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February 1, 2008

Doo 4-Stroke – SX Racing

Never a dull moment..

Well there’s lots of things going on this week, I barely know where to start. I guess the first thing I should doo is welcome our friends at Skidoo to the world of 4-strokes. Their new Vector level 1200 triple should cover the bases for them much better than their previous attempt with the V-twin which never went mainstream. It will be interesting to see how they market 4-strokes against their own 2-stroke message from the past few seasons. Timing is everything I guess.

A new battle has reared its head in Quebec with some special interest groups lobbying to ban snowmobiles from all provincial parks. It appears the science they used to present their argument to government is based on a very old and poorly researched study (from the seventies) with no consideration for the advances made in technology and changes in snowmobile operation. It’s hard enough when we have issues based on real problems to deal with but it gets extremely aggravating when we have to defend ourselves against conjecture and untruths. We will be supporting the Quebec snowmobile federation in engaging this new attack head on.

I had a chance to get caught up with Greg Marier yesterday after he returned with the race team from X-Games:

So Greg, great run at X games. What do you think about the results? “Well, a fourth place finish against the top racers in the world was great, but the way the sled was running and how strong Steve looked, I was hoping the race would run a little longer. Steve was on the top of his game and looked to need just a few more laps to make it to a podium finish. We did show that Yamaha is a contender in sno-cross.”

I have had a question from ‘welterracer ‘ wondering about the power of the race sleds, what can you tell us?
“Depending on our race engine spec and the dyno, I estimate we can make 10-15 more hp than the stock FXNytro. That should put the engine power at around 145hp – But we don’t race dynos – Real power is what you can find in the field, what you can clutch for and get that power put down on the snow. It is different game where the 2-strokes are dealing with a narrow powerband and have to tune for the ‘correct’ pipe temperature; with our 4-stroke, the racer hits the throttle and lays down the torque.

Based on watching at the races, I feel we have enough power to cover the 2-stroke competition, and our power advantage shows up in the holeshot and the drive out of the corners. And to get our power to the snow, we have a lot of data acquisition on board the sleds that has helped us to use our 4-stroke power for greater acceleration.”

Can we talk about the data acquisition you mentioned or is that hush-hush? “No, not at all. We can monitor engine RPM, throttle position, driven clutch RPM, GPS actual speed and sled position, track speed, shock stroke, air, water and drive belt temperature. But when we are racing the main focus is on throttle position, engine RPM and track speed.”

So what is the biggest challenge for the team looking forward? “Hey – Sno-cross racing at the National level will always deliver tough challenges, every race weekend is full of them. Considering that Yamaha also choose to race a 4-stroke meant that many people counted us as ‘non-competitive’ right off the bat. However, thanks to our 4-stroke power and the Camoplast-designed tracks, we’re getting great hole-shot performance. This season, the sled is also working very good in the technical ‘rhythm’ sections, which is a direct result of working closely with the guys from FOX, who have been great to have on board as a new sponsor. What we are really honing in now is on the cornering speed and handling. That’s where I feel we have the most left to gain. One thing that has really come together is how well the team is functioning as a unit. All the guys are really working well together.”

What about the weight of the 4-stroke – is that a major challenge? “Everyone may think ‘lighter is better’ but the first thing a race sled needs is durability, then power, then handling. While we will always be working to get the sled lighter, we cannot sacrifice function or durability just to make a minimum weight. Watching the season so far, the brand that claims to be the ‘lightest’ does not look to be the best overall on the track.”

How about Cory, Jimmy and the new Speed & Style event? “Cory had very little time (having just recovered from injuries), but he hit the ramps to learn some new tricks. He has had some experience with the extreme stuff and really rose to the occasion, He looked especially good through the whoops where some of the guys were having a lot of difficulty. It really is unfortunate he drew LaVallee to compete against in the first round. I give him huge cudos for his efforts. Jimmy is also coming back after some very painful injuries and missed the finals in Freestyle by one spot. It does appear ESPN is putting increased emphasis on the Style events than the snocross race but I guess that’s showbiz.”

Well its snowing like crazy here and we’re shutting down early, dang-it, I guess I’ll have to go home for a ride!!  cheers  cr

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16 Responses to “Doo 4-Stroke – SX Racing”

  1. Dustin says:

    Chris, you make all of us proud to have you as a face of Yamaha. Never have I seen Yamaha “step on the face” of competition. You see it as I see it, to make us all better. Its a basic human nature that we (as a whole) all need to get back to.

    But for me, I wanna see 4 stroke mountain sleds from everyone. I’m just glad Yamaha put out a fantastic one! Best is yet to come I can only imagine.

    Lucky you getting to leave early, I gotta wait to go sledding tomorrow morning!

    😉 cr

  2. Kent.D ( LOW SLUNG) says:

    That was a great post,never thought there was a way to get so much info from a race sled.I watch the second round live and noticed that steve,s sled clearing the jumps much better than last years sled.Was this due to the lighter weight or FOX shocks? Also a question about the race sleds in Europe,do they run studs?

    The weight of the shocks is really a moot point, the power, traction and shock calibration is what its all about, as Greg said, having both FOX and Camoplast working directly with our team, they are really putting the power down this year and not out the snow flap. Not sure about the studs, I’ll have to ask my old friend Ole-Johan Haga for you… cheers cr

  3. Justin says:

    Good for Skidoo, competition makes everyone better. Keeps the four stroke market honest. Glad you and the folks at yamaha recognize it, rock on. Respect is key, since everyone rides what they like, and outside the brand loyalists, people will switch to the next best thing in a heart beat, especially with the rising cost of gas.

    BTW, are we going to hear from yamaha about the bent subframes that are plagueing the forums. Even a basic “we are aware of the problem and a fix is in the works” would be great.

    Well said Justin, having the current market leader introduce a sled aimed directly at the performance 4-stroke segment not only adds more credibility to the class. A worthy competitor will most certainly motivate us to advance our designs and technology. I see it as a good thing.
    On the Nytro subframe, I have already acknowledged the issue. We are aware of the reports and are investigating. So far all the cases we have seen involve some level of impact. I am also aware, there are guys who haven’t hit anything with alignment issues and others who have clobbered things with no sign of damage, this is a confusing one for us. We are asking anyone with a problem to get the sled to their dealer and give them as much detail as possible regarding operation, conditions etc. The actual number of confirmed claims is quite small at this time. Thats not to say we are ignoring things, we just need more time and information. cheers cr

  4. Justin says:

    Excellent, thank you. I must have missed your post about the subframes/other issues. My bad. I’ll add my few cents, for the record. I hit a rock the size of a 5 cal bucket with my fx_nytro (it was that or the two other riders who were hung up on a waterbar over a blind hill, so I chose the rock). I have pictures where it smashed into my subframe and put the sled up on its side. With that being said, I have no alignment issues, and no subframe pull. I’m wondering if slower hits might have more to do with the damage, as I was doing 10 mph or more when I hit it. Thanks for the shareing of info, looks like this new doo is a trail cruiser, not a heavy bump and riding sled. Nice for people to have options.

  5. Mark says:

    Hi Chris,
    We all know competition is good for everyone, 100%. It pushes OEM’s to work harder and in the end the consumer always wins. I have to say that Ski Doo finally entering the 4 stroke market for real, is probably the single best thing that could happen to Yamaha. Think about it for a second. Not only does the biggest sled builder now acknowledge a four stroke engine can perform and offer destinct advantages, Yamaha now gets to compete head to head with their number one competitor doing what they do best…. building the most dependable, powerful and technologically advanced four stroke engines in the world. I almost fell off my couch laughing when I recently read Ski Doo claiming their engine puts out more power and gets better mileage than the Yamaha. If there is one thing in the world I believe, it is that Yamaha has to be able to build a better four stroke than these guys in EVERY respect. I am not saying team yellow is not good at what they do, but give me a break, do they really think consumers are that dumb. RESPECT for your competition is always key and there are some fights you don’t want to start. Too late!

  6. DNR says:

    The Hills are alive …with 4 strokes.
    Quote “The Sound of Music”
    Thank god for peace and quite in the mountains.

