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February 24, 2011

Valcourt GP

I am grateful for the many comments on my last post. It supports my thinking that a hole is  opening up in the market for less powerful, less expensive snowmobiles. I am curious how many experienced sled heads would consider taking a backwards step with regards to the performance levels of their current machines. And I wonder what we could do to bolster  the fun factor in a smaller machine in the absence of the arm stretching pull and ballistic top end of todays sleds in order to attract you. Then there is the subject of new riders, family riders and returning riders.  I have drafted up a survey to help answer some of my questions and will get it posted after a few more tweaks.

In the news,  the Grand Prix of Valcourt held last weekend, experienced a nasty storm in the form of Team G-Force. Many of you will remember G-Force for the world record setting slip-streamer created by Gilles Gagne, principal of Gagne Lessard Sport (Yamaha) in Quebec. If that doesn’t ring a bell Gilles is also the invenotr of the Yamcharger blower for the Apex and Nytro. It wasn’t a huge surprise that they ran away with top honors at the drag races but things got really interesting when they won the ATV races on the ice-ovals as part of the main program.


Heres the visual. Valcourt is home base for BRP and the race track is actually part of the factory testing facilities. The whole town is employed by team yellow in one way or another. The passion of the French for motor-sports is unparalleled and the Valcourt Grand Prix is an exciting event with packed stands and non stop action. G-Force entered a YZF450 quad with pilot Marc Antoine Auger. He was lined up against home town favourite Richard Pelchat on his factory CanAm. 5 laps into the 10 lap main, Auger stuffed the CanAm and made it stick with Pelchat finishing 5 lengths back at the checkered. I am told the crowd went completely silent, even the announcer failed to recognize what happened. The trophy presentation was done on the QT and rumor has it there were some tears in the beers being consumed in the yellow VIP booth. Congratulations Gilles, I hope you got out of town unscathed!!!!

We are scrambling to have everything in order for our 2012 sled introduction this Monday. I am going to be up north with Mr Yanagi and Mr. Kato presidents of YMC and YMUS respectively, riding during what now appears to be an impending, rainy melt-down. I am crossing my fingers that the weather forecasters are a bit off and we duck the bullet. I wouldn’t mind so much if things are mild but it will really suck if it’s raining. I want these gentlemen to get a good taste of what snowmobiling in northern Ontario is all about. cheers cr

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20 Responses to “Valcourt GP”

  1. rsilk says:

    What no 2012 teaser info???

    I learned my lesson, If I was to drop a hint, someone would surly rip me a new one if they didn’t like the outcome, blaming me for all the ‘hype’… regardless, the new turbo-charged, 470 pound, 750 Exciter doesn’t really exist 😉

  2. Mr. T says:

    This is the first year that I can remember that there has been no teaser info via word, sound, or partial pictures. You all have been really tight lipped about the release especially for how late it is this year. I think this would not be to hard to do if there was nothing new coming out! I hope I’m wrong.
    Mr. T

  3. Steve says:

    The sport of snowmobiling needs to bring back real entry level sleds. One or more of the big 4 needs to take the initiative and reengineer the ovation, indy lite, or freestyle. I mean to give people a choice that is not there right now. I don’t think any company could make much money in that segment ,but it is the responsible thing for the big 4 to do. As much as i love my phazer, it is not an entry level machine. The freestyle 300 with decent skiis, a speedo, wider ski stance, sdi and 5k price tag would hit the bullseye. The newish Honda 125 streetbike is a great example of an entry level machine with curb appeal, functionality and reasonable price.

  4. Jocke says:

    Hi Chris,
    Today I’m riding a 2009 Nytro XTX and I wouldn’t mind to go to a smaller less powerful sled as long as it is a lot lighter and has a much better suspension than my Nytro. Where I ride in Sweden a light and nimble sled is more important than power. I’ve spend some time on a Phazer FX and that is close to what I thinking of except the weight issue, the Phazer is to heavy in my opinion, it’s not that much lighter than my Nytro.

