After announcing this summer that it would no longer field a factory snocross team, Yamaha now has eliminated its snowmobile race department.
Yamaha laid off its snowmobile race department employees Nov. 16. Those affected include former Race Manager Gordy Muetz, Snocross Team Manager Chad Johnson and Mechanic Brian Straswell.
“It didn’t really make much sense to have a snocross race (department) when we don’t race snocross,” said Snowmobile Product Manager Mike Doughty. “It doesn’t change anything for grass drags (or some other disciplines).”
Doughty said Yamaha will stay in snowmobile racing in different disciplines. But, at this time a full Yamaha factory-backed snocross race team and department is out of the picture. For now, Doughty said he will head up the racing effort.
With the release of its RX-1 four-stroke snowmobile, it has been difficult to find a place to race it due to the rules, he said. Muetz added that while other manufacturers make race-specific snocross sleds, Yamaha doesn’t, which makes it difficult to race.
Doughty said the grass drag team will continue, and they plan to run the Iron Dog in Alaska in February. Doughty said they are talking to some enduro teams, as well.
For Muetz, who has worked at Yamaha for nearly 32 years, the timing worked out. He was planning on retiring soon anyway.
“For me, it worked out perfectly,” Muetz said. “Racing’s for the younger guys. It was time. It wasn’t for Chad or Brian. I’ve been around racing since 1964. It’s time to do other things. We’ve been planning on this day. It just came a little bit sooner.”
Muetz said he plans to head south for the winter. But will he return to racing?
“I don’t see myself getting back into racing,” said Muetz, who was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall Of Fame in January. “I have no intentions of going to work soon.”
Although Yamaha has eliminated its snocross program and race department, it doesn’t mean that the manufacturer is abandoning snocross racing altogether, Doughty said.
“It’s the end of snocross racing right now,” he said. “We think that snocross racing is a big part of snowmobiling. Hopefully, we’ll be back when we have a product we can showcase. Hopefully, the rules will change so everybody can participate.”
Ed DeVault Remembered
Ed DeVault, an Arctic Cat oval racer from Cottage Grove, Wisc., died Nov. 14 due to injuries sustained in a snowmobile racing crash last January. He was 38. DeVault raced snowmobiles for many years along with his brother, Dan. While he was known for racing Arctic Cats, he also had a stint racing Yamaha snowmobiles. He had a successful snowmobile racing career, and was always tough to beat. He is survived by his wife, Kim; four children, Cassidy, Megan, Nathan and Kailey.
Copyright 2003 Powersports Business