Nothing, so far, is going as planned. “Mud shouldn’t be coming out of there,” John says at one point. It’s imperative his Can-Am is in peak condition for Mud Nationals, only three days away. That means changing fluids, tuning the fuel injection and tightening every screw in between. This ride has seen a lot of battles. Has it seen one too many?
Not for the Can-Am John affectionately calls “Dr. Frankenroid.”
There is no other Can-Am like it in the world. Originally used as part of a local dealership’s race team, it was a demo ATV that was never titled. John bought it with the intention of rebuilding it around the foundation of its Rotax ® engine. It’s now officially a Can-Am 960R Max, John says.
“There are a lot of different parts stuck together,” he says, “but it still seems to go forward when I hit the gas.”
This is the Can-Am that captured 1st place in the 2011 High Lifter Mud Nationals Pro B class, 2nd in the 2010 High Lifter Pro Series Racing Pro B class and 2nd in the 2011 High Lifter East Coast Mud Nationals Pro B class mud bog.
The trophies that sit on the windowsill next to his desk at home are nice, but they also lead to something new — pressure.
Last year at Mud Nationals, there were no expectations. John didn’t even tune his Can-Am beforehand. This is different. There’s a title to defend.
“The apex of my mudding career was winning at Mud Nats last year,” John says. “I’m a day closer and a step behind, so it’s a pressure cooker now. It’s like this every year for me. It’s down to the last minute. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
With the work in the driveway done, John heads to a friend’s yard for more work. The machine’s guts are exposed, shining in the afternoon sun. It’s time to tune the fuel injection.
If you think mudding is all about bolting on parts and hitting the throttle, think again. It’s actually an art that requires a lot of fine tuning. John hooks his Can-Am up to a computer system that reads the RPMs for each level of acceleration. He rides a short distance and then comes back to check the readout on the computer. It’s a labor-intensive process that lasts most of the afternoon.
But once it’s over, it’s time to pack for the main event — 2012 Highlifter Mud Nationals. The Big Show.
Arriving home after work, John asks his wife, Lori, about her expectations. She answers with the support only a spouse can offer.
“You’d better win,” she says.