Growing up in a racing family can certainly influence your competitive nature. For Kyle LeDuc, it all began at home. While his winning off-road racer father Curt was working away in his shop, young Kyle was running RC cars all over tracks he created in the backyard. Kyle, and his brother Todd who today also races off-road, eventually began racing downhill mountain bikes and did quite well at it. Todd turned Pro on the bike racing scene, but Kyle would be the first to follow in his father’s footsteps, and at 20 years of age, built a truck and began off-road racing in 2002.
The next year would be the start of the winning streak that continues today. They called him “The Kid” back then, and he won at Crandon International Off-Road Raceway, taking the title of 2003 Pro Lite World Champion. In the years soon afterward, he went on to score the Championship Off-Road Racing (CORR) 2004 Pro Lite Championship, and continued to stand on enough podiums to finish third or fourth in the Pro Lite points chases (except for one year) until 2008, when he decided to switch to Pro 4.
From 2008 on, he was second or third in points in the Pro 4 class. Progressing in the new class constantly, Kyle nailed the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS) Pro 4 Championship in 2012. He placed second overall in Pro 4 for the 2013 season, but in 2014, Kyle blew them all away. With 14 first place finishes, he took home the titles of The Off-Road Championship (TORC) series World Champion and AMSOIL Cup Champion, as well as the LOORRS Challenge Cup Champion, Driver of the Year, and Pro 4 Champion.
I’m in the ‘catch me if you can’ mode. – Kyle LeDuc
We talked with Kyle in his pit at the first event of the 2015 LOORRS season, held at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park, Lake Elsinore, California. That weekend was right on track for Kyle. Driving a brand-new truck he built during the 2014 season, Kyle qualified first for both Pro 4 races, finishing fifth on Friday night and taking the win on Saturday night. Most recently, Kyle swept the event at Wild Horse Pass Motorpsorts Park in Chandler, Arizona, and now has three wins out of four races in Pro 4 for the 2015 LOORRS season.
Off Road Xtreme: Kyle, after last years’s performance, you are obviously the bull’s eye on the target for a lot of the guys competing in the 2015 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. How does that feel?
Kyle LeDuc: “Last year was very good for us, but we’ve always looked at it like let’s have the best machine that we can, and just have fun racing. There are so many guys that get so mad at losing, and they’re trying hard enough, and they’re using some of the same parts that we are, but I just don’t think they’re having as much fun as we are.”
“I try to look at it this way. Some of the stuff that I’m able to pull off with the race truck is fun to me. I’m in the car laughing and thinking, wow, I just did that and it was so cool. I just put myself in pure race mode, go in with a game plan of getting to first as fast as possible, and then see where I am. So in the first couple of laps I really push hard, and then I try to be more natural with my driving. I can turn it on in two seconds.”
ORX: Is part of that because you know the car so well?
KL: “Yes. I build my trucks 100 percent myself with my guys, and so I know every bolt that holds on anything from the seat to the rear axle. I think I feel more comfortable than most drivers do with their trucks. They are also in that frame of mind, ‘We’ve got to get Kyle.’ I’m in the ‘catch me if you can’ mode. It’s a different feeling, and I’ve been on the other side of that. I’ve had my ass kicked plenty of times.”
“It just makes you realize that you know when you are doing something right, and when you pull a couple of rabbits out of your hat, you do some incredible racing. It feels really good when the truck runs right, and you are doing things right, because you feel like you want some more of that. It just took me a while to figure it out and get to that point.”
ORX: Who are the guys that you know you have to look out for this season? Who are the ones you think might really give you some trouble?
KL: “Well, there is Bryce (Menzies). He is the new guy in Pro 4, and he is fast. Barron, Renezeder, and MacCachren are back and swinging. Those guys are never easy to beat, and it’s never easy to win a race. We’ve tried to develop the truck to the point where it’s a good reliable truck. Better parts help make for less maintenance and make it more reliable. That way we’re not thinking about components and can focus on racing.”
