Archive for November, 2008
November 21, 2008
Taylor Hayden SX update
Yamaha Factory Snocross Race Team, update
I spoke with Greg Marier this morning, who is at Planet X with the Factory Snocross race team. I haven’t spoken with Greg since last spring when they were shaking out some new ideas after the CSRA final at Horseshoe Valley Resort. I have been hearing some interesting comments on the new FX Nytro racers and thought with round one of the new ISOC series being held at Spirit Mountain, Duluth set to go off next week, it would be a good time to do some digging.
I could tell immediately, Greg is excited about the potential the team is showing and the advancements they have achieved since last spring. He is being typically guarded about the mechanical workings of the stock-based chassis. As most of you know, the race engines are supplied direct from our factory, built up from the 1050 triple with a smattering of exotic parts. They are configured to shape the power to meet the demands of pro-level snocross racing which translates into mega throttle response. And Greg says YMC has delivered in spades. The biggest advantage of the 4-stroke over the competition is realized in the quick response available at any throttle setting. This is where our engineers have focused. That said, as a bonus they have also delivered a bit more peek horsepower over last years mill.
The chassis set-ups have undergone some major revisions over last year (reading between the lines) but I am going to have to buy Greg a couple of stiff ones before I attempt to pry any details from him. The good news is during testing they have not had any serious durability issues and no gremlins have yet to surface.
Steve Taylor is joined this year by another Canadian rider Iain Hayden. They have both been working hard in the off-season to get into top physical condition. Calgary native, Drew Robertson was hired by the team as their personal trainer and motivational guru. According Andre Laurin, the team manager, Drew’s program and discipline has clearly shown some significant results.
Greg mentioned they are now dealing with the first real saddle-time of the season, firing up the muscles in a real track environment and dealing with the adrenaline charged, mental preparation a week out from the first major race. Steve rode two fifteen minute motos followed by two twenty minute motos yesterday which may not sound like a lot but is quite a haul at a pro-level pace. This bodes very well for his physical conditioning this early in the year. Iain, I am told, is also looking very comfortable and in control on board his Nytro.
The plan now is to tear down and carefully inspect the sleds then re-assemble for another practice session Monday, after which the riders will hit the gym in final preparation for the Duluth start line. Practice for the team will commence next Friday Nov 28 and carry through Saturday with the race going off Sunday the 30th. If all goes well, the team plans to travel north to Canada and enter the first round of CSRA racing at Searchmont Resort, outside of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.
I received a copy of some media material released by Yamaha USA which some of you may find of interest. It comes in the form of an article describing the basis of the team structure and equipment: yamaha-sled.doc as well as the full media kit in PDF form: 09-full-snocross-kit.pdf
I sense the guys are outwardly being ‘cautiously optimistic’ but once prodded it is apparent they are really stoked with the potential of both sleds and riders, as Andre put it, they are ‘incredibly impressive’. Lets hope that we see another ‘David and Goliath’ return this year, with little Team Blue making some regular appearances on the ‘box’.
Good luck guys… all of us here at YMCA are rooting for you.
November 12, 2008
Propane Powered Sled
No… it’s not what you think!
As mentioned in ‘Belly Mon, Going Up’, my old friend Randy Swenson is up to his old tricks again.
I learned a long time ago to take his madness seriously, like when he announced he was going to build up his ‘Project 101’ RX-1 Turbo based on an early pre-pro unit, kicking off the whole Yamaha 4-stroke turbo thing in the process.
This summers project may not be quite as ‘impactful’ but it certainly is a head turner. The latest creation features a turbo-charged, propane power system bolted up to his Nytro MTX, offering him two major advantages. The first addresses the octane requirements of any +15lb boost engine. To make the big power, reliably, either a heavy blend of, or 100% race fuel is required. At $4.50 a litre it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out the sting to giggle factor. Propane on the other hand is cheaper than regular gas and has an effective octane rating equivalent to a 120 RO.
The system Randy used is engineered specifically for 4-stroke snowmobiles (Yamaha) and has been three years plus in development. Val Simmons (of Simmons Flexi-Ski) and Brad Story (Team Thunderstruck) have both been very instrumental in the design and manufacturing of the Simmons Propane Systems turbo kit. Strangely enough one of the biggest hurdles in getting the kit to market has been found in the fuel cells which have been a long time in the government approval and certification process. The cells run in pairs and come in 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 gal options. Randy is using two 7 gallon tanks which will yield about 160 km (100 miles) per fuel load in mountain condition. ed: This could be significantly more on our eastern trails.
He can add fuel at any service station that sells auto propane but for convenience, Randy has installed a 270 litre tank in his truck.
