Yamaha 4-stroke proves speed to win WPSA

Jan. 24, 2007 By Jeffrey Banks
The new fuel-injected Yamaha 4-stroke is exclusive to the race team, and Robbie Malinoski rode it from a debut into a historic first place.

It was a race of comebacks and breakouts in Brainerd, Minn., and the spotlight finished up on Robbie Malinoski and his Yamaha. The brand new machine became the first four-stroke-powered snowmobile to ever win a national Snocross competition.

          Making history is a big jump from the season’s first race six weeks ago in Duluth, where Malinoski didn’t make the final. And just one day earlier, during the first final of the double points weekend at Brainerd International Raceway, Malinoski didn’t finish when a rough landing left his handlebars unusable.

“In Duluth we had lots of power, yeah, but we weren’t using it right,” he said. “You have to change your riding style a little bit from what I was used to. Just carrying your speed into the corners. It’s much more similar to a dirtbike.”  

          It’s bigger than any dirtbike, though, and is bigger than any other snowmobile out there (Just like Malinoski is bigger than the other riders at 200 lbs). Boss Racing Owner Garry Querel described the secret weapon his Yamaha team unveiled at the World PowerSports Association event. “It’s a 3-cyclinder, fuel-injected prototype. It’s a little different than the first prototype we brought out.” Those Nytros won’t be raced anymore. “That last sled we ran was a 975 carburetor and this is 1040 fuelie.”

          Malinoski (#4 of Humboldt, Saskatchewan) said he doesn’t need to compensate for the extra weight. “The motor itself is heavier, but it has just so much torque and power that your power to weight ratio is right there if not higher than anybody else.” On Sunday the defending Pro Stock and Pro Open champ powered through the 20 laps, leading every one. Shaun Crapo (# 3 AMSOIL/Polaris) dogged him throughout but couldn’t catch up. And by lap 16 Crapo took a corner too wide and Ross Martin (#837 Polaris/ Judnick Racing) streaked past to get closer to the points championship he almost won last year. He streaked a little too quickly and nailed a corner, breaking his throttle and taking him out of the race.

          By the final lap Malinoski had a 100 foot lead and rode his 4-stroke into history. Crapo came in second and 2005 points champion Steve Martin (#18 Ski-Doo/Judnick Racing) grabbed third place and his first podium of the year.

          A bad start for Ryan Simons (#67 Speedwerx/Arctic Cat) led him to finish sixth. “I qualified fourth in the open, and then just got pinched out in the first corner.”

The first place qualifier was Tucker Hibbert (#68 Arctic Cat/Monster Energy Drink), who won both Pro Stock Finals of the double points weekend in his second event after three years away from snocross.

He would have liked to stand on the Pro Open podium, too, but was plagued by the same powdery snow that blinded every racer, and he crashed in the third lap. “There was a lot of snow dust. I landed off a jump and couldn’t see. I hit a bump that I didn’t even know was there. I kind of fell off. Didn’t really crash - just kind of fell off,” he said. “Then I got back up and a throttle cable came unhooked.” The racer with the second-most points victories in WPSA history didn’t finish.

The artificial snow made and sculpted at Brainerd was blinding from the first lap on, explained Simons. “We got one lap in and just did the rest from memory.  The snow was fluffy and sugary.” For once, heat didn’t melt the snow and cold was the problem. “If it’s warm out the snow gets softer and slushy and you don’t get any dust.”

Several racers think it gave Malinoski an advantage, since the groomed jumps quickly disappeared. “It worked really good on that track with the dry, sugary snow,” said Ross Martin, adding, “He rode his butt off, that’s for sure. That sled is big and heavy and he rode it really well.” With no visibility, racers knew the Yamaha was coming by its sound. “It definitely sounds different. It sounds just like an R6 street bike,” described Martin.

Plus, “If any track is in favor of it, this track was. That’s when I think the Yamaha will struggle, when it gets really rough and holed out like Duluth was... It was just a smoother track than normal, so the weight advantage didn’t make much difference.

I think with the track being smoother it was definitely an advantage for him.” The weight advantage was everyone else’s since a two-stroke is lighter and easier to maneuver in midair jumps.

