DUAL SPORT CAN-AM X3
–– Building a special UTV for a Dakar Rally veteran —
A famous racer claimed that the most important 5 inches in racing is the space between your ears. So much of off-road driving and racing is affected by your mind. Former off-road motorcycle star Chris Blais has the mind of a true off-roader and a racer. KTM is a rally powerhouse now, but when the company first got serious about the sport, KTM held tryouts in the desert. Blais impressed enough to earn a spot on the team for the Dakar Rally in South America.
He ended up as the top American rookie in the rally at ninth place in 2005. He improved to fourth in 2006 and third in 2007. Then, while pre-running for the Vegas to Reno race, Blais crashed and sustained career-ending injuries. After that he turned his attention to his Apple Valley, California-based business—Blais Racing Services. Blais Racing services, repairs and modifies ATVs, motorcycles and UTVs.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
Blais felt that 2018 was his time to get back to racing, and this Can-Am X3 is the result. He chose the wide, long-travel X rs model as a starting point. We photographed and tested the newly completed machine mere hours after it was finished. The next morning Blais entered his first local race. He ended up second but was clearly in charge of the field. He is running a stock tank, so he required multiple stops, and the eventual winner made a single stop. Since then he added a dry-break filler to the stock tank so the crew can dump 7 gallons of fuel into the tank in 10 seconds!
Blais runs hand controls, so he is basically racing full-time with only his right hand on the steering. He employs a UTV Inc. quick release and found a 13.5-inch suede wheel on eBay. To the left side of the steering column is a lever resembling an automatic transmission column shifter. You pull the lever down to actuate the throttle and push it away from you to engage the brakes.
The Can-Am’s 172-horsepower, triple, 900cc, Rotax ACE turbocharged engine is plenty potent in stock form, but no racer is ever satisfied. PwrTune flashed the ECU to match the Trinity Racing dual exhaust that it sells. On the intake side, an S&B Particle Separator helps ensure that only clean air reaches the engine, and KWI clutch mods corral the ponies and help the drivetrain deal with the monster 30×10-14 Kenda Mastodon tires on Raceline Mamba beadlock wheels. The final actual performance mods were to the suspension. UTVShocks.com changed the valving and modified the bypass tubes before installing a full set of Eibach springs with rates customized for this machine.
Blais has to watch the pounding that he subjects himself to, so at his request the suspension is set up for a smooth and compliant ride where little of the terrain makes it into the cabin to the occupants. The trade-off is that he must watch for big impacts.
SOUND AND AIR
This is the only UTV that Chris and his wife Patty own, so it must do double duty as a mount for local races and for when they head out for desert adventuring. Communication was one area that needed attention. Rugged Radios’ RRP 660 Plus two-place intercom kit comes with a 60-watt radio and alpha audio helmet kits. Dust shouldn’t be an issue, since the Rugged M3 Extreme air-pumper system feeds clean air into Impact Race Products OS20 Air Draft helmet for the driver and 1320 Side Draft helmet for the passenger. Both helmets are equipped with helmet skirts. There should be no reason to run with the helmet visor open.
The interior is further equipped with a LeadNav Systems LLC dual XGPS160 GPS signal unit and navigation software. The rest of the interior changes are for safety—five-point seat belts and custom window nets from Mastercraft Safety. The window nets close the opening between the RJ Fabrications tall doors and the low and streamlined cage roof. Since we last saw the car, Blais added Mastercraft S2/4 seats and, in his words, they are awesome. As a package, the parts give you a very secure feeling inside the cab. The downside is that visibility to the side is limited, but this is true of every race build that we have driven. A large, unobstructed greenhouse isn’t the best for safety, even if it is good for visibility.
Speaking of visibility, a variety of Baja Designs lights are not strictly required for racing but will be when Chris uses the car for general off-road work.
To bulletproof the suspension, Blais called on CT Race Worx and Zollinger Racing Products. He went with CT heavy-duty, high-clearance, front lower A-arms; a six-piece gusset kit; front sway bar links; rear sway bar links; and a rear radius rod kit in addition to a billetproof upper shock mount. From ZRP he added billet double-shear rear knuckles. Protecting the car and other racers from roost are Rokblokz Rally mud flaps and trailing-arm guards.
