The Snowmobile Hall of Fame Board of Directors welcomed New Hampshire snowmobile legends, Bill Bickford and John Hooper into the class of 2017, along with Burt Bassettand of Minnesota and Pat Hauck of Wisconsin.
In a decade of drag racing excellence that began in the mid-1990s, Bill Bickford of Epsom, New Hampshire, achieved a stunning record of wins and championship titles at the largest and most important events in North America. Racing for Ski-Doo, Bickford was a dominant force in Stock and Improved Stock categories at the most prestigious eastern and midwestern grass drag events and circuits.
Bickford began his career in 1982 as an oval racer out of his family’s Moto-Ski dealership. He developed into a top regional racer in the northeast, including winning the 1983 NESRA high-point championship title. A switch to drag racing in 1990 would prove fortuitous. In the span of a few years, Bickford went from winning local events to claiming state championship titles in New York and Maine, followed by regional championship titles throughout New England. Driven with a fiery competitiveness and aptitude for details, Bickford hit his stride in 1994 with an ISR World Series of Grass Drag win. His expertise and experience fused at the famed 1995 Hay Days grass drags, where in one stunning weekend he claimed the High Point Stock title; the East-West Shootout and the Minnesota Cup. It was the beginning of a remarkable run of success at the sport’s most important event during a period in which the industry had elevated grass drags to its highest pedestal.
Bickford would claim the Minnesota Cup again in 2000, as well as adding big wins at the New Hampshire Grass Drags, and multiple New England titles before retiring as a driver in 2001. His drag racing success continued as a team owner, sled builder and chief mechanic. With his Ski-Doo snowmobiles piloted by Chris Anderson, Bickford claimed the 2002 and 2003 Minnesota Cup, 2003 Canadian Grass Drag Championships and many dozens of individual class victories. Bickford retired his involvement from competition in 2006 to fully concentrate on the Ski-Doo dealership that he bought fromhis parents in 1998.
Racer, tuner, engineer and advocate for the growth and sustainability of snowmobile oval racing, John Hooper of Goshen, New Hampshire, impacted the sport of snowmobile oval racing at all levels and with profound success. As an engine and sled builder specializing in Arctic Cat, Hooper achieved seven Eagle River World Championship titles in the premier Champ 440 class in addition to hundreds of class wins and multiple high point championships. As an advocate for oval racing, he conceived and launched new classes of competition aimed at increasing participation.
Hooper was a top eastern racer in snow oval, drag and cross-country competition in the mid-1970s. When oval racing transitioned from snow to ice, Hooper transitioned to sled builder and tuner, starting with Keith Young in 1980. The formidable pair claimed multiple titles in NASRA and NESRA circuits – including five Mechanic of the Year awards – and capture several class wins at Eagle River. With no formal engineering education, Hooper applied his masters of ingenuity and experience to pioneer ideas that would be universally adopted in Champ, including the wide “safety” ski; pairing the fuel and slide lube tanks on the tunnel to aid in driver body support; the move to low, center-mounted heat exchangers rather than radiators; the development and adoption of shorter 106-inch tracks; and his patented set-screw style clutch weights.
Working with talented drivers, Hooper’s innovative engineering and pioneering sled building resulted in seven World Championship titles: three with P.J. Wanderscheid; two with Gary Moyle; one with Larry Day; and one with Nick Van Strydonk. Hooper has also built race and championship winning engines for Brian Sturgeon, Blair Morgan, Eric Nicholson, Dan and Ed DeVault, Phil Moulton and Aaron Fellows. Additionally, his engines have garnered wins in many of the premier drag race events in North America, and the Predator big bore cylinder kits of his own design are legendary among high performance riders and racers.
While Hooper’s engineering and tuning expertise made him one of the most successful builders in a generation, it was his advocacy and vision to create and nurture new classes in oval racing that will define his legacy. He conceived, cultivated and sourced sponsor support to launch the Formula 500 and Outlaw classes, each of which helped grow grassroots interest and accessibility to oval racing, and did the same with Pro Lite to offer a sensible bridge for future Champ racers. Hooper’s selfless love of the sport and steadfast resolve are hallmarks of his years as racing advocate.
The International Snowmobile Racing Hall of Fame, located in St. Germain, Wisconsin, is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of snowmobiling. All funds donated to the Hall of Fame are dedicated to keeping the history of snowmobiling alive for generations to come. Additional information is available at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame