As enthusiasts, we've constantly got dirt on our minds. From truck buildups to building off-road adventures, we dream dirt, we sleep dirt, and if we run out of talent at high speed, we eat dirt, too.
Kyle LeDuc shares the same enthusiasm we do. He has been fortunate enough to combine his enthusiasm with circumstance and talent into a life in the dirt that's on an upward trajectory. Having off-road racing champion Curt LeDuc as a father put Kyle in the right place to become familiar with off-road racing machines, the tools that build them, and the most essential ingredient: speed. "A lot of guys might get freaked out if they get a little sideways or land crooked off of a jump, but that's just part of being fast," Kyle recently told us. We took the advice to heart. LeDuc had, after all, wrapped up the 2004 CORR Pro Lite championship with a win record that included six overall victories and four other podium finishes.
To catch up with Kyle, we pointed our big blue Super Duty down the road to Cherry Valley, California, for a visit to California Pre-Fun, where Curt, Kyle, and Todd LeDuc transform customers' trucks and build and prep their own. At the curb, the only indication of the off-road enthusiasm at the LeDuc address was the F-150-shaped mailbox. We motored through the gate and put the big turbodiesel in Park. Curt's Skyjacker semi dominated the rear lot, which was dotted with a couple of prerunner Broncos, a faded brown '70s van, and the LeDuc quiver of race trucks. Stepping into the shop, we found more telltale signs of a family that lives for high-octane off-road speed. Chromoly tubing rested in racks on the wall. A weathered hydraulic tubing bender mounted on a rolling stand sat at the ready, with several truck builds to its credit. Other essential machinery, such as welders, saws, and handtools awaited the next project. Enthusiasts? Absolutely.
As of this writing, Kyle is hard at work building a new Pro Lite Ranger that will hopefully take him to another championship. The new Ranger will be built with the same strengths as the older truck and incorporate a few changes and updates. As for the driver, Kyle lists his greatest strength as "being able to drive anything to its absolute maximum. I typically only get three practice laps at a track before I race on it. I can get out there and quickly focus on the things that matter and ignore the things that don't." The near future has Kyle committed to three more Pro Lite seasons. "My plan is to dominate and win. I want people to know I'm the fastest guy out there. I've won six races and a championship, so I want to step up and prove myself over a longer haul. If CORR stays in California, I'll keep racing with them. After I've completed my three-year contract, I may branch out if other opportunities come my way. The good thing is I've got three years to figure it out."
It's said that enthusiasm is contagious. Since we already dream, sleep, and occasionally eat dirt, nothing needed to be added. We do hope, however, that we come down with a serious case of off-road speed after being exposed to Kyle LeDuc.
California Pre-FunWhen Kyle isn't racing off-road trucks, he's building them. Kyle, Curt, and Todd LeDuc take turns with the TIG torch, tubing bender and chop saw while transforming customers' trucks into off-road capable weaponry. One of Cal Pre-Fun's mainstays is the fullsize '80-'96 Ford Bronco. The LeDuc Bronco front traction beams are welded to the extended radius arms for rigid strength. The stock steering setup is ditched in favor of a four-wheel-drive-specific crossover design that maximizes handling and minimizes bump steer. Out back, a Bronco-specific three-link means that leaf-spring axle wrap is gone for good. Travel numbers are 16 inches in front and 22 in the back. Our cameras also caught a glimpse of Jimmy Beaver's single-seat Trophy Truck under construction. There were plenty of beautifully notched and TIG-welded tubing clusters to be seen, but we thought the rear trailing arms were real works of kinetic art.