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Q and A with Scott Davis and Todd Palin, New Ski-Doo Iron Dog Racers
Earlier this fall, Ski-Doo announced Iron Dog race stalwarts Scott Davis and Todd Palin would be changing colors for the 2013 edition of the race, to the yellow and black.
The Iron Dog is the world's longest snowmobile race, covering more than 2,000 miles of Alaskan wilderness. We caught up with them to chat about the change, what triggered it and how their new MX Z X-package sleds with E-TEC 600 HO engines changes their preparation and strategy.
On Track (OT): Changing brands is a big step when you've been with one for so long, what were the biggest drivers behind this decision?
The fuel efficiency of the E-TEC engine, the durability of the chassis and the overall reliability of the sleds.
OT: Were you seeking a change after last year's race?
Not really. We were hoping to see a new package with Cat and stay with the product we are familiar with. We only decided to make a change when that did not happen. Ski-Doo was our choice based on what we observed over the last few years of watching the sled perform.
OT: How did the deal come together? Has it been in the works for a while now?
No it happened very fast. [Alaska Ski-Doo dealers] Craig Compeau, Korey Conquest and Mike Tope were instrumental in putting us in a meeting with themselves and Ron Vanwaveren. Each dealer was willing to help with resources and time to put the deal together as well as Ron's efforts to get the factory involved. We were very late and there were already, I think, three Ski-Doo teams receiving help for their Iron Dog efforts. A lot of people believed in us and worked together to put the deal together.
OT: Alaskan dealers are really excited about this news – have you had a chance to meet with a few of them?
Yes. As Scott mentioned, Craig and Korey were a very important part of getting this deal put together. I know a lot of the dealers in Alaska as I have spent most of my life racing here. I think the dealers are a huge asset to our team. The dealer involvement played a big part in our decision to ride Ski-Doo.
OT: What is your preparation for the Iron Dog like?
We most likely not race any races before the Iron Dog. We put so much time and effort into that one race we don't want to risk any injury to one of us. We will put in about 3,000 miles of practice, in every kind of condition you can think of prior to the race. I will usually race a few races after the Iron Dog.
OT: Keeping in mind the effort to prepare, who does most of your sled set-ups?
It is a joint effort. I ride more bumps and rough terrain and Todd covers a lot of river running. We encounter such a wide variety of conditions it takes a compromise or average of a lot of things such as fuel level, high speed chop, big bumps, tight trees and various other ever changing conditions.
OT: Because you are running different snowmobiles, will you prepare differently compared to past years?
We are putting in the time to get comfortable on the new sleds. it may require even more test time that we have been used to. Since Scott and I have been riding together, we have used four different chassis, from full-on race chassis to trail sleds. I have logged over 50,000 miles on the Iron Dog trail in my career with many different sleds – and from what I can tell right now, the MX Z will be an easy transition.
OT: Who is helping you out, supporting your race effort once the green flag drops? Care to name/thank them now?
Yes, there are many people that we depend on before and during the race. Family is super important. We usually commit to roughly three months of work to test durability, build race sleds and race the race – during that time we spend more time with each other than our families. My wife Regina does everything we may need and usually knows more about what is going on in the race than we do!
My brother Ron has flown cover for us for my entire 30 year Iron Dog career as well as my daughter Carly who has been co-pilot several times. Ron Zugg spends countless hours testing shock and spring set-ups. Al Palma will be our main mechanic this year. Doug Dixon builds the best Iron Dog bags and cold weather accessories, like gauntlets, bibs for the sleds and anything else we need.
Thank you all. There are many more, too many to list.
OT: How would you rank these sled attributes: Top Speed, Suspension, Durability, Fuel Mileage, Handling?
That is a hard one! They all play a huge part and every year the conditions change – which changes what plays the most important role. That being said, here's how I would rate them:
Durability is always #1. We cannot win if we are wrenching.
Handling and top speed (tie)
Mother nature is king, as Todd says. She always throws us a curve. Everyone has to respond to the conditions. The more versatile and adaptive your team, the better chance to win year-in and year-out.
Yeah, Mother Nature is always the biggest factor for sure. Other than that, the other racers pushing each other really plays a role, too.
OT: You've been very successful at this event, what do you attribute that to?
Never give up, no matter how far out of it you think you may be at any time.
Ride within your ability and the conditions.
Don't take yourself out, make your competitors beat you.
I break the race down to 1/3 preparation, 1/3 execution and 1/3 luck. And if you do the first two things, you make a good portion of your luck.
