Kevin Shaw: Printing Your Own Money


MONEY

Last night, as I perused my seemingly endless news feed of Facebook posts, Instagram pics, Tweets and emails, I stopped and grinned at a small, grainy picture of an engine compartment. Filling nearly every available centimeter of space inside of a Krash Industries’ Footrocket, was a three-cylinder 900cc Rotax motor pulled from a Sea-Doo Spark. All of the factory wiring harness, linkage and hardware were present too. Obviously, changes were made to the air intake and exhaust plumbing, but for the most part, everything shown looked deceptively factory BRP.

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It was bound to happen, and now the first successful installation of a Sea-Doo Spark’s ACE 900 4-stroke has now found a home in a lightweight Krash Industries’ Footrocket.

The post on the Krash Industries’ Facebook feed was captioned, “I know a lot of people have talked about this but it’s finally been done. Joe Grace has successfully fitted out a Footrocket with the ACE 900 Sea-Doo Spark running gear; could this be the solution to 2-stroke stand up emission problems?”

And yes, the team at Krash are exactly right on both accounts: the discussion of the ACE motor being shoehorned into a modern standup ski has been bandied about since the Rec Lite Runabout’s introduction; and yes, having these motors made available to the aftermarket ski builders would immediately resolve the standup’s emission issues.

Currently, BRP maintains an Inboard Jet Propulsion System “Power Pack” package for boat builders, offering them complete powertrain packages consisting of a the 4-TEC 1503 engine, controls, fuel and jet pumps, along with the exhaust, electrical, propulsion and cooling systems.

These comprehensive packages are generated out of BRP’s Marine Propulsion Systems division in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, formerly the Outboard Engine division. Unfortunately, only the 1.5L Rotax package (in addition to Evinrude outboard engines) are the only powerplants available through this program.

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The Rotax ACE 900 comes in either 60 or 90HP configurations. At 899cc, this four-stroke engine, with three cylinders and four valves per cylinder, is one of the most compact and lightweight engines on the market. Using BRP’s Advanced Combustion Efficiency technology, it’s also the most fuel-efficient watercraft engines in the industry.

This program was put into effect shortly after BRP announced the closure of its Sea-Doo jet boat line, and has been successful in maintaining BRP in the boating industry. But, the absence of the ACE 900 is an audible one for the many (and I mean many) aftermarket ski builders, from custom hull designers and shapers like Krash Industries, Trinity, RRP, Bullett Racing, and Hurricane Industries (not to mention several others), to performance tuner shops.

This time last year, we discussed the very idea of an ACE-powered standup ski with multi-time world champion and custom ski builder Craig Warner while touring the new Mountain Motorsports facility in Lithia Springs. “I think it’s a solid engine. It’s lightweight, compact, makes good power and is 50-state legal,” Warner explained. “The problem is that they won’t sell me one. I asked and they said I’d have to buy a Spark and gut it. That’s out of the question.”

The fact is that while there’s demand for custom-built standup skis, the quantity isn’t likely enough to quantify BRP rethinking the ACE’s inclusion in the Power Pack program. Warner estimated that even with the Spark engine, his company, WWR Products would move little over a handful of units a year. Larger volume makers like Rick Roy Products (RRP) and Krash Industries might help sway Sea-Doo’s parent company, but again, we’re looking at a very niche industry wherein an estimated 150-200 custom hulls are built in a year (less than half that of Yamaha’s SuperJet sales domestically).

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Currently, the only way aftermarket hull makers and standup ski tuners are able to get their hands on a Rotax ACE 900 is to extract one from a Spark. Were BRP to offer the ACE 900 as a crate motor through their Power Pack program, it is very likely that a new swathe of standup riders could take to the water with Sea-Doo powered skis.

Yet, playing both sides of the argument, Sea-Doo has never been one to shy away from outright dominance of a small market. The 3-D and even the RXP-X are illustrations of BRP’s boldness in this matter. In drawing back the red velvet ropes surrounding the ACE and including it as part of a Power Pack package, and most importantly, letting the aftermarket hull builders and tuners purchase it in small quantities, could not only immediately ingratiate Sea-Doo to the standup ski family (a market they’ve never successfully infiltrated) but all but certainly purchase them even more desirable market share.

Thankfully, the Spark was a runaway hit, so current demand is high. Consequently, production numbers are expected to handily eclipse 2014’s. That of course, means that Rotax will be ramping up ACE 900 production for 2015 as well. It is difficult to imagine an extra 100-to-150 units upsetting the production schedule, and thereby satisfy a burgeoning demand for a small, lightweight 4-stroke engine.

Recently, amendments to the IJSBA rule book now allow for completely original hull and deck designs for certain Pro Ski classes. Although Sea-Doo won’t be developing it’s own ski, there is little stopping the OE manufacturer from taking home a litany of World Championships in Pro Ski and Freestyle classes. Again, opening up ACE 900 Power Packs to the aftermarket won’t make BRP rich, but it will win them an audience they’ve never had before.

Go Get Wet,
Kevin

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Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – kevin.shaw@shawgroupmedia.com Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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