Surviving The 12 Hours of La Tuque
Photos by Pierre Tremblay & Eli Madero
I’m always up for a good challenge, and recently I’ve been given the opportunity to put my ATV building skills, physical and mental toughness to the ultimate test. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to travel into the beautiful territory of Quebec, Canada to cover a race that I always hoped to see in person. The 12 Hours of La Tuque is a race that has always captivated me when I’d see the action and people in the pages of magazines or random website that had the opportunity to attend this annual event. The first two years I was able to cover this coveted race, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to be a participant. The course was fast and the top machines were screaming down the front straightaway at over 70 MPH, thats 112 kph for those of you who live in the Northern Territories, while dealing with deep sand ruts and never ending ATV swallowing sand whoops. Seeing exhausted racers nearly collapsing after coming off of their stint on board the machine, I knew that it was physically taxing on the riders but also seeing the attrition rate of broken down machines meant that it was equally hard on machines.
When presented with the opportunity to put together a team and race in 2013, I stepped up my training and built what I thought was a competitive machine for this event. I didn’t expect to win, but had hopes for a solid top 10 finish because if your riders and machine could hold up, that was a good possibility. Unfortunately an early crash with one of my teammates ended our run only two hours into the race, but I vowed to return and get redemption. In 2014 I was given the chance to once again participate in the race and get the finish I so badly wanted for my team. With experience from the previous year under my belt, I felt even more prepared and knew exactly what I wanted and who I wanted to ride with me. The first decision was to pick the machine that would be the platform to build my racer out of and the easy choice was the #Yamaha YFZ 450R. The powerful 450cc fuel-injected ATV has been proven with numerous championships in the ITP Quad X and ATV MX series as well as being one of the most competitive machines in the GNCC series.
After gathering all of my parts and building our race machine, see story on build here, I decided on driving to the event myself rather than having the unit shipped. This would give me the opportunity to race our Polaris RZR in the quickly growing UTV class as well. My teammates booked their plane tickets and I mapped out my route across the country figuring on getting in to Montreal, Canada in two and a half days from sunny Southern California. My dad offered to accompany me on this road trip and we took off from Los Angeles late Sunday night, just 5 days before the start of the race. This wasn’t my first time running across the country, but it would be the first time i’ve gone through many states never seen. We traded shifts driving non-stop for two days and we finally got to our first destination stop of the trip in Ohio. We made arrangements to stop at Houser Racing to pick up one of their new UTV Race Roll Cage, Impact front bumper and tree bars, and after picking up the product and taking the 10-cent tour we were back on the road again. Next stop the U.S./Canadian border and then Montreal to pick up our teammates.
16 hours after our stop at Houser Racing, we finally drove into Montreal to pick up Leonard Duncan of Duncan Racing International and our third rider Robin Fawcett. Leonard not only is one of the best ATV mechanics in the country, but has tons of racing experience under his belt and Robin has teamed up with many championship Baja winning teams.
Since we were getting caught in the middle of rush hour traffic, I decided to hit some side streets and give them a quick tour of Montreal and its closer landmarks. Since we’re all motorsports fanatics, I decided to head over to Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, which is the Formula 1 race course that is open for the public to drive on just not at F1 speeds.
Back on the road we only had a few more hours till we made it up to La Tuque and got to our designated pit space along side the Pro Motorsports team. Just as we started unloading and finalizing our pit layout, a storm had rolled in and the skies opened up. This lingering storm would last for two days as we would finish dialing in our YFZ 450R in the trailer or under the EZ-UP canopies we had to protect us from the elements, but as the down gathered under the massive event tent for the riders parade, we were ready to be announced. Since I brought the RZR XP 1000 for the UTV race in addition to the ATV race, I was lucky enough to get up on the stage twice and thank everyone who had a helping hand to get to the race. In my opinion, this is one of the funnest things that the riders and drivers get to do because we get to see and encourage all of our fellow competitors and give the spectators a chance to see who we are under the helmets.