OT: If victorious, what will you do with the winnings?
I'll take my family on a nice vacation…then most likely come back and race Arctic Man and a few other races. Do some backcountry powder riding with my wife and kids. Maybe buy a Can-Am Commander or the new Can-Am Maverick.
If we win, that will be Scott's eighth win and make him the all-time leading winner of the Iron Dog. It would be my fifth win, which would be fantastic. And to do it on Ski-Doo sleds, a new brand for us, that would be icing on the cake. As for the purse? I have five kids…enough said.
OT: Thanks, guys. Good luck.
in the news
BRP Introduces Ski-Doo X-Team Racing Plans
North Branch, MN
BRP's Ski-Doo snowmobile division has finalized its racing plans for the 2012-13 winter with emphasis on snocross plus an increased cross country and ice oval endurance presence. These will compliment mainstay efforts in hillclimb, grass drags and sprint ovals as the Ski-Doo X-Team looks to better last year's stellar season.
Last season proved very successful for Ski-Doo snowmobiles with X-Team racer Tim Tremblay grabbing the coveted top spot in ISOC's professional snocross series. He also took the Eagle River Snocross World Championship and he'll be back with a laser focus on defending those championships. Cross country racing proved just as prosperous when Dusty Van Meter and Mark McKenna brought home the Iron Dog win while Steve Girard and Jean-Guy AuCoin captured another Cains Quest victory--adding to the already legendary Rev-X platform reputation. Look for the X-team to continue its domination in terrain racing, both snocross and cross country, in 2013.
"Snocross continues to be the most visible and exposed form of snowmobile racing and for good reason with the high flying, close quarters action" Denis Morin, vice president of engineering at BRP, said. "Because we have a philosophy of racing what we sell, and cross country emulates trail use--at a much accelerated pace--this is also another natural development tool. Consequently we will gradually increase our involvement there, while continuing in other forms of racing too."
But terrain racing isn't only place the boys in yellow will be seen. The Ski-Doo X-Team will be represented in all racing disciplines with top racers and teams capable of winning at every event and supported with technical help and parts supplied from the Valcourt Race Shop.
But times are changing fast. Snowmobiles manufactured in model year 2012 and thereafter will have to meet a highest level of exhaust emissions standards ever.
In September 2002, the EPA released its standards for exhaust emissions on snowmobile engines, recreational marine boats and other off-highway vehicles. For the past decade, the snowmobile manufacturing industry has been preparing for the implementation of the final phase affecting the 2012 model year.
Ski-doo has been leading the industry in clean engine technology, with their direct injected
E-tec two strokes and their super quiet, fuel efficient, and ultra clean ACE 600 four-strokes. Many of the Ski-doo models with these engines are seeing almost 30 miles per gallon on the trail under perfect conditions, and 20 plus MPG is not unusual, even on the big Ski-doo wide track work sleds. In addition, the boys at engineering have been re-calibrating and fine tuning the fuel delivery and exhaust systems on these super popular carbureted utility sleds, like the Tundra 550. But big brother has a timeline that simply doesn't budge. ,
Over the last decade, most snowmobilers thought that the only way the manufacturers could meet these stringent standards was to replace the less clean two-stroke motors with a much heavier four-cycle engine. But, alas, the exhaust emission challenge has actually proved to be the Mother of Invention and technology and engineering have answered the call. New technological breakthroughs in both two-cycle and four-cycle engines have allowed Ski-doo to produce clean, quiet and fuel efficient machines that still retain light weight and performance.
The Ski-Doo E-TEC engine that, when introduced on a limited basis in 2009, had already met the 2012 standard. It should be noted that an agreement between the manufacturers and the EPA allows for a credit system and not all model sleds offered in the entire manufacturer's line up need to meet the EPA standards, like the Tundra. Models that beat the standards can accumulate credit that can be applied to other models in the manufacturer's line up. Think Tundra 550.
Although this new technology will come at a price on the sales floor, the trade-off is the fact that snowmobiles will be cleaner, quieter and much more fuel efficient in the future.
In the meantime, the clock is running on the window where these light, nimble, and very popular (especially in Alaska) snow machines like the Ski-doo Tundra fan-cooled can be produced. Will 2013 be the last year we see these great Alaskan trailbreakers? Will we find them in the Ski-doo 2014 brochure? At this point, we cannot say for sure. But with our current political environment and stepped up regulations and limits on everything from coal plants to large sodas, the day that BRP produces it's last Ski-doo Tundra 550 are getting dangerously close. And in Alaska, that's a big deal.