  7. Mike W. (Tork) says:

    I always completely enjoy anything Chris has to say. I especially admire the humble honesty in dealing with the tougher issues (potential problems). It is very cool that BRP has a serious 4 stroke on the horizon for many reasons. I do devote some of my time to study engine design. Yamaha is clearly one of the best 4 stroke engine designers and builders in the world. Even being as objective as possible, I don’t see the new Rotax 4 stroke as being ‘world class’ with this latest design anyway. But it is a very decent effort I am sure. Kudos to BRP for stepping into what is surely the future of sledding.

    Chris what is the feeling on direct injection 2 strokes? I am sure Yamaha has looked into and tested such engine designs.

    Hey Mike, first let me say I have read many of your TY posts over the years. It’s quite obvious you have spent a lot of time studying snowmobiles and motorsports in general. You also demonstrate a very good sense of balance in your moderation comments… well done!
    To your question, certainly we have spent significant time in studying DI 2-stroke and still produce DI engines in our Sanshin outboard factory. The Orbital technology was of keen interest to us as I’m sure it was to other OE’s. Facing the new EPA regs of the 90’s, OMC decided to pursue DI mainstream which according to many, was the final nail in their coffin. The reason I mention this is BRP purchased the OMC outboard line from the failing company and the patented DI tech along with it. They have done well to turn it around but they still have a huge investment riding on the success of E-Tec.
    That said it is undeniable Yamaha has made great advances with 4-strokes in all our products and the demand for them is growing. We decided to go completely 4-stroke with snowmobile for several reasons. The engine torque and power-band; the proven durability, reliability; the available technology and designs to meet future emission requirements; sending a clear marketing message with the image and connection to our other products. Last but not least, given limited resources and a flat snowmobile market, ROI was a big consideration. It would cost a lot of money and manpower to develop both technologies for snowmobile use and we felt we would be best served to put all our efforts into doing one right and not having to compromise.
    I really wonder just how serious Skidoo is about the 4-stroke market. For sure they want to stop their customers from crossing over to the ‘dark side’ but as I said they have a lot riding on the E-Tec. Which one will they put the most effort into? How to you clearly sell the advantages of one without slagging the other? Is this a transition towards a new future or a marketing ‘band-aid’? Is the engine investment to be amortized against other application either marine or MC? How reliable will the E-Tec prove to be in a snowmobile?
    You hit the nail on the head with your description of their new 4S motor. Will it be enough? Will it create new demand amongst the brand loyal? Will it begin to ‘cannibalize’ their own 2-stroke sales? Will it inspire our guys to take the next step?
    I have a long list of questions and it will be very interesting to watch everything unfold. ‘This ain’t over yet’ and it’s all good 😉
    cheers cr

  8. Carl says:

    They must have to ad allot of sensors on the FX Nitro for all the data acquisition being done. The only ones I know that comes stock is engine RPM and throttle position sensor. These race sleds are now as advanced as F1 cars. Unbelievable.

    On a side note Chris, guys in the Yamaha forum are very exited to read your blog on the 98-02 SRX 700. Reading the story behind this legendary sled will be priceless for us. Here are some general ideas if they can help the creative. 😉
    – Why Yamaha felt they needed to go full out with a triple/triple at the time?
    – Any new technology they applied to make this happen and allowing them to keep the reputable dependability?
    – In 2000 they managed to add another 6hp to this beast, any details on how this was safely accomplished?
    – Seeing production numbers for Canada and our US brothers would be interesting.
    – As seen in all your blogs, I hope you’ll find lots of inside story’s pertaining to this sled.

    Your interaction with us is above and beyond what any of the competitors are doing. Keep on the great work!

    Thanks Carl, I’m heading for our Minocqua test center this afternoon to meet with the former project leader for SRX, Masa Saito, hopefully we can jog each others memories…. cheers cr

  9. Ike says:

    “Also a question about the race sleds in Europe,do they run studs?”

    No, we don´t use studs in snowcross.

    Nytro´s here are racing in the Pro Stock 600 class. Actually yesterday at Rovaniemi (where BRP has the LYNX plant) Nytro pilotetd by Juujärvi won the Pro Stock final in snowcross. First time ever in Finland!


    Nice to BRP in the 4-stroke sleds too. Makes Yamaha push more better sleds to us, the customers. Right Chris? I guess we´l see 8th what is in order for 09.


