Sunday, September 11, 2011

ECS Reflections: Ackerman, George on the fast track

As we approach the 2011-12 snocross season, I find myself reflecting on all the changes this sport has endured in the last decade. Sleds have advanced by leaps and bounds, riders that were stars in 2001 are long gone and have been replaced at the top by a fresh crop of talent.

Among the list of rising stars are two longtime veterans of northeastern regional snocross competition who now find themselves in an interesting position — as the Pro division riders for one of the most respected teams in the pit area.

I’m referring to Chris Ackerman, of Jericho, VT, and Mike George, of Pine Plains, New York. As the East Coast Snocross (ECS) circuit prepares for its second season, Ackerman and George are gearing up to compete in the Pro classes for Ingles Performance, based in Phoenix, New York.

It’s no secret that Robin & Mike Ingles run a solid organization, are well-connected with Ski-doo and have vast knowledge of how a successful team is run. Last winter, Quebec native Mathieu Morin won both the Pro Stock and Open titles aboard Ski-doo sleds fielded by Ingles Performance. Morin has since signed with BOSS Racing to compete on the ISOC circuit.

For Ackerman, who also operates 139 Designs and does a fabulous job with graphics, the chance to join this prestigious team was pretty much a no-brainer. When another deal he was pursuing turned out to be far less lucrative than it appeared, he wisely called Ingles to accept their offer.

“I’m more than excited about racing for the Ingles team this season,” the Vermont native said via telephone Sunday night on his way back from Hay Days. “They have a rock-solid team with a proven track record.”

Ackerman rode an Arctic Cat in ECS Semi-Pro classes (now known as Pro Lite) last winter for Nate Tatro’s Green Mountain Racing squad, and ran a Polaris prior to that. The 2011-12 season will be his first aboard a Ski-doo, but he doesn’t seem too worried about the transition. He had several great runs last season en route to second overall in points behind champion Jacob Muller.

“Even though I’ve never raced one before, I love Ski-doo’s new 600RS and feel I can adapt to it pretty quickly. It’s got tons of power and a world-class suspension, so I can’t wait to hit the throttle and see that green flag. I’ll be gunning to make both Ski-doo and my team owners proud on the ECS circuit this winter.”

George has been at this sport since the age of 10 when he first jumped onto a 380cc fan-cooled machine. Out most of last season with a torn ACL, the gifted young athlete is fully healed and ready to get back on the sleds.

“It was frustrating siting out so much of last season after the injury,” George said. “Yet it gave me new perspective, it made me appreciate my involvement in snocross and gives me new incentive to excel this coming winter. Racing for Ingles and Ski-doo is an honor, I’ve been training since early August and will be striving for solid finishes from Burke Mountain to Pico.”

And so, these two young yet highly experienced racers will head back to the gym Monday with a sense of dedication, a sense of pride. You can hear it clearly in their voices — they’ll put pressure on themselves to run well all season, because they take this sport so seriously. I admire their skills and commitment, so let’s wish them both good luck and success in the new season.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Look: 2012 Factory Race Sleds

Every year as the mighty Hay Days rolls around out in Minnesota, those of us who live for snowmobiles and snocross starting frothing at the gills for pictures of the new sleds.

For 2011-12, all three of the major manufacturers that actively participate in snocross have released what are arguably the most technically advanced machines ever produced.  Ready to hit the tracks this winter are:

From Ski-doo, the beautiful 600RS with its REV XP chassis and Rotax engine. You can bet pilots like Renaud Alexandre, Michael George and Chris Ackerman will be rocket-fast on these gems. The folks at Polaris have unveiled their sexy new buggy - a red, white and blue 600R number that is sure to have guys like Ross Martin rarin' to go.

Yet without question the most anticipated snowmobile in recent history was uncrated at Hay Days today - the mighty Arctic Cat Sno Pro 600. Green on one side, white on the other, and built on the all-new and MUCH lighter, repeat - slimmed down big-time, ProCross chassis. I can guarantee that the big dogs racing Cats here in the East (Matt Piche, for one) are super-stoked to go racing aboard this smokin' new Cat.

And so, I'll post photos stolen from various locations of these gorgeous new beauties for others to enjoy. My first up-close look at these machines will be October 7-8 in Fremont, N.H., at the famed NHSA Grass Drags and Watercross.

I'm sure ECS will have a booth there - so stop by and say "hey."  And be SURE to grab a schedule for the 2011-12 season - it's gonna be huge!