    On TY a guy named REX has written a piece on suspension on the Apex and that pretty much sums it up regarding my thoughts of the suspension issues, it’s the same on my Nytro. And suspension is by far the most common complaint I’ve heard on the Nytro.

    And if nothing that I’m interested in will be released for 2012 I will have to send my shocks to have them revalved and keep the Nytro for another year.

    And what will make me upgrade then? Maybe a light sled with a 2 cylinder version of the Nytro engine in a very lightweight chassis with over the top suspension, think plush ride but not bottoming out very easy.

    Cheers from sunny Sweden….

  5. Daranello says:

    Less power no, I need the power,less junk that noone needs get for snowmobiling. example my seat on my old firecat was held in by one nut, screew and a woodies backer used as a washer…the Fx-Nytro seat you have lots of body clading to get to 2 small bolds…not needed…nor is the black gas tank clading, covering the black gas tank…really???

    Nicola, showed how u can make a extreamly light 4 stroke… do I expect the factory to drop 100lbs like he did..no….but 50lbs is doo-able;)

    droping weight=less parts=lower cost.

    from shipping, to manufacturing,

    Please Keep it simple and light…

  6. Tyler says:

    Hey CR:

    I was just curious as to where “Northern Ontario” is for you. I know Northwestern Ontario has had tons of snow this season, especially around Dryden, Red Lake, Kenora and Fort Frances. I’m gald I put a backcountry track on this year thats for sure!


  7. DoktorC says:

    That entry level market is a killer!!! Just from the comments here…lighter, more features, but cheaper. That should be easy to build :). I’m not so sure that you don’t already have a great entry level sled in the Phazer..or at least a great platform to start from if you’re thinking revamp. Has there ever been an “off the chart” successful entry level sled?? From anyone? (I always thought the Polaris Shift was a great idea…but you don’t see them anywhere!!).

    I think the barriers to entry in this sport isn’t so much the model choice but rather the whole lifestyle that goes with snowmobiling (i.e. vehicle with a hitch, trailer, storage…). Sledders just need to keep having kids who become sledders :).

    P.S. I think there should be a full page ad of the G-force guys in the winner’s circle in Valcourt ;).

  8. Flatlander SE says:

    It was explained clearly in an American Snowmoblier article 4 years ago the reason that Yamaha went with triples. A big twin would mean a heavier crank and even heavier counter balancers which would result in less HP,slower throttle response and almost identical weight (within a few pounds). The smoothness,torque and throttle response of a triple is superior IMHO. Just compare the Z1 to the Vector, you’ll see what I mean…..

  9. Yellowknife says:

    Good luck with the sled ride Chris! I love with the OFSC has done for riders on their website – but am super sad to see the poor trail conditions around my home town. I lucked out last year for sure.

    Looking forward to the launch. Doesn’t look like Ski-doo slowed down by the sounds of it, but I haven’t read anything for myself yet.

  10. rsilk says:

    How bout taking our current Phazer engine and dropping it in a sled that has a similar look to an Apex/Vector but make it simpler in design w/ less parts less weight and less $$$

  11. Ike says:

    My only issues with my 4-stroke Yamaha is the weight and suspension. Off the trail you can really feel it and on the moguls you brake stuff under the heavy load.

    Ski-Doo did a lighter 4-stroke with even larger engine with better suspension. I´m sure you guys can come up better than that.

    I´ve said this before:

    Proto-Nytro´s were getting awesome reviews here when they released it. After the production Nytro came out, customers and press here were speechless how it was changed to be so awful ride. Frontend geometry was off, shock calibrations weren´t even close etc. I hope you guys learned the lesson after that ball was dropped. How come the proto´s are so great and the production models are so way off?