So what’s the big deal beyond the fuel cost savings? I believe what really hooked Randy, after riding Brad’s propane sled (in his words) was the ‘incredible throttle response‘ and ‘crispness’ of the engine. Our current FI system requires elaborate e-prom mapping to cover every conceivable fuel requirement with complex logarithms to meter the demands. With the addition of a turbo, this mapping has to be altered and its not unusual to experience some burble or hesitation at times.
The propane system removes the stock injectors and all the electronics that control them. The propane is delivered by a new ‘load based’ injection system that reacts directly to manifold pressure and according to Randy, he has never ridden a ‘cleaner’ responding sled… ever. Speaking of clean, he mentioned that the oil comes out of the engine looking almost as clear as the day it was installed, perhaps another benefit in the long term.
I asked him what kind of power he expected to make and at what level of durability. How about 300++ reliable horsepower at upwards to 26 lbs of boost. The engine internals are all stock except for a head shim to reduce the compression and some beefier studs to hold it all together, limiting deck distortion under full steam. As incredible as it seems, our engines have proven able to build this kind of power reliably over the long run, during several seasons of high boost and high mileage. Our engineers still smile when I bring the point to bare even though they won’t agree to the engine duty cycle probabilities as defined by our own internal standards. Randy is more than doubling the output of his Nytro MTX using the stock parts, so how long do you figure your new Nytro or Venture GT is going to hang together? 😉
Well that really only leaves one question in my mind: how much will all this cost for parts and time? How about 11,000 USD! Yeah I know… but consider this, the kit contains the turbo and all its components, the propane system complete, assorted body parts and professional installation. The latter is not an option at this time, you must have the work performed by Simmons Propane Systems. Considering the current cost of a gasoline turbo system (installed) and some of the additional magic like nitrous, to ensure crisp response plotted against the cost of race fuel, propane systems may well prove to be a bargain for the high-mark riders.
With around fifty of these monsters on the snow and more in the wings, I am considering the feasibility of having our accessory guys develop an optional ‘GYPA’ titanium grill for the tunnel deck. Can you imagine the ‘kabobs’ Randy could cook-up with 14 gallons of propane at 7000 feet! This would kick the crap out of buddies ‘Hotdogger’ nestled around the expansion chambers of his beloved, pine-cone-challenged, 2-smoke. And yet another good reason to go 4-stroke! 😉
November 5, 2008
Industry Update 11/08
I know better than to discuss politics or religion at a party but I have to say I am happy that the US election has finally taken place. Perhaps we can get on with things under more stable conditions. Funny how only moments after the Canadian election our strong dollar began to plummet and now moments after the US election our price per liter for gas started to rise.
I know, there is no direct connection or greater conspiracy but…
Now I’m looking at some interesting stats on Yamaha. The global revenue was down in the first nine months of the year (less than 4% but nonetheless down) mostly blamed on slumping North American and Euro sales. The company generated a nine month revenue of just over 13 billion USD or 1.3 trillion Yen. I can tell you one thing for sure, those clams weren’t harvested selling snowmobiles! Motorcycle sales were down in NA about 20% as were ATV / Snowmobile but overall motorcycles saved the day with similar increases elsewhere.
To put things in perspective Yamaha sold close to 4.5 million motorcycles in those same nine months which was up from the previous years nine month yield of 3.7 million bikes. Now where did all those motorcycles go you ask? Good question.
117,00 motorcycles were imported to North America and about 300,00 made it to Europe. That still leaves about 4 million and change elsewhere… read: Asia. The forecast sees the year ending at 6 million motorcycles sold and 17 billion in the coffers. Not bad for a down year I guess. Now lets get back to snowmobiles. Last time I checked the totals it appears world wide sales for all sleds combined (that’s at least 5 manufacturers) adds up to about 160,000 units.
Let me see now 6 million bikes versus 160,000 sleds. That’s very humbling math for a former product manager! So where am I going with all this you ask? Well I really don’t know but the numbers are public and thought provoking to say the least.
I can’t help but wonder how the rest of the world views us here in North America, with our affluent, albeit aging population. We are consuming goods at a much higher rate per capita than most other countries and becoming extremely demanding with regards to our products and lifestyle.
To make matters more interesting we have developed a ‘system’ where-by we are not held responsible or accountable for our own actions more often than not. This clearly ties the hands of many would-be entrepreneurs as they try to market products through a quagmire of potential liability and risk exposure.
From a global perspective, I am willing to bet the golden fruit that used to be the North American market is getting very ripe on the vine. I sincerely hope the new administration in the USA can invoke some positive change for all of us. And for my American friends, please don’t assume I am taking sides here, I am not. Either party can invoke ‘positive change’ and I don’t know squat about politics and whose really driving the bus.
Being a ‘cup is half full’ guy, I’ll be patient and as I await the first freeze and some falling flakes I realize that snowmobiling has never been more important as a vehicle to escape from the world and put a fresh perspective back in my life …(even if it does cost me 2 bucks a liter.)
Posted @ 3:56 pm in Industry News