  10. Ike says:

    Any comments about the Nytro´s handling? Here in Finland Yamaha Finland is making mods to the frontend of all the Nytro´s. Upper A-arms balljoints are shortend 2,5mm from each side. That mod makes tha handling mucg better says the owners after the first testruns with new geometry.


    I’m curious about this Ike can you offer a link or more info to what they are doing? cheers cr

  11. Bakemono says:

    Great blog post. I agree that it will be interesting to see how BRP puts marketing spin on their 4-stroke, especially considering how much they bashed 4-strokes in the past couple years.
    I clearly remember Doo’s, “2>4” ad campaign and its going to be intesting how they try to convince us all that now its OK to ride a 4-stroke.
    IMO, BRP’s decision to make a 4-stroke is nothing more than an attempt to keep their current customers who want a 4-stroke but still want something that performs.
    I also agree with you comments about how serious BRP is about the 4-stroke market and just which engine design (2-stroke or 4-stroke) will get the most attention when it comes to r&d.
    I personally think that BRP will go much the same route that Polaris and Arctic Cat have with their 4-strokes. By that, I mean that they will offer a 4-stroke sled in their lineup that has good performance but will focus more on 2-stroke engine technology.
    Only time will tell and you could be more right when you say, “this aint over”.

    Thanks B, They are certainly in an interesting position regarding the marketing, good thing a lot of people have short memories 😉 cr

  12. Scott says:

    I think I can see why Yamaha has not come out with an official stance on the a-arm and front clip issues that guys have had. I just rolled and cart wheeled my sled last week and I could not find anything bent in my front clip. I was able to untwist my a-arms (with a pry bar) to get my spindle back to its proper caster. With all the internet posts and different ideas of how to reinforce the a-arms, I don’t think anyone has the perfect solution. I’m thinking my front clip was saved because the ski tip and a-arms absorbed the impact. What would be nice is if Yamaha provided tip sheets to racers, similar to what Polaris does, so we could benefit from the factory engineers analyzing the issues and providing guidance for corrections.


    Hope you faired better than your A-arms Scott, sounds like a pretty scary crash… Your idea is a good one and perhaps as we move forward with our racing program we can share some of what is learned… first tip: try to keep the soft side up! 😉 cr

  13. Bruce Buhr says:

    I am wondering about a hitch for my Phazer FX. I use this machine for many different purposes and winter camping and towing a sled are a lot of fun and I would love to be able to use my Phazer to do this.

    Hey Bruce, You are not the first person to request this… I’ll make sure to let our development guys know. thanks cr

  14. sledfreak says:

    Chris, Why does Yamaha not release a new Apex that is 165-170hp and lighter. Nice for the mountain guys and sno-xer’s to get the new 144 Nitro FX, but the trail guy has had the same sled for the past 3 years. This is Yamaha’s time to dominate the market place, with ski-doo not having anything bigger than there 800 XP, and Cat’s F1000 isn’t much to brag about and Polaris has no big dog. Why not try to dominate that market. The Nytro FX is a great sled, but not a great Groomed Trail Blaster. With all the rumors of them testing a bigger sled, why won’t they release it and take the crown. Whether most people want it or not, it’s the perception in the market, that Yamaha has the biggest gun.


    A disgruntle Yamaha enthusiast, former DOO guy.


    Hey sledfreak, the Nytro XT-X is an early release model, in fact I’m not really sure why we bothered at this point in time. The main product launch is yet to come. Is there a new Apex? If not are we working on one? Time will tell. In the interim the current Apex is certainly holding its own even against the 160hp+ 2-smokes… cheers cr

  15. Trevor says:

    Yamaha has such a marketed focus on reliability, yet there doesn’t seem to be a way to make a 2007 Phazer reliable. I rode 3100 miles last year, and 1500 so far this year, and my sled has been in the shop 15 days last year, and 28 days this year. Is there anything that Yamaha will do for the high milers that didn’t get what they bargained for?

    Apparently something is not right here Trevor, you’ll need to get in touch with our CR department to gather your history and address your inquiry… sorry but I can’t help you on this one.. cheers cr

  16. Evan says:

    i just bought a fx nytro and was wondering how to remove those black plastic clips without wrecking them? They hold the headlight and other acessories on.

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