EDITOR’S NOTE: We are finally out of the grip of winter, but that doesn’t mean that the tracks stop running for those who are in the snowmobile realm. This past February, the Karpik brothers of Eveleth were honored with being the first time three of the same family were inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, Wisconsin. There are several brothers who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, yet with Randy’s February 18, 2023, induction, the three Karpik brothers stand alone with this great honor. Gerard Karpik was a 1994 inductee and David Karpik was a 1996 inductee.
Randy Karpik’s Hall of Fame profile reads: “With a skill set that includes mechanic, research and development, and management, Randy Karpik contributed to the success of factory Ski-Doo and Yamaha efforts and countless racers including Gerard Karpik, Toni Haikonen, Chris Vincent, and many others. His engineering and tuning acumen resulted in numerous championships including ICCSF Championships in 1979 and 1980; the Eagle River Pro Stock Champion in 1982 and 1985; five consecutive FIA World Snocross Championships (1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995); two-time Canterbury Super Enduro Champion; and an MRP Snocross Championship in 1997.”
Snowmobiling has been, and continues to be, a huge part of the Karpik brothers’ lives. Starting with recreational riding at a young age, their passion evolved into riding on a professional level and then into creating a business–TeamFAST, Inc. in Eveleth. Following is David Karpik’s account of the process that led to where they are today in the snowmobiling world. –Kirsten Reichel, Staff Writer
What got you and your brothers into snowmobiling and how old were you when you first started riding?
Like many, we raced anything and everything against anybody as kids. Even though we were born and raised in Eveleth, we got our first taste of snowmobiling on Scorpions in the Staples, Minnesota area in about 1962 when our dad was commissioned to get the heavy equipment school up and running.
Our uncle Joe had become a Ski-Doo dealer in early 1960, so by 1966 we had our first snowmobiles and we have been hooked ever since. We started riding by about the ages of 10 to 14-yearsold on Scorpions and then Ski-Doos.
At what point did you get into the race circuit and how did that evolve?
Though we followed snowmobile and dirt bike racing through magazines and such, it was in 1971-1972 the oldest brothers, Stephen and Gerard, purchased 340cc and 292cc Ski-Doo Blizzards (racing sleds) respectively. From that point we each began racing dirt bikes and snowmobiles. Though our racing days are behind us we continue to enjoy both activities.
What type of racing were you involved in?
Ovals is where most racing was happening and that is where we started— although Gerard and Randy broke off into cross-country and Snocross racing for Mercury and Ski-Doo factories in the mid-1970s. I continued in oval racing with Ski-Doo and Scorpion factories beginning the 1977-1978 season.
What prompted you and your family to begin building suspension systems?
At the factory racing level there was a saying, “Win on Sunday and you have a job on Monday.” Though that was a big motivator; we truly were immersed in snowmobiles and motocross racing even without that incentive.
We built our first round of M-10s specifically for Ski-Doo racers in Finland and Sweden, and then for Ski-Doo owners here in North America. At that time Polaris was number one in the industry and their customers flocked to us improve their rides, which we did.
In the early 1990s, the M-10 suspension changed snowmobiling forever! (Not hyperbole–industry fact.)
Eventually, while racing for the factories like Ski-Doo, Scorpion and Yamaha, we were provided the opportunity to design and build an entire race chassis, which includes the front and rear suspension systems for the respective racing disciplines.
We hit the scene at the right time as there were a lot of unknowns in chassis and suspension design then.
With nearly free rein, this became our extended education and we looked largely to motocross and Formula One auto racing to forge new ideas and direction. Mind you, we had a great manual arts training program in Eveleth and we put it to good use—all of it.
After a number years at factory level racing, these positions and support were abandoned. That’s when Randy and Gerard started TeamFAST, Inc. I joined some years later.
We knew there was more work to be done and the Big-4 [Polaris, Yamaha, Ski-Doo and Artic Cat] simply had not seen or addressed the opportunities out there.
This eventually led to our own drive to bring forth true long-travel, 10-plus inches of travel with the M-10® suspension when industry was four to six-inch tops. This was monumental, and it was some later before the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] jumped in the game.
Are people able to purchase your suspension to customize their own sleds?
Yes. There were times when we produced over 75 suspensions a day. Those were busy times in the industry.
This was in the mid-to-late 1990s when snowmobiling was flourishing and there were no other solutions—not even from the factories.
Today, the stock suspension systems are much better than they were, but we can still get more out of the snowmobile than the Big-4 OEMs with our products. So, yes, we continue to build suspensions to improve comfort, control and cornering.
We also make our own sled. It’s called the BLADE®.
Since we designed and built cross-country, Snocross and oval racers for other OEMs, we thought we needed to do it for ourselves as well.
Today, every snowmobile uses our technology in its core chassis and suspension systems designs. Mass centralization, rigid chassis, low center of gravity, and long travel suspensions were at our core and are now pretty much mimicked throughout industry today.
We began selling BLADEs for around $18,000 in 1999-2000 with our best year being 2003-2004 when we built over 250.
BLADEs are still built today, though in much smaller numbers. The BLADE’s mechanical advantage remains in snowmobiling, whereas no matter your riding or skill level, it elevates your control, comfort and confidence.
In the late 1990s, BLADE changed snowmobiling forever! (Not hyperbole– recognized as fact.)
In what areas did you all race?
We’ve competed pretty much wherever there was a race. All over the U.S., Canada and the Scandinavian countries. And if we didn’t, someone else competed with our products in just about every snowmobile racing discipline there was.
Do you still ride for leisure?
Yes, we ride all the time, though it seems we’re too busy in early-mid season for joy rides. That happens late February, March and April. We were still riding on April 11.
What led to you and your brothers being inducted into the hall of fame?
Each of us has been involved in racing and design for the majority of our adult lives. We’ve either won or built winning snowmobiles for the factories and ourselves in just about every form of racing.
Also, bringing long travel in the early ‘90s and then introducing the BLADE in the later ‘90s impacted the entire industry, shaping the industry today.
The M-10 suspension system was awarded the “Aftermarket Product of the Century.” The BLADE later introduced so many new designs and attributes that every snowmobiler and snowmobile manufacture has benefited from our team’s work.
Is there a younger generation of Karpiks who ride? Being competitive in racing is a full-time job and I personally didn’t encourage my two girls to race. However, my nephews Ryan Greening and Luc Karpik did compete successfully.
I have been involved in several different levels of racing that include
Indy car, snowmobiles,
ATVs, and dirt bikes.
Racing has been in our genes from the early days and it still drives us today.
We’ve also been involved in automotive, ATV, side-by-side and motorcycle design over the years.
I’ve been asked many times, “How does it feel knowing your family and team impacted the entire industry?” My answer, “It makes me feel like the Merritt Brothers [of the Iron Range]. I’m very proud of my brothers and our team at TeamFAST!
TeamFAST Inc. is located at 201 Jackson St. in Eveleth. For more information, visit teamfast.com or call 218- 744-2101.
Leave a Reply