimum body roll and responsive handling – translates directly to regular mountain riding, and that’s why the Arctic Cats have been so good both at races and in the backcountry.”
For 2007, Free aims to defend the RMSHA championship he earned in the Pro 600 Improved class. He also hopes to win at Jackson Hole for the fourth straight year; in 2006 he topped the box – and the mountain – in Pro 800 Improved.
Tupper will again contend for titles after taking RMSHA Pro 700 Improved and Pro 700 Mod points victories in 2006. He also predicts the rest of Team Arctic can move mountains. “We’ve got a great product and a great bunch of guys who are all topnotch,” Tupper stated. “We’re lethal, and we’ll have our equipment dialed in.”
Others rejoining Free and Tupper as Cat climbers include fellow 2006 RMSHA points champions Chance Buckallew, Les Keller and Kyle Tapio. Buckallew, of Pocatello, Idaho, claimed Pro 600 Stock and was second in Pro 700 Stock, while Kalispell, Montana’s Keller won Pro 700 Stock and was second in both Pro 600 and Pro 900 Stock.
Tapio, from Brush Prairie, Washington, captured top honors in Pro 600 Mod and excelled at the 2006 Jackson Hole Hillclimb. He became the first Arctic Cat rider to win King of Kings, was victorious in Pro 800 Mod and second in both Pro Open Mod and Pro 600 Improved. In Open Mod, Kyle was edged by his brother, Battle Ground, Washington’s Nels Tapio. Another brother, Russ Tapio, also scored a top three at the 2006 Jackson event, and both Nels and Russ return to Arctic Cat for ’07.
The Tapios aren’t the only family act flying the Arctic Cat banner. Nate Zollinger, the 2006 Improved Mod King of the Hill at Jackson Hole, is back, and a few of his cousins will join him because Arctic Cat has signed Zollinger Racing.
Other returning team members include: Russell Frisby, who took second in a pair of RMSHA classes in 2006, Ben Adams, the 2006 Pro 700 champ at Jackson Hole, David Brown, Rob Kincaid, Sam Nazzise, Tony Ottobre and Robert Tillotson.
Even though Team Arctic hillclimbers are independent and compete out of their own trailers, Shimpa, Tupper and Free stress that the squad’s success stems in part from camaraderie and cooperation. Setups are shared and racers spend time together off the course.
In fact, Shimpa hosts a fun/test ride each January before the season starts and all Arctic Cat hillclimbers are invited. Not surprisingly, attendance is good. After all, who doesn’t want another reason to ride their M-series machine?