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Industry Insider: Sylvain Laflamme

Rider, racer and innovator!
RELATED TOPICS: RACING | SNOWMOBILE RACING | SKI-DOO
Sylvain Laflamme
What does it take, to be a snowmobile industry insider? Most often it’s a love of snowmobiles and the sled community. Often times it is hard work over a lot of years, other times it is luck … but most often it is a combination of all these things. Throughout the AmSnow travels, we meet hundreds of intensely interesting folks and we ask them their stories. Sylvain Laflamme of Sherbrooke, Quebec is one of these people. This is just part of his exciting snowmobile industry insider story.

■ Where to begin
As many kids who grew up in the 1970s and 80s, Sylvain started snowmobiling at an early age, 9, after his dad took their neighbors’ sled for a first-time ride and took him along.

“I was hooked!” said Laflamme. His dad bought a 1970 Ski-Doo Olympique and a 399 TNT. “Those were simple, good, fun times and really solidified my love for the sport of snowmobiling. We rode every weekend back then and there were a lot of local races which really got my attention. I got literally every magazine I could on racing at the time.”

One weekend his Dad brought him to watch the races in Lancaster, N.H, where all the big names were. He ended up meeting Yvon Duhamel, even shaking his hand. That was it for him, like meeting Richard Petty or something! Laflamme decided right there he was going to be a snowmobile racer. As the years went by, snowmobiling became Laflamme’s winter life, all through school. By the early 80s, Laflamme really wanted to start oval racing, which is when he bought his first “racing” sled, a 1975 Moto Ski Sonic TS.

“I loaded that sled up and took off, by myself, to go racing in the NASRA circuit of New England. With no ice experience, it was quite the learning curve! I’ve never had so much snow dust in my goggles!” said Laflamme. But he remembers that he had the desire and a good attitude, and met some great people who helped him out including Lanny Benoit, Wayne Nicholson, Bob Roystan, and many others.

The following year, Laflamme bought his first real race sled, a 1981 Ski-Doo Formula 2, and put a Pro Sprint motor in it. At the time, this was a growing race class because it was cheaper to run and a blast to drive. Laflamme kept up on “the fast guys on this circuit, and read about Brad Hulings in publications like AmSnow and Snow Week, always talking about clutching.” That’s where Laflamme got his interest in the technical side of the sport and began to build his knowledge base and continually try new things.
Sylvain Laflamme
In the mid-80s Laflamme was riding high, winning many races and championships, and made the finals at Eagle River. He also won the class at the Grand Prix of Valcourt, one of his biggest achievements.

“I was getting burned out from all the work and traveling involved with racing, and decided to take a break. After a two-year hiatus, I missed racing too much and started to try grass dragging,” said Laflamme of his career in the late-80s. It was a lot of work, because of the fall temps, but not as difficult to test and travel. Laflamme was in the grass drag scene until 2011, and remembers being able to appreciate the great years of the stock class. Throughout those years there was a lot of excitement involved with factory support, high racer counts and great purses. During this time, Laflamme concentrated on clutching and the amazing gains to be found in that department.

“I put the time in, and got pretty good at it!” said Laflamme. “I had some great years racing in Quebec, but when circuit was sold, I went on to the bigger races in New England.” But his happiest racing moment came when he and his crew from Colebrook, N.H. went to the Sno Bash race in Ohio, N.Y., and won the Bashmaster in their first try. “I was ecstatic!” he said.

■ Not just a snowmobile racer
Laflamme was a logger by trade, and in 2004 it wasn't going so well. Laflamme took his racing knowledge and began to apply it to trail riding.

“I was seeing more and more demand for trail riders looking for improvements and seeing ads for clutch kits,” said Laflamme. “I was sure I could design some good, reliable trail kits as I’ve always ridden a decent amount of miles. I knew what people were looking for, so I bit the bullet and started my own clutch business, Laflamme Racing.”
Sylvain Laflamme
Laflamme got in at the right time because Internet technology was really beginning to make it easier to advertise and create exposure all over the snow belt and even in Europe. Things went well for him from the beginning.

“I got the chance to be the Canadian race representative for a stud company and Dayco hired me to help them develop a belt for Ski-Doo, which we sell our own line of Laflamme Racing belts by Dayco, with all of our kits,” said Laflamme. His goal has always been to sell a kit that’s easy to install, easy to adjust, and gives a good improvement over stock. Simple goals with positive results, he knew that would sell.

Both AmSnow and Laflamme agree that with modern sleds, clutching is the best bang for the buck. We talk to Laflamme often and he is a success story. “Things are working out well as this is my full-time job, and I love every minute of it!” he said. “As much as the hours can be long, it makes things a bit easier for me as I ride A LOT of miles every winter, so I can see and feel the improvements. I think we have a good feeling for what the customers are looking for.”

After racing for 35+ years, Laflamme decided to try something different. “I had always wanted to try cross country racing, and in 2013, on the USCC East circuit, I tried it and immediately fell in love with that type of racing! To me, it is the most true, pure racing there is and more closely relates performance to consumer trail sleds than anything else.” And he has had good luck with cross country racing in New England (now RMR XC). If you are out there, you will notice that Laflamme is continuously testing and developing products for trail riders, and always on Ski-Doo!

Sylvain Laflamme is a great resource and doesn’t mind talking to people one-on-one. We admire that at AmSnow. “You never know where or how your snowmobile journey will go, but it’s been very enjoyable from day one, and I’m hoping and looking forward to many more years doing this job that I enjoy and appreciate so much.” Well said, Mr. Laflamme!

Want more?
For more info on Laflamme Racing products visit www.laflammeracing.com
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