Finally, Blais added a Safecraft dual auto-nozzle fire suppression system fed by two 2.5-pound Halon extinguishers.
Can-Am Accessories Dune bumpers are additional body protection, but the rear also features a Can-Am billet screw jack to make changing tires quick and easy, with the spare carried at the rear on the cage.
ON THE TRAIL
Chris has his hand controls on the car, but the foot controls are fully functional. We locked ourselves into the X3 and headed out into the desert. Frequently race builds get so heavy that they feel sluggish, but not the Blais Racing Services car.
Low-rpm power and response are amplified, and the car accelerates very hard. The basic geometry is stock, so the handling is sure and offers no surprises. With the Raceline wheels, the track might be a little wider than the stock 72 inches, but not much. The car rides up in the stroke, but that is suspension setup and not a travel increase. The result is an extremely responsive machine that remains planted and goes where you point it.
You need to avoid slamming large washouts and edged ditches, since the suspension is set up for ride comfort rather than impact resistance.
With this machine we have an experienced racer and mechanic involved in race prep for a living, so we expected that the Blais Racing Services car would be polished and effective. Keep in mind that it was literally just out of the garage after the build, so with tuning, it should be even better. Only the Baja Designs lights are superfluous for daytime desert races, but Blais removes them for races to avoid damaging them. Watch for this X3 on a trail or racecourse near you. It will be going by in a hurry!
CHRIS BLAIS CAN-AM X3 X RS
Can-Am Off-Road Accessories www.can-am.brp.com
X3 S&B particle separator $419.95
X3 Dune bumper $300
X3 screw jack kit $459.95
Baja Designs www.bajadesigns.com, (800) 422-5292
RTL 30-in. rear light $424.95
S8 10-in. shock tower light bar $329
XL racer $399.95
Dome light $74.95
Rock lights $74.95
Safecraft www.safecraft.com, (800) 400-2259
5 lb. dual auto nozzle fire suppression system $690
2.5 lb. Halon extinguisher $110 each
Rugged Radios www.ruggedradios.com, (888) 541-7223
M3 Extreme air pumper system $325
M3 variable speed controller $175
RM 60 intercom mount and side panels $125
RRP 660 Plus two-place intercom w/ 60-watt radio and alpha audio helmet kits $1347.25
Switch Pros www.switch-pros.com, (949) 581-2991
SP8100 8-switch panel $500
Kenda Tire www.kendatire.com
Mastodon 30×10-14 tires $250 each
Raceline Wheels www.racelinewheels.com
A71 Mamba beadlock 6+1 $199.95 each
PwrTune www.pwrtune.com, (877) 446-1550
Stage 3 ECU tune $500
Trinity dual exhaust $949.95
RJ Fabrication www.rjfabrication.com, (760) 244-7410
Custom chromoly cage $6000
Rally mud flaps and trailing arm guards $259.95
CT Race Worx www.ctraceworx.com
Front lower A-arms $525
Six-piece gusset kit $249.00
Front sway bar links $115
Rear sway bar links $149.00
Rear radius rod kit $925.00
Billetproof upper shock mount $285
UTVShocks.com www.utvshocks.com, (714) 390-3172
Shock re-valve, bypass tube mods $975
Eibach stage 2 spring kit $1124.10
Mastercraft Safety www.mastercraftsafety.com, (800) 565-4042
Five-point harnesses $149.95 each
Custom mesh window nets $400
Impact Race Products www.impactraceproducts.com, (317) 852-3067
OS20 Air Draft helmet for driver $849
1320 Side Draft helmet for passenger $379
Helmet skirts $75 each
Zollinger Racing Products www.zollingerracingproducts.com
Billet double-shear rear knuckles $1205
KWI Clutching www.kwiclutching.com
Full-floating clutch mod and sheave truing $450
X32 clutch kit $410
LeadNav Systems LLC www.leadnavsystems.com
Navigation software $150
Dual XGPS160 GPS signal unit $150
LNX6 enclosure and cage adapter for dual XGPS160 $106