Kirk Hibbert is an Ultimate Sled Designer
By Scott A. Sumner
I always enjoy talking to veteran sled racer Kirk Hibbert and at the Duluth Snocross had the chance to sit down at lunch with this famour racer. The Arctic Cat Sno Pro machine looked pretty impressive at the season opener in Duluth.
"This is what we call the F chassis or the Firecat. The big change made was to move the driver forward to get through the corners better. Also the way the handlebar turns now the sled goes through the rough better," stated Kirk Hibbert. "The frame is the same as the Firecat. Well there is a lot of common things. The sled is performing very well. Our young sport riders are doing great."
Hibbert started making changes about a year ago on the Sno Pro. "I'm the design engineer for the race sled. I used to be the manager but that was too much. I didn't like it so Joey Hallstrom takes care of all the paperwork and beaucracy that I don't like doing. I just look after the development of the sled," says Hibbert. "A result of the race developments has been the consumer Firecat models and now the Sabercat line up. The F7 has constantly improved. It's a fun, aggressive sled which is very fast," said Hibbert. "The Ski Doo Rev works well also. We see what things work better and review it. We try things on mod sleds before we put them into production. It's possible we may see the new direct drive system on the race sled for next year," according to the 46 year old Kirk Hibbert. "We haven't done it yet but its a possibility. We work on that stuff all the time."
How is son Tucker doing?
"He's doing fine. He had a ACL problem for 7 or 8 months but that is pretty much healed," says Kirk. Tucker is in California practicing and training for motocross. The 19 year old race sensation is scheduled to come out of retirement to race the X Games. "I don't know all the details, there are a lot of variables. We'll build a sled for him for the X Games but it is unlikely he will race more events."
"The new Arctic Cat racer is Shawn Crapo. He is a good kid. I've known the family all my life. Their dad was racing snowmobiles. They are involved in an Arctic Cat dealership." says Hibbert. "I've watched Shawn for years. I like the way he rides. He is one of the few that can come up and bang around with Blair and Tucker." Kirk Hibbert has had a long race career with few injuries. "I've had a few but nothing that sidelined me for very long. I did have a shoulder and rib injury that took me out in 1986 for most of the season. It was in cross country. I tried to take down a tree and it didnt move." laughs Hibbert.
Kirk Hibbert doesnt ride too much at home as they don't have much snow or test tracks there. They do testing at the race sites normally. "I love my job. I can see my self doing it for quite a while. Ten years from now I may not be able to ride them as much but I have many other riders evaluating the sleds with me," says Hibbert.
Why did Arctic Cat go with a 13.5 inch track on many of its sleds versus Polaris 14 inch and Ski Doos 15 inch?
"We definiately build both. There are some advantages in weight, speed, fuel economy and traction in some snow conditions with a narrow track. It's not unlike a pick up truck with a narrow tire versus a big fat tire," says Hibbert. "In certain snow you might go wider but our footprints are pretty equal out there. The Firecat has proven to be very good."