          Malinoski points out that the jumps in Brainerd were much higher than in Duluth. “They had a 120 quad, and a 100 foot triple. They had huge jumps compared to everything else. Basically, the whole thing with the 4 stroke being better or worse on different tracks is kind of bogus. Sure, you’re going to have high points here and there, but if you can’t get it to work all the time it’s not going to be successful.”

          He’ll need consistency if he’s going to return as the points champion. “I’ve kind of put myself in a little bit of a hole, but anything’s possible.”

He’s only been to the podium once, but Simons is actually the current 2007 points leader at 164.  Ross Martin is five points behind and seven points later is Levi Lavallee (#104 Pirtek/Polaris).

          TJ Gulla earned his first finals victory in two years during the first round of the double points weekend at Brainerd International Raceway.

“It’s a long time overdue,” said the relieved racer. Gulla (#44 Pirtek/Polaris) took the hole shot in the final, which was especially valuable in the blinding snowdust that covered the track each round. The cold meant the snow was anything but slushy. “I think everybody got a little bit of frostbite this weekend, on their faces and on their fingers,” Gulla added.

          Gulla managed to stay just ahead of Ryan Simons in the Saturday contest, and Levi LaVallee earned his first of two third-place finishes. “It was pretty much just everybody running so fast in every heat,” said Simons. “Everybody’s pretty quick and you’ve just got to ride smart more than anything in those conditions and stay on.”

          On Friday Ross Martin earned the second qualifying spot and seemed on track to repeat the double class victory at the first race in Duluth. But in Saturday’s final he flipped over in the very first turn. “I got the hole shot but I got pushed over the berm on the first turn.” Which racer bumped him off the track? “I’m not sure,” he said, but he is certain that “it sucked.”

          The last chance qualifier Friday put Tucker Hibbert into Saturday’s final. He started from the rear but nearly grabbed a top finish, powering from the rear past half the competitors. But he slipped near the end and finished sixth. He did win both Pro Stock finals, but even if he wins every race possible he won’t be racing the entire season. “I’m only racing the first five races of the snocross tour,” he said. “I’ll race the X-games in a couple weeks and then out in New York in February and then I’ll be done.” His priority is supercross, the motocross competition on extremely rough and sharp tracks.

“The schedules conflict a lot. The supercross and snocross schedules are basically the exact same weekend.” For the last three years he’s been exclusively riding supercross, and his whole life he’s ridden Arctic Cats.

          The last spots of the Pro Open final went to Dave Allard (#167 Ski-Doo) and Robbie Malinoski. “The double weekend was tiring for me,” said Allard.

          That final was the first Malinoski made this season. “It was kind of a weird deal. On Saturday I was sitting in fifth place in the final. About the third lap in I landed on the handlebars. They bent down on me and I tried to put them back in place by myself.  I had to have the mechanics help me. Then, once the mechanics touched the machine I was disqualified,” he said. “Saturday there was a really good possibility that we could have been on the podium.”

Only the Pro classes raced a double weekend. Brett Bender (No. 19 Pirtek/Polaris) won the Semi-Pro Open final, ahead of Mathew Piche (No. 518 Christian Brothers Racing/Arctic Cat) and Katejun Coonishish (No. 101 Warnert Racing/Ski-Doo). Dylan Jansen (No. 272 Northway Sports/Polaris) finished first in the 120 final.

          Dylan Martin, Ross’s brother, finished fourth, which could signal a return to his top finishes. “I finished second to my brother a few times two years ago,” he remembered.

The races were the first national event for the Brainerd track. “They did a pretty good job,” Martin said. “We didn’t know what to expect at first. They were totally into it. It was a really good venue. Hopefully we’ll get to go back there.”

With the snow they had, they did great, but, “I struggled a little bit in the corners after they groomed all the berms away.” It’s no relief to have smaller jumps, he said. “There’s no place on the track to gain on anyone. That’s pretty much where talent comes into play. When you have jumps and rhythms, that’s what separates people.”

 

TJ Gulla took first place in Round 1, a victory he hasn't seen in two years.

DuPont is a major sponsor of his team, but he doesn’t think they’re working on a chemical to make the sky snow. “No, but we’ve got a really cool paint job on the side of our semi. It keeps it really clean.”

