Here they are, sledRacer.com’s Top 11 snocross riders for the 2009-2010 race season. Why 11? We wanted it to be a nice round number like 10 but we figured hey, why not make this one go to 11? Plus, we’re just not very good with numbers. With a fresh crop of Semi-Pro riders moving into the Pro class and a fair amount of veteran riders switching teams and brands, it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top this year. But there are still some sure bets you can stake your money on. Of course, betting is illegal, so we don’t condone that. Anyway, read on and see who we think will come out on top in ’09-’10.
11. Iain Hayden
Home: Espanola, Ontario
We have to throw Iain Hayden in the mix since he will be the sole Yamaha rider fans will see in the Pro class at ISOC Nationals. Though he won’t run a full schedule, watch for him to be a factor at the events his team chooses to run. With Yamaha’s old Open class sleds and all factory restrictions lifted on what the team can do, Hayden should find success. Some fans might remember Hayden was so close to a win at the ISOC Hayward National last year he could damn near smell it. His sled has the power and he has more than enough ability to win.
10. Cory Davis
Home: Soldotna, AK
Making the move to the Pro class for this season is Alaska native Cory Davis. Davis is the son of Team Arctic cross-country rider Scott Davis and brings a well-rounded resume with him that includes freeriding and cross-country. He won the Semi-Pro Stock points last season and at many events was blazing fast. Some success was stifled by mechanicals, like when he was leading at Canterbury last year and his chain broke. In many ways a throwback to the old-school racer mindset, Davis brings loads of natural talent, a confident attitude and the ability to win anywhere, anytime.
9. Steve Taylor
Home: Prince George, B.C.
After riding for Yamaha the past two seasons, Steve Taylor is back on Ski-Doo and riding for Warnert Racing. A rider who saw much success behind the bars for Blair Morgan Racing Team, he fought frustration and many ups and downs on the blue team. A hard-working rider who is always fit, Taylor is a factor no matter what he rides. Often a rider of opportunity, watch for him to run at the front at some point this season.
8. Robbie Malinoski
Home: Lino Lakes, MN
Four seasons ago Robbie Malinoski was preparing to head to Duluth and race an Arctic Cat. The next year he rode Yamaha, the last two years he’s ridden Ski-Doo. This year Malinoski is giving Polaris a shot. As the newest rider for Scheuring Speed Sports, Malinoski has some big shoes to fill after long-time rider D.J. Eckstrom was let go. Scheuring also let the ultra-talented Shaun Crapo go, a rider who won the Pro Stock final at the New York race last season. A lot is expected of Malinoski by his team, but with two Pro points titles to his name and as the only rider ever to win a Pro Open National race on a four-stroke, Malinoski brings some big shoes of his own. He will win, it’s a just a question of when and where.
7. Garth Kaufman
Home: Alta, WY
Garth Kaufman pursues the points titles with single-minded determination. He rides fast, predictable and controlled. Kaufman’s never going to make your jaw drop tripling some downhill, but at the end of the day he’s usually standing somewhere on the podium. His persistence resulted in a fourth place finish in Pro Open points and a second place finish in Pro Stock. In Vegas they’d call Kaufman a safe bet.
6. Ryan Simons
Home: Camrose, AB
The second highest-ranked Arctic Cat rider choice depends on what you rate higher – points finishes or race wins. We go with race wins and that means Ryan Simons gets the nod. Fearless and blazing fast, Simons will set the pace if he gets the chance. As likely to crash as he is to win, Simons attacks the track and tends to ride with his thumb. What he lacks in finesse he makes up for in sheer determination to win.
5. T.J. Gulla
Home: South Hero, VT
The lowest-ranked rider in the group of Polaris racers is veteran T.J. Gulla. To rank someone of his caliber this low is almost an insult, but it’s also indicative of the talent found on the Polaris team. Perhaps one of the most intense riders on the ISOC National circuit, Gulla takes a blue collar approach to the sport. Gulla almost never has an “off” day, but with his veteran status comes wisdom and he knows when to attack and when to back off. He will make the most of everything that comes to him and rarely makes mistakes.
4. Ross Martin
Home: Pleasant Prairie, WI
Ross Martin is coming off his second injury-plagued season. Two years ago he entered the season at Duluth and tweaked an already worn-out shoulder. Last year he came back to Duluth with a surgically-repaired shoulder courtesy of the doctors at the Mayo clinic (yes, that Mayo clinic) which left his wing joint better than what it was when he was born. Mid-way through the season at Winter X he mis-timed a jump and crashed, injuring his hips and pelvis. With a handful of points championships and even more race wins, Martin has proven he can be the man to beat. But is he still?
3. Levi LaVallee
Home: Longville, MN
How do you top a double backflip? And before you say anything, yes, he landed it. Well, landed it enough for us, anyway. Maybe his racing was overshadowed by his performance in the Best Trick comp at Winter X last year, but you can’t look past LaVallee’s Pro Stock points title. He’s always been fast, but he’s also always been a loose cannon. Last year Levi did what everyone had been waiting for him to and raced fast, controlled and with authority. Where once he was a sure bet to crash out of whatever heat he was in, he’s now one of the guys to beat.
2. Brett Bender
Home: Boston, NY
While there are more obvious choices for the No. 2 rider on this list, we’re going with sophomore Pro rider Brett Bender. Bender snuck up on the field last year and nearly took the Pro Open points title, winning three races (Valcourt, Hayward, Geneva) in the process. Bender benefits from having one of the best snowmobile minds in the world, Tim Bender, as his father and crew chief. Bender exhibits a super-smooth riding style and often doesn’t look like he’s going as fast as he is until he’s in front of you. We think he’s just getting started.
Home: Goodridge, MN
Unbeaten in almost two years, Tucker Hibbert is hands-down the rider everyone has their sights set on coming into Duluth. Despite not racing a full season last year, don’t think the rest of the riders in the Pro class aren’t paying attention to the 68’s results. Hibbert enters every season in top physical condition and straddles an Arctic Cat that is prepped by his father, Kirk, one of the top snowmobile engineers in the world. Throw a ton of natural ability and a huge desire to win into the formula and it definitely makes Hibbert the top snocross rider in the world and the one to beat.