If you don’t like dirt, this sport is definitely not for you.
On the other hand, if you grew up on a sheep and cattle farm in Laidlaw, you’ve lived a life of daily dirt. Cody Leach got his first taste of mud racing at Brigade Days 2009, driving the 4×4 obstacle course.
“That was in my daily driver, a lifted ‘84 Chevy Blazer,” said Leach on Monday. “I actually won second place in the 4×4 races and drove it home from there.”
“After that, I went and watched the mud racing in Chilliwack, behind the red barns. When I got home, I started looking for a truck.
“My friend, Cory Baird, found it in Yale and I think I paid around $1500 for it. It hadn’t been running for a few years and it had an ugly two-tone black and blue paint job.” This would be the base for his mud-drag racer that was christened “Mudd Butt” by Leach’s friend, Carl Dixon.
Leach drove the 1986 Chevy K-10 4×4 as a street-legal unit in the North-West Mud Racing Association events last year — but made big changes in the off-season, assisted by Baird and the sponsorship of former Laidlaw resident Mike Chamberlain’s Mountain Pacific Mechanical shop in Chilliwack. Chamberlain covered the cost of getting a three-speed automatic transmission built to race specs, while Leach footed the bill for getting a small block 350 race-prepared at Fortin’s in Chilliwack.
“I was honoured when Cody approached me for sponsorship,” said Chamberlain, Tuesday. “He’s an eager and hard working young man, who gives all he’s got — on and off the track. Mudd Butt is a force to be reckoned with and Cody is advancing very quickly. ”
“It’s a 388 cubic-inch stroker,” said Leach of the new motor. “It’s bored out and it has a longer stroke than normal, to create more horsepower.”
And it’s loud. “Earmuff loud,” said Leach. The headers come straight off the exhaust ports and out