August 13, 2009
Viper Story Part 4: The Finale
Thinking it might be time to wrap the ‘Snake Eyes’ saga. I jumped in my tin-boat after our regular Sunday rainstorm to bail it out . Third scoop of the bucket and a young water snake slithered out from under the fuel tank platform aggressively swimming directly at my writing hand, had to use a paddle to evict her… perhaps she was delivering a message .
And so it was, the SX Viper became a highly refined variation of the SXr. The new engine proved to be extremely efficient and bullet proof. I’m not so sure the FAI (ram-air) feature was near the benefit we had hoped, although Saito still swears it makes a difference of three to four horsepower at top speed. I remember how much attention was spent on the air management and layout, one example of the level of detail that goes into a Yamaha can be seen in this sound hologram analysis: 0MC0717.
The engine was sneaky fast, not as hard hitting as the big twin 800’s but far smoother and more linear in it’s delivery. Although the horsepower numbers didn’t peak that high on the dyno, the torque was very ‘usable’ and ‘tractable’, it ‘got ‘er done.’ More importanly (at least to Yamaha), very few ever ended up on the wrong end of the tow rope and we also set the bar for low fuel and oil consumption. I found this report on the competition which I wrote after ridng all the new stuff at the Snowshoot in Yellowstone, I think it was: Snow Shoot 02
The Viper’s marketing had to be tweaked somewhat due to all the changes in the original plan. Several ‘creative briefs’ occurred. I found this marketing strategy document from the ad agency working on the Viper account. It is based on their market understanding after meeting and discussing with our people. Note the names have been changed to protect the innocent 😉 : 2002SXViperBlueStrategy . I can’t duck the bullet when it comes to marketing hype, I also found this letter I wrote, which was part of a direct mail campaign to Canadian owners of SXr’s and SRX following the release of the new Viper. Hey I only had to swallow hard once! Snake Bit
The first season we had a lot of feedback regarding the ride comfort of the SX Viper. Most were pointed at the shocks and skid frame set-up while some questioned the seat firmness. This eventually led to some countermeasure specs and I remember taking off for a few days with my riding partner Mike Collins and Steve Brand from TekRiderto do some real world testing and evaluations. Steve volunteered to do the trucking and we headed north after picking up the Supertrax Viper press sled which Mark and Kent had been struggling to dial in. I still remember the Supertrax article recommending everyone remove all pre-load from all four shocks as the ‘hot set-up’ for trail riding, it was that sled I wanted to try. We also had a base line stocker and one with the latest countermeasure spec from factory. Steve wanted to have us test some of his latest TekVest products and he had acquired a set of the then ‘new’ Precision skis from Skidoo. Here’s my report from the archives. It dosen’t include the part where after breaking trail for many miles we all ran out of fuel. If it had not been for an abandoned Cat with a very tight engine and full tank of gas we’d of been in some serious doo-doo. Steve did the honors of sucking on the siphon hose and remarked how much better the premium fuel in the kitty tasted compared to the regular gype he had just sucked from Mikes sled to stay in the game. The way I saw it is; we made the Cat much lighter for the tow out, no worries, you are welcome…
Made me smile to review after this many years. I’ll let you read between the lines. After the report was written several of the items I referred to were addressed in different ways, including at least one lawsuit for Skidoo (we have been and still are, struggling to find a good ski / skag design that is not patent protected): reportSXV02
The second year Viper’s had most of the wrinkles removed with improved suspension settings. We also came up with a controversial shock update kit for owners who found their 02’s too stiff. The rear heat exchanger was also addressed (originally left off to save weight and cost based on testing that indicated we could live without one). And then there was the ViperS complete with adjustable Ohlins front shocks and the Ripsaw track / deep keel ski cloned from the RX-1… what a difference, what a great sled! (not unlike the Exciter SX scenario), get it right and discontinue… d’oh!
So there you have it. What started out as a clean sheet of paper became a nicely evolved snowmobile based on many existing parts and refinements. It is my perception of this which led to my post entitled: ‘The Last 2-Smoke’ which talked about the SRX being the final new 2-stroke developed by Yamaha before going full-on 4-stroke. It’s debatable whether the Viper is truly the last 2-stroke that Yamaha developed, just depends how you look at it. Matter of fact I understand that the Bravo is getting a clutch update next year, maybe that should qualify 😉