    Thanks Ike, let me give you a small analogy… first night spent ever spent with your dream girl, passion, excitement next morning you are smitten, everything you could ever want in woman… fast forward to some time down the road, all of a sudden she isn’t so hot any more… same girl, same specifications, what changed? The pre-pro Nytros didn’t change all that much (granted there was some fiddling done) but conditions did, expectations did, saddle time did… it’s not the first model that I have seen that happen with, probably the worst was the Viper, now that was a spec change!. Sometimes someone will change the specs without communicating to us, doesn’t happen often but when it does the ramifications can be devastating. It is really hard to get the people responsible to step-up and explain why. It is always the poor project leader that will fall on the sword… I sincerely hope I never have to see that again! cheers cr

  12. Scott says:

    A less powerful, less expensive machine doesn’t mean it has to be boring. I look at Yamaha’s ATV’s, a Raptor 250 is a fun little quad. Had it come with reverse it would be perfect. The original Phazer was light weight, had good power, went really well through the deep snow and was reliable. The new Phazer is not light weight for a 500, doesn’t go through deep snow as well as it should because of the 14″ wide track and the power to weight ratio is not as favorable as it was on the original Phazer.

    Light weight has to be the #1 priority for an entry level sled. It HAS to be light, light enough so your wife or teen age daughter can actually lift it out of a hole and get it unstuck. The physical size should be smaller so its not intimidating to ride. The sled needs to float and be able to get around in deep snow. Not everyone rides groomed trails. A low powered sled is never going to be super fun on a groomed trail. However, once the trail gets rough and if the entry level sled has good suspension, than the same sled can become really fun to ride. This is where Ski-doo screwed up with the Freestyle. It didn’t offer a good enough suspension system to be fun.

    I think the sled engineers need to spend some time with the dirt bike and ATV design teams. Yamaha offers very good entry level machines like the TTR dirt bikes and the 125 & 250 Raptors. FInally, the designers just need to go back in time and re-examine the original Phazer as it had the formula nailed down.

  13. pat the rat says:

    hey,cr,not sure where your headed but i just got back from a 1500 km trip from earlton to hearst and the trails were insane,just go a little further and your sure to get excellent conditions,i saw alot of yammi 4s on the trail this week,more than any other brand,i was impressed,plus the phazer turned 20000km,just thought i’d share,,,,,later

    Awesome thanks Pat, I’m hold up in Huntsville, have a good loop planned we pre-rode today after some fresh snow last night the lakes are now ridable and winter is back… hopefully some more white stuff tonight, wish I could head farther north but this is better than expected, congrats on the 20k Phazer… very cool
    cheers cr

  14. Doug says:

    Patiently waiting. I’ll just summer-ize my yzf450,winter-ize my et250 in the meantime. Dang it’s cold. Hope you are on schedule and all went well.

  15. Hal says:

    Hey Chris,

    I’ve just spent the last two days reading posts on TY about the 2012 offerings. Wow, I would hate to be the person at Yamaha who has to report on the internet reception.

    I am relatively new to snowmobiling. I bought an 07 phazer in the fall of 08 and then this last January I sold my phazer (because I couldn’t convince the wife to ride with me) and bought a 2011 Nytro xtx (What an awesome sled. After 2 weekends of riding I couldn’t get the smile off my face and my fingers literally hurt from holding on). It better be awesome as it took some serious negotiating to get the ok to purchase. True story: One morning on a weekend she gets up and told me she had a dream that I spent $35k on a sled and then she left me. I replied: So we’ve established the upper limit? For some reason she didn’t find this as funny as I did. Sorry for the side track.

    As a newbie I find it interesting that the majority of people who responded were very negative. There seems to be a large desire, among the responders, to upgrade their machines every 2 or 3 years. I find myself wondering why that is? Is this a learned behaviour as a result of riding 2 strokes that get tired with relatively low mileage? Any thoughts? Obviously their wives don’t have the same dreams mine does. I for one like the idea that I will be able to ride my sled for 7 to 10 years and it will do all that I need it to.

    There was also a perception that there were some obvious problems (like hyfax wear) that never get fixed. I left you a comment a few posts ago asking for some interesting stories on some of the compromises Yamaha has to make. Reading all the complaining got me thinking about my comment again.

    I recognize that the internet postings likely don’t represent all or even a majority of your customers. Maybe discussing some of things will make things worse than better, but I thought I would ask again.

