By: Robert Janis
A Q&A with Eric Nault
Nault is the product and racing manager for
He takes time to talk to ATVSource.com about the
company’s racing team
Although Eric Nault, product manager and race
team manager for Polaris Industries, is not a
racer himself, he has been involved with putting
together work/office teams, not unlike race
teams, as an engineer.
ATVSource: What is your background in ATV
Nault: I don’t race if that’s what you mean, but
I am an enthusiast who does a considerable
amount of riding on Polaris products. I have a
BS degree in engineering, and I have been
working at Polaris for over six years. I worked
in design, product development and then got an
advanced degree in business administration (MBA)
that got me to the position at corporate that I
have today. Now I am in charge of Polaris
product management for our Outlaws ATVs, our
youth products, our military product, and I am
in charge of the corporate racing effort.
ATVSource: What does a product manager do?
Nault: What a product manager does is determine
the long-range plans for products. It is the
opposite side of design. I work with customers
in the field and deliver specifications for the
future products that will be designed and
manufactured at Polaris. My prior experience in
racing is that I was involved with racing with
Polaris by supporting teams from a technical
standpoint and most recently from corporate
ATVSource: When did you become head of the
Nault: December 1st of 2008.
ATVSource: How long has Polaris had a racing
Nault: Since 2003.
ATVSource: How do you develop and create a team?
Nault: Racing is definitely big for enthusiasts.
But from a corporate standpoint we like to find
industry representatives -- racers -- to
represent and instill the credibility and
reliability of the consumer products that we
sell. So the objective is to find those industry
leaders like Darrell Rath, Doug Eichner, and
William Yokley. With our current teams we have
great representation in the Midwest, East Coast,
and West Coast. Winning is certainly important,
but winning isn’t everything when you are trying
to build a new program. We may or may not win
championships next season, but the important
fact is that these professional racers believe
in our products. They want to race our products
and no marketing materials or representative
from Polaris can do as much to penetrate into
the consumer and amateur riding community more
than an industry leader like the racers we have
ATVSource: What events will the Polaris team be
racing in for 2009?
Nault: WORCS, on the west coast; ITP Quad-Cross,
on the west coast; AMA/ATV Motocross Series;
AMA/GNCC Series; and regional events like the
New England ATV Association Regional Series. We
also do a ton of racing in Europe. We’ve won a
number of championships over there.
ATVSource: What about desert racing? Do you get
involved in that?
Nault: Like Best in the Desert and SCORE?
Nault: We offer a contingency for that, but we
are trying to build a strong team for 2009. When
I took this job in September, I inherited most
of what was set up. So my work will be displayed
in 2009. We are trying to focus on the most
impact series--those with the most entries, the
most press coverage--and those end up being
WORCS, Motocross National, and the GNCC. Those
are the top three series that we compete in.
There may be times when guys on the team who
live on the west coast like Doug Eichner will
race in a SCORE or Best in the Desert event just
on an exhibition standpoint.
ATVSource: You mentioned that the
Outlaw was one of Polaris’ ATVs that will be
raced. What other Polaris ATVs will be raced?
Nault: We are going to race our new Sportsman
850XP and the Polaris Ranger RZR side-by-side.
ATVSource: Side-by-side racing is kind of new?
Nault: Yes. That’s pretty ingrained in the
desert racing series. There is definitely
involvement in the Best in the Desert with that
particular product. But the RZR also competes in
the WORCS Series. We won that National
Championship. We also won a National
Championship at the GNCC with a side-by-side
ATVSource: Why were those models chosen to race?
Nault: The Outlaw is self-explanatory. The sport
quad is one of the most popular products in ATV
racing. We see an emergence in popularity
particularly supported by the sanctioning bodies
in the sport utility class as well (4x4 ATVs).
