Snowmobile Grass Drags: Local Racers to National Champs with Swain Coatings

There are a lot of glamorous, expensive, go-fast products on the market. Many racers are certain that these magic bolt-ons will make their sled the fastest on circuit.

But Dave Schmalenberg and Jay Lindmeyer have proven that expert shop work, protected by high tech coatings, can launch a four-year-old sled from local to national champion on a tight budget.

Rannow Brothers Racing, Glencoe, MN, has been the Stock drag team to beat on local circuits. But Bob, Eric, and Travis Rannow yearned for the same status nationally in the Improved Stock 1000 class. While bench racing between heats, they discussed with Schmalenerg and Lindmeyer how they could make the jump without breaking the bank.

Snowmobile Gass Drags Snowmobile Coated Engine Parts

During the off-season the Rannow brothers brought their Thundercat 900 to Schmalenberg Racing Service’s shop in Nisswa, MN, with orders to do whatever it takes to make the horsepower they need to win. To keep within the budgetary constraints, Dave and Jay retained the stock engine, replacing only the parts that were worn, broken or unable to stand up to the rigors of the competition they faced.

The folks at Schmalenberg bored, ported and balanced the engine and they shipped the pistons, cylinders and heads to Swain Tech Coatings for the ultimate in economical engine protection. Dan Swain’s technicians applied TBC™ (Thermal Barrier Coating) to the piston domes, exhaust ports and combustion chambers, PC-9™ friction reduction coatings to the piston skirts and FlowCoat™ to the intake ports. The severity of the use that the pistons would experience required PC-9 rather than the standard Poly Moly™ on the skirts. PC-9 is a heavy-duty, low friction, anti-seize coating that contains a higher percentage of tungsten and molydisulfide than Poly Moly, and a new polymer matrix holds the platelets in solid suspension.

The total cost of coating was less than $400, resulting in an excellent ratio of horsepower and reliability to dollars expended.

As the engine was being reassembled and tested, many jetting and timing adjustments were needed. The results were most interesting, and unexpected. As the carburetor was jetted down, the exhaust temperatures stayed the same while horsepower increased. The same phenomenon occurred when the timing was advanced-torque and horsepower went up while exhaust temperatures stayed the same. Schmalenberg attributes this to the coatings. On the dyno, the engine put out 242 hp at 9200 rpb and 138 foot pounds of torque at 8900 rpm.

After much suspension setup, the T-Cat was working well, so it was off to the test track. The average 60-foot time was 1.1 seconds, but the one second was broken in two runs. The 660 foot times were 5.75 seconds average, so everyone was happy.

Happiness soured a bit, however, when the sled went head to head against the best in real life racing in the Sourthern Minnesota Drag Series. In the first race, this powerhouse did nothing but break gears and chains and twist drive shafts. But the engine didn’t break and too much horsepower is a good problem.

Schmalenberg corrected the drive train problems by installing 15 wide gears and chain with titanium shafts, and the T-Cat stayed together and performed well for the rest of the season. In fact, it won high points champion in Improved Stock 1000, third in Pro Stock 1000 and second at the ISR World Series of Drag Racing, missing first by inches. When the season was over, the engine was torn down and there were no sign of detonation or other engine damage. The pistons looked new.

The Rannow brothers did their homework well. Rather than order an out-of-the box racing engine, or try building a race engine themselves, they turned the job over to a reputable shop to do what had to be done, while leaving enough money so that the brothers could afford to go racing after they had their competitive machine. Applying the knowledge they have gained over their many years of building race engines, Dave and Jay improved on what they had, rather than starting with a clean sheet of paper. They replaced only the parts that couldn’t withstand the rigors to which they would be subjected, reinforced those parts that needed added strength and “insured” their work with the original high tech coating to enhance performance, horsepower and durability.