With Öhlins Headquarters based in Sweden, it is safe to say the locals know a thing or two about cold weather and deep snow – which probably goes some way to explaining their domination our extremely successful showing at the 2014 FIM Snowcross World Championship!..
Now you might not have heard of Snowcross, (or Snocross as it is also known), before but these 170bhp, 209kg machines form one of the most adrenalin fuelled fields of motorsport in the world. Derived directly from the world of motocross – Snowcross is actually a hybrid of Snowmobile and Motocross – and similar to its two wheeled cousin, Snowcross sees competitors traverse a course consisting of tight turns, banked corners, obstacles and impressively steep jumps. However unlike motocross which is held on dirt, the course is made of compact snow and ice. Perhaps interestingly, many professional motocross riders frequently compete in Snowcross, seeing the sport as a very similar discipline.
Injuries from crashes are commonplace and while the course may be made from snow, it is heavily compacted making a far from soft landing! It is for this reason that competitors use heavy duty motocross body armour which is capable of withstanding the impact.
The FIM Snowcross World Championship held its inaugural competition back in 2004 and has since been held annually, with this year's event being held near Skellefteå in Northern Sweden. Continuing to grow year on year, the 2014 competition not only saw over seventy of the world's best Snowcross riders come head to head to compete for the title, but also the first ever FIM Women's Snowcross World Cup Final. It was a very special event for Öhlins, not only was it held in their native country but they secured all three podium spots in both the men's and women's categories!
There can be no denying that Snowcross is an extreme, sometimes dangerous sport. The 925 metre long course that made up the 2014 World Championship race consisted of an incredible 26 jumps, with the longest being over 10m! This adrenalin fuelled sport, coupled with the excitement of the racing saw some 25,000 fans flock to Sweden for the 2014 event.
What is a Snowcross machine though? Well, put simply it's a standard snowmobile that anyone can purchase and while these machines have been in existence since the 1960's, it was only in the last two decades that they've enjoyed a significant boost in both performance and design. Nowadays, the 'sleds' as they're known among fans vary between 2 and 4 stroke engines of 500-1200cc in size but the most common sleds are 4 stroke machines between 600-800cc producing in the region of 120bhp.
The stresses put upon the skis on a Snowcross machine is unique as there is quite a heavy weight going through these super manoeuvrable blades. Specialised snowmobile performance centres fit four Öhlins S46PR1C2 dampers, two in the 'buggy' and one on each ski up front.
Using a well proven mono-tube design with a separate gas pressure reservoir, the chosen shocks feature a large 46mm diameter piston with external high and low speed compression adjustors plus external rebound adjustment. These dampers they also use a snowmobile specific endcap that has an ice scraper lip.
For many people snowmobiles are a practical way of getting around during the winter months and there is an estimated 1.5 million registered 'sleds' in the world with 144,601 sold in 2013. However for the elite Snowcross riders, things are a little different as they tune their machines to reach an incredible 170bhp (with a 209kg weight!). There are many different versions of competitive snowmobiles, from the enduro and freestyle machines to drag racing monsters which can reach speeds of over 200mph!