Editorial

December 23, 2011

Mathieu “RED” Robitaille: A racer profile

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This summer, during a photo session at the Mécaglisse track in Notre- Dame de la Merci, I had the privilege to meet the Canadian Superquad champion Mathieu Robitaille, known by the nickname of “RED”. In fact, Mathieu has to travel for three and a half hours, in order to come train at this track. During the course of our exchange, he very simply and modestly mentions that he is the Canadian Champion in the pro class for 2010. At first I thought he was only kidding, but “RED” is truly the reigning champion and as I write these lines, he leads the championship race for 2011.

A passionate competitor
Mathieu Robitaille has a passion for quad riding that we all share. On our first meeting, several people from the ATV Trail Rider team were present to watch this pilot run through laps in the pouring rain that forced the team to a halt, while Mathieu kept on rolling. We were all impressed by his mastery at coming out of turns in a power slide. Of course, bear in mind that there is no snow on the track at this time of year, so sliding occurs on asphalt. Even when the track is dry, Mathieu has no problem attacking turns at high speeds, pushing the quad into a slide and mastering the technique known as counter-steering, in order to maintain the vehicle’s trajectory. Mathieu started his career as a race pilot four years ago on a Yamaha Banshee, a point we have in common as my first quad was also a Banshee. Becoming the Canadian champion has required several sacrifices on his part, as reaching this level of competition is the result of many years of work, with expenses often exceeding revenues coming from racing wins. Talent, of course, is a prerequisite!

Mathieu comes from St Émile, about 15 minutes from Quebec City. This area has very little to offer in terms of practice tracks, so it was not easy for him to take hold of the Canadian Championship at his first year as a pro. After racing for three years as an amateur aboard his Banshee, he started off in the pro ranks aboard a KTM 505 SX and won the Championship. So, I can’t help from asking him the following question: How does one go about winning a championship in their first year? And again he answered in all humility that he indeed had good luck, but that he also had to fight off several pilots who were strongly pushing behind his vehicle.

Mathieu earns his living as a mechanic and has to manage his training and participating in each competition. Usually, he has to leave Quebec City on Friday morning to get to the race site. We are not talking here about a 53 foot truck, with bedroom and space for his quad. Mathieu can only load his trailer (courtesy of one of his sponsors) with his equipment and quad, and has to sleep at a nearby hotel, close to the race track. I think Superquad competition is for true passionate racers, as many sacrifices are necessary in this discipline. Mathieu gets help from his family and friends, who do not hesitate in organizing fund raising activities on his behalf, in order to finance his race season.

His Quad :
Mathieu bought his KTM 505 SX in 2010, and had to modify his vehicle in order to be competitive in the pro ranks. Theoretically, one can compete in Superquad on any serial quad, but certain parts must be adapted to pro competition. One modification that caught my attention was the small reservoir located near the rear shock. Mathieu explains that in order to avoid having engine liquids spread over the race course, all discharge pipes must be connected to this small reservoir. At the end of the race, the contents of the reservoir can be disposed of appropriately. Oil and brake liquid caps should all be secure and water mixed to an additive should be used as a coolant.

To increase the quad’s stability, the suspension should be modified to lower the vehicle’s centre of gravity. Mathieu put his trust in Star Suspension shocks, a Company which supplied him with shorter shocks, adapted to Superquad requirements. In this discipline, 70 % of racing time occurs on asphalt and 30 % on dirt tracks, with 2 jumps to negotiate in most cases. The suspension should be rigid enough for riding on asphalt and flexible enough to absorb the landing from these jumps. Adding a front sway bar is almost essential. By the way, I hope to never meet again someone who says riding an ATV on asphalt is not safe. With all the testing done during the summer and the numerous hours we witnessed Mathieu riding on paved surfaces, no doubt remains: quads are safe to ride on asphalt, as is proven in many countries. I hope to see quads on our roads in a near future.

Tires for Superquad are different than those used in off road riding; they are more like car tires. They allow for better control on asphalt, but if you are considering trail riding with this type of tire, make immediate plans to have a towing ready. Adherence in snow or mud with these tires is non-existent. They are specifically designed for Superquad racing.

The seat on Mathieu’s vehicle has also been modified, the thickness of the foam having been reduced to favour displacement on the quad. Mathieu explains that this improvement facilitates taking an attack position on the side of the quad for turns, and coming back to a straight line position just as easily. A small detail I should not omit: the side of Mathieu’s quad shows a film inspired «Flash Mc Queen» decal, perhaps Mathieu’s inspiration for his first Canadian Championship.

Hand-guards installed on Mathieu’s handlebars have two purposes. The first, as you might have guessed, is for hand protection, but there is a second purpose. Mathieu uses the metal bar that links the handlebars to the hand-guards, somewhat as an extension of the handlebars, using it to secure his position on the quad while maintaining control.

The KTM 505 SX engine is original equipment, except for the piston. Mathieu installed an oversized K&N air filter under the seat, which allows for more air intake, and a muffler made by Dasa.

Next year, Mathieu Red Robitaille has a surprise in store for his competitors, with a more powerful engine increasing his already great speed capabilities, setting the stage for a most promising season of competition filled with great excitement!

In conclusion, I would like to thank Mathieu for his positive attitude and his humility. Mathieu members of the ATV Trail Rider team enjoyed talking with you, watching you out on the track and listening to your advice on preparing a Superquad. Whenever you come by this area, remember to come visit us, we’ll go for some power sliding on asphalt together!

Pilot profile:
Last name : Robitaille    
First name : Mathieu
Nickname : RED
Date of birth : January 15, 1987
Place of birth : Quebec City
Number of years experience : 5 years
First race year  : 2007
First year as a pro : 2010
Sponsors : EnduroMX, Propage, Forma, Star Suspension, Graphique A L design
Preferred drink : Red Bull/Vodka
Preferred meal : Chicken cooked with beer
Preferred music : David Guetta
Recreational activity: ATV
Profession : Mechanic for motorcycles / ATVs / snowmobiles
Projects : To operate my own circuit

Quad specs :
Make : KTM
Model : 505SX
Year : 2009
Engine : 505
Shocks : WP (adapted by Star Suspension)
Exhaust : original serial production, slip-on DAZA
Handlebars : original
Wheels and tires : King Tire/Carlisle/Douglas
Swingarm : original
A-Arms : original
Other modifications : Sway bar, piston, air filter and lowered seat