          Both Martins race for Judnick Racing, and owner Scott Judnick said the double weekend was hardest on the riders. “We had built some extra sleds so it wasn’t too bad for the crew, but the riders definitely took a pounding.” It was no cake walk for the crews, either.

“At least they did the double this year over three days. A couple years ago we did a double over two days and we were still in the trailer at 4 o’clock in the morning and we were racing at 7 o’clock the next morning. It wasn’t as bad as that but it definitely put a huge workload on the crew and all of us.”

Saturday’s race will be telecast on SPEED on Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. EST, and will re-air on Feb. 7 at 3 a.m. Sunday’s event will be telecast on Feb. 7 at noon EST, followed by the re-air Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.

 

SUNDAY PRO OPEN

Robbie Malinoski

4

Yamaha

2

5

3

1

Shaun Crapo

3

Polaris

4

1

1

2

Steven Martin

18

Ski - Doo

3

3

4

3

TJ GULLA

44

Polaris

8

7

5

4

Mike Schultz

5

Polaris

6

6

4

5

Garth Kaufman

48

Arctic Cat

4

4

6

6

Ryan Simons

67

Arctic Cat

1

3

3

7

Levi LaVallee

108

Polaris

1

4

2

8

Dave Allard

167

Ski - Doo

3

5

3

9

Justin Tate

28

Ski - Doo

5

6

1

10

Carl Schubitzke

6

Arctic Cat

1

2

5

11

Dany (DJ) Ekre

52

Arctic Cat

5

2

5

12

Jeff Snow

192

Arctic Cat

4

3

2

13

Ross Martin

837

Polaris

2

1

2

14

Tucker Hibbert

68

Arctic Cat

2

1

1

15

Any remaining racers are in alphabetic order by last name

Kurtis Crapo

9

Arctic Cat

7

2

6

 

Dennis Eckstrom

25

Polaris

6

4

7

 

Willie Elam

130

Polaris

6

8

8

 

Brian Harmon

54

Ski - Doo

15

15

15

 

Iain Hayden

93

Ski - Doo

9

9

6

 

Matt Judnick

58

Polaris

8

8

7

 

Blair Morgan

7c

Ski - Doo

3

5

4

 

Mathieu Morin

27

Ski - Doo

7

9

8

 

Yuji Nakazawa

36

Yamaha

5

7

9

 

Joe Parsons

700

Polaris

7

6

7

 

 

 

SATURDAY PRO OPEN

Racer

Bib #

Brand

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Final

TJ GULLA

44

Polaris

2

4

2

1

Ryan Simons

67

Arctic Cat

1

1

1

2

Levi LaVallee

108

Polaris

1

8

1

3

Jeff Snow

192

Arctic Cat

3

2

3

4

Carl Schubitzke

6

Arctic Cat

4

5

3

5

Tucker Hibbert

68

Arctic Cat

1

2

9

6

Mike Schultz

5

Polaris

8

4

2

7

Ross Martin

837

Polaris

2

3

2

8

Garth Kaufman

48

Arctic Cat

4

6

7

9

Mathieu Morin

27

Ski - Doo

7

5

7

10

Steven Martin

18

Ski - Doo

2

7

1

11

Shaun Crapo

3

Polaris

3

4

5

12

Willie Elam

130

Polaris

9

3

4

13

Dave Allard

167

Ski - Doo

3

2

3

14

Robbie Malinoski

4

Yamaha

6

1

4

15

Any remaining racers are in alphabetic order by last name

JOHN ANETSBERGER

434

Ski - Doo

6

7

8

 

Kurtis Crapo

9

Arctic Cat

8

1

4

 

Dennis Eckstrom

25

Polaris

5

15

9

 

Dany (DJ) Ekre

52

Arctic Cat

9

3

6

 

Brian Harmon

54

Ski - Doo

5

9

5

 

Iain Hayden

93

Ski - Doo

7

6

7

 

Matt Judnick

58

Polaris

5

8

8

 

Blair Morgan

7c

Ski - Doo

6

5

5

 

Yuji Nakazawa

36

Yamaha

8

8

8

 

Joe Parsons

700

Polaris

4

6

6

 

Justin Tate

28

Ski - Doo

7

7

6

 

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