“You know, MacCachren went out and bought the same transmission I have been using, and to have somebody that’s been racing since I was two years old go out and copy us feels pretty good. Greg Adler has one now, too.”
“We put it in our Pro 4 in 2011, and I had been racing a manual transmission truck all those years in Pro Lite. It’s an amazing advantage, but they just never knew it. So now they’re buying these transmissions, but I think you have to be around them for a while to really know how to use them right on the track.”
“You can test, test, test, and even qualify with [a manual transmission], but until you’re five-wide in the corner, and the other trucks are braking in front of you, and you miss a shift and grind the gears, it’s just not the same. It puts them at a disadvantage because they are going from an automatic transmission to this unfamiliar manual.”
ORX: Why did you build a new truck if you had such great performances with last year’s truck?
KL: “A lot of people have asked me the same thing, ‘Why did you throw the old truck away, you just kicked everybody’s ass with it?’ It was just time. It was an eight-year old truck that needed upgrades. It was an old beast. Nobody but me and my guys could see all the wounds, but it had been thrashed. I think it was rolled 10 times.”
“I’ve been building this new truck for a year and a half now. We finally came to test a couple days ago, and it’s been fun. We tried to make it more worker-friendly and easier to maintain, which we think will mean better reliability. We wanted to make sure that we could bring it to the track, easily bolt parts on, and have it be right, instead of working on them in the car. We used a lot of the same drivetrain components as before, but we opened it up on the inside to make more room to work. It’s badass.”
“It’s different than most trucks and it’s driving people crazy. The old truck was pretty generic compared to this new truck. I live in a world where I just look at stuff and say, ‘Why not. Let’s try this, let’s move that.’ There’s track width and ride height, and that’s really about it. Pro 4 is pretty wide open.”
ORX: You raced Pro Lite for a number of years. What is the biggest difference for you as a driver between two-wheel-drive Pro Lite and and four-wheel-drive Pro 4?
KL: “I raced Pro Lite, and some Pro 2 as well. The Pro 4 truck demands more commitment in the corners. It’s all about how you rotate the truck before you’re in a corner. That can take some getting used to, and it feels very bizarre at first. It’s just the way that the truck likes to be driven, and I have kind of pushed that envelope as far as I can go. I’ve also gone too far and made mistakes.”
“It’s all about oversteer. You just come in to the corner and set the car up almost backwards. You almost can’t see the corner, but it’s a judgment call of track conditions, your speed, and where you want to be in the middle of the corner. It all has to happen naturally. If you have to sit there and think about it, then you’re having to work too hard, and it won’t work right. You just learn what the truck wants and get it there.”
ORX: When you’re off the track, what do you drive? What’s your regular ride?
KL: “I have a 2010 Ford Raptor, but I’ve kept it pretty stock. It has King shocks , Toyo tires, Ultra wheels, and a few other little things. It was kind of beat-up for a while because I used it to pre-run some desert off-road races. I used it like it was supposed to be used. I love that thing. It’s my pride and joy.”
ORX: What do you do to relax when you’re not racing?
KL: “It may sound weird because all year we thrash and race, but for me it was nice to get into the shop and just create the new truck. There was nothing set on paper, no plan, just what we wanted to change. We wanted to just get creative with it, and have fun, so to me that was awesome.”
“When there’s nothing on a rush that has to be done, I like to just tinker in the shop. It’s about welding better, making a better panel, shaping a tube better. I also love to research and find new parts and new places to buy parts from. I try to find things from outside of the off-road industry, a trick new uni-ball or a cool electronic piece that will help us. It’s something that you found, and is on your truck, and nobody else really knows about it.”
We really enjoyed our time with Kyle LeDuc, and we hope you did too. Check out the video above for more on Kyle, then let us know who you would like us to grab for the next Off Road Xtreme Interview in the Comments section below!
Photography by Stuart Bourdon and courtesy Toyo Tires