    Sorry for the long comment.

    For the record I love my new Nytro and she hasn’t left me.



    Thanks Hal, this is a compelling subject and you have posted a well written comment. The majority of the TY posters are long time snowmobilers and you hit the nail on the head regarding expectations. I believe as an industry we have continuously tic’d up the size and performance of the machines to stimulate sales. This worked pretty well with two strokes where the engine life (generally speaking) was good only for a couple of seasons reliably. The mind set hasn’t changed much as the demographic has aged. Do we really need 200hp sleds to have fun? I’m hoping the pendulum begins to swing back before we pigeon hole ourselves completely.

  16. sledfreak says:

    “I learned my lesson, If I was to drop a hint, someone would surly rip me a new one if they didn’t like the outcome, blaming me for all the ‘hype’… regardless, the new turbo-charged, 470 pound, 750 Exciter doesn’t really exist

    I hope it does, because from what I am told the 2 cylinder 900ACE Turbo from DOO does exist and it is to weigh in at a light weight of 480lbs at 185hp.

    You telling me DOO is going to kill there light weight 2-strokes with a 4-stroke turbo? Hmmm I’m thinking they are making more dough selling the cheap engines… time will tell. Cheers cr

  17. Mike says:

    Like many others, I waited patiently for the Feb. 28th release of the new Yamaha snowmobiles, I was neither disappointed or overwhelmed by the new offerings. I understand that many folks may be disappointed with the 2012 machines, mainly because of their expectations of lower cost entry level sleds and much reduced weight on some other models. Neither of these are particularly important to me, as my wife and I ride two-up on our 09 RS Venture on well groomed trails. To us, the addition of power-steering on the RS Venture GT might just be enough to get us into (er, I mean onto) a new Yamaha next year!

    The current industry mentality seems to be squarely focused on weight reduction and huge horsepower. However, my primary demands revolve around comfort, reliability, and fuel efficiency for those long hauls. I’m thinking Yamaha knows this customer pretty well and has made the best possible machine for my needs. The question is…how many of us are out there??

    I think their are a lot of you residing in the silent majority of snowmobilers. It’s the sizzle that gets all the attention and it is hard to compete there when you are selling quality and reliability as your top feature. cheers cr

  18. Bob Hogg says:

    I’m lucky to be hanging out with some hard core sledders lately…the majority still want the big power.

    The older guys want the big cruiser…

    It seems I’m alone..with my request…99 phazer light weight ..low…with a 500 4/…

    Good luck Yamaha..tough crowd.

    Thanks Bob, tough crowd indeed, ‘strong, light and cheap… you can only have 2. cheers cr

  19. Paul says:

    Hello to all,

    I live and work in a beautiful little town called Pemberton, which is located in British Columbia about half an hour north of Whistler. Just outside of my front door there are several beautiful trails that are endless (http://www.sledbralorne.com/; http://www.bcsledhed.com/?page_id=58). This season we have been very fortunate with snow, Pemberton has seen more snow this year then it has in many many moons.

    By no means is this any type of solicitation

  20. Dan says:

    I’m seeing too much emphasis from all sled manufacturers on the high end sleds with big HP. Sure, Ricky Racer will always be looking for a faster, lighter, better handling sled on the trails, but what about Ricky’s kids (aged 10 to 16) who need a lightweight, nimble, economical machine to get out and simply have fun at the camp or running around on private property? The Bravo has been discontinued for 2012, so why not revamp it and bring it back with a 40-50HP 4-stroke, strut suspension, a 144″ x 1.5″ track, trailer hitch, cargo rack. The Ski-doo Tundra LT (’05 to ’09) almost had it, but DOO has done away with it too! Yamaha could do a much better job.
    I’m a Nytro XTX owner and want my kids to get into the sport but there’s nothing for them. Dont make it a trail sled, design it for off-trail use.
    I, for one would line up to buy something like that, and I know that there is a big market that includes ice fishermen, trappers, farmers, landowners etc., who would do the same.

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