The WPSA and GNCC series most notably have
created this popularity. In 2008 the WPSA was
shut down but their quad train challenge was
some of the fastest growing racing out there. We
were definitely geared up in 2008 to compete in
the WPSA series. But the series went under. I
don’t know if there is going to be a new quad
train challenge in 2009, but that is how we got
into racing utilities. So we transferred that
effort to the GNCC. The side-by-side is based on
the popularity and sales of that product and the
sanctioning bodies have embraced that customer,
and that is also a new customer coming to the
races. The RZR and the new Sportsman are two
really hot products and obviously you want to
pick high performance products when you are
ATVSource: How do you recruit your racers?
Nault: I have a lot of experience in building
teams from when I worked in engineering. It is
kind of like a job interview. When I recruited
the riders for the 2009 series that I wanted to
work with, I looked at it like a job interview.
I told them about Polaris. Instead of e-mailing
them and talking to them on the phone, I invited
the most highly respected guys to the company. I
showed them our manufacturing facilities. I
showed them that we were proud to be an American
company. I told them what we could offer them as
a manufacturer and what they probably wouldn’t
get from any other manufacturer. And I told them
what our goals are for racing. Then I screened
the guys and talked to them on a personal level
and found out what their goals were. We looked
at the results that they had in past years. As I
said, it’s like an interview process for a job.
ATVSource: Do you use racers in the Polaris R&D
Nault: Yes, very much so. I have such close ties
with engineering, and I worked in engineering
for so long. The integral part of racing is
bringing the learning from the racers and
putting it into the products. You see that in
the 2009 products that we worked on like the
Outlaw. It is very much design changes based on
racer input over the last couple of years. Our
racers do lots of riding with our engineers and
product management people. We evaluate products
based on racing prior to production. We ask our
racers to run factory concept products in their
races and ask them to evaluate.
ATVSource: Do racers go to events to promote
Nault: Yes. They go to magazine shoots. They go
to our Dealer and District Sales and Managers’
meetings. They go to our press events. We invite
the press to certain locations every year where
we discuss our new products. We also involve our
racers in marketing materials.
ATVSource: Do they also visit Polaris dealers?
Nault: They are not required to go to dealers.
But they get to meet the dealers at the national
dealer sales meetings.
ATVSource: Can a dealer request a racer appear
at a special event at the dealership?
Nault: Yes. We’ve done that. It depends on the
size of the event and the logistics of where the
racers are at the time.
ATVSource: How would a dealer request a racer
Nault: Dealers are connected to the factory
through what we call district sales managers.
They are Polaris employees who are the pipeline
from the field to corporate. So dealers can work
with their district sales managers to arrange
ATVSource: Are there ATVs under development now
that will be used by the 2009 or the 2010 racing
Nault: There might be some specific parts that
we might be evaluating. But, there won’t be an
entirely new product. They got a new product.
With racing you are always trying out
experimental parts to get more performance and
eventually these parts are passed along to a
consumer model maybe a year later. But it is a
secret thing. People who come to the races
wouldn’t notice it.
ATVSource: What ATV features exist due to the
Nault: There are certain extreme application
things like the way we design our radiator, some
of our cooling system products, some of the
electrical things and the ergonomics of the
vehicle. But you are not going to get all the
design input from a racer or customer. You may
get input in what needs to be designed into the
product. But the idea is to get that input, look
at it, consider the voice of the customer and
then put in what’s important. There are
certainly things that result from racing that
makes our products better.
ATVSource: How does a racer inquire about racing
Nault: We have an amateur racing program. Every
November-December we send out press releases
saying that we are looking for amateur riders.
There is an application that they need to fill
out which they can get at our website. I review
all of the applications and resumes and I make
the selections of who is part of our amateur
team for the next year. I don’t suggest anyone
contact me directly. As a member of the amateur
team, they get a discount on parts, contingency,
and a discount on ATVs. They can go to the
Polaris website (www.polarisind.com)
and click on “Customer Support” and then just
follow the racing links for more information.