Quad racing a VERY! expensive addiction
People know Stan Buller as a classic millwright – quiet, careful, intelligent, the kind of person whose clients trust him to tear apart and maintain their multi-million-dollar steam and gas turbine generators.
He manages KBIM, the family business that is Local 1460’s largest employer. He’s a local member, his brother Cliff teaches at the training centre, and his mom Ursula is a pension plan trustee.
He’s a look-you-in-the-eye, solid handshake kind of guy.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that he’s also a total speed freak.
Nothing turns this guy on more than wrestling a souped-up-beyond-belief, 900-pound, 4-wheel-drive quad around an 18-kilometer track with what seems like a million tight turns, plowed out of the frozen surface of an Alberta lake.
‘The ice was really good (at Sandy Lake on the 2013 Family Day holiday) this year,’ says Stan with a big grin on his face. ‘On the test runs we were hitting 135 km/hr on the straights…what a great feeling!’
Stan’s in the early stages of what he freely admits is a (very expensive…just wait, you’ll see!) addiction, quad racing. He does it in winter on the ice, competing in the Alberta Endurance Ice Racing Association circuit of 6-hour and 24-hour events, and in summer at drag racing competitions where he clocks within a hair of 100 mph in the quarter-mile.
The Sandy Lake race was the 24th annual classic Numb Bum 24-hour endurance race, during which teams of riders hand off 90-minute shifts and their machine goes, and goes, and (hopefully!) keeps on going.
‘The machines are all so well-tuned and the riders are so good that the question of who wins usually comes down to two factors: lack of mechanical breakdown and the fewest number of pit stops,’ says Stan.
Stan and his team – which includes his pal, performance shop owner Vince Barnes – have retro-fitted his 900cc machine with high-quality mechanical upgrades, powerful LED lights and extra fuel tanks, all of which work in different ways to reduce the number of pit stops.
While they are all mechanical geniuses who put everything into reducing the possibility of breakdown, sometimes things just happen – like the time when a motorcycle crashed into their machine and cracked the steering column, which later broke.
Instead of dropping out of the race, Stan drove 50 km to the KBIM shop at Acheson, manufactured replacement parts and brought them right back so they could resume the race. Because other teams also had breakdown delays, Stan’s team placed third AND won the Innovation Award.
This year (2013), however, what happened was so completely un-fixable that Stan and his team had to just pull their wrecked machine off the track and watch at the other competitors zipped right on by.
“We blew up a $14,000 engine. It was major carnage,” he said.
“We’ve ruled out tuning, how it was being driven and the original ‘build’ itself as causes…right now it looks like a piston manufacturing defect, because none of us have ever seen a piston break like this one did.”
Addiction started young
Stan started riding motorcycles and ATVs years ago as a young man, but fell out of it. A few years ago he fell back in love – with sporty 4-wheel drive ATV riding.
‘I love mountain trail riding on tight trails, with a little bit of mud, slow climbs and technical riding.
‘A little later I tried a CanAm Renegade, which is the most powerful production sport 4-wheeler…it’s ready to race right out of the box.
‘The first ride I took, I smiled a lot.
‘I kept making more modifications to get a little more horsepower, a little more speed, and the further I went, the bigger my smile got.
‘I’m a horsepower junkie, I guess.’
Stan has easily put as much money into modifying his Renegade for ice racing as it cost him in the first place. When he first bought it, the machine delivered 49 horsepower to the tires. Today, it produces 90.
Stan uses cheap, hard-rubber tires into each of which he has inserted 250 3/8-inch special screws. That alone is a 20-hour job!
‘The traction we get is way better than rubber on dry pavement – and that’s part of the reason the race requires ice thickness of greater than 20 inches. By the time we’re well into a 24-hour race, all those studded tires will chew ruts as deep as 10 inches at the corners.’
In 24-hour races like the noon-to-noon Family Day weekend race, Stan’s machine gulps more than 400 liters of fuel in the process logging in excess of 1100-km on the ice track – the equivalent of Edmonton to Vancouver and halfway back!
This year, sadly, it gulped somewhat fewer liters than that.
Next year, Stan. Next year.