July 21, 2009
Snake Eyes: The Viper Story
This multi-part post is dedicated to Yammerhead, who first called BS on my SRX story titled the “Last Two Smoke’… 😉
The SX Viper, code named OMC started it’s development in 1999 with a target launch for model year 2001. We were looking to fill the void between the SXr and SRX with a highly capable ‘bump-sled’ for the American market which would also offer great agility and handling on our groomed trails.
The SRX had hit us a home run in the top performance field taking on all comers including the T-Cats and emerging big twin 800’s from Skidoo and Polaris. What we needed to do was update the aging SXr with some fresh styling, new suspension and more power with emphasis on the suspension. YMUS research led planning to chase the holy grail of mid-west snowmobiles: the ultimate big bump sled, (something that we always struggle with here in Canada, but more on that later). We proposed the idea of an 800 twin but engineering convinced us a hi-tech triple would yield equal or better power with greater reliability and efficiency. It was around this time that the advanced group was investigating the potential of 4-stroke power and so it was decided to evolve our SRX engine base into a lightweight, single pipe trail burner.
My old pal Masa Saitou was appointed ‘project leader’ for OMC based on the success of his most recent sled, the SRX. Aggressive targets were set for both engine and chassis as engineering began the minus prototype development. Meanwhile the design team at GKDI in California were fast tracking the body and styling. One of the most exciting developments came in the form of an all new rear skid frame that had a large single gas-shock with a floating coupling-point between the two arms. The ‘mono shock’ made its debut on the prototype Viper but would never make it to production on a 2-stroke sled…
Yamaha USA had reentered the snowcross game racing modified SXr’s in the pro open class under the guise of product development (sound familiar?). Gordy Muetz took on the challenge of building and managing the team which was run out of our short lived Minneapolis based snowmobile headquarters with support from Minocqua and factory. Ron Ruzewski (click on ‘Race Team’) was the engineer who designed the new front suspension and chassis working closely with YMC engineers. By the time things were race ready, Ron had come up with a ‘race kit’ which was adaptable to the SXr and pointed squarely at the new SXViper. A small number of these kits were made available to supported race teams. 0u58a suspension
I could not resist the temptation to build my own project sled in 2000 with Ron’s help, based on the SXr with triple ‘Power Inc’ pipes to make the equivalent hp target of the Viper. It incorporated the early mono shock and long travel front end with rack steering and a smattering of other goodies, (roller secondary, tunnel reinforcements and special one-off, Yokohama track to name a few).
It’s important to add this to the story because it has a lot of bearing on what was to come for the Viper. There was a lot to like about my mod sled but one characteristic emerged rapidly in the form of weight transfer (or lack there-of). Chris Vincent was racing a very similar sled in the pro ranks and the shock package we had was about as plush as a fire hydrant. The sled would only work well when held WFO. There was no timing the bumps and blipping the throttle for lift. It was a ‘mash fest’ only- if you lifted at speed you’d auger in- and if you ever watched Vincent muscle his way around a snowcross course you know what I mean. We finally had a true big-bump sled, the question was who the heck would want to ride it like that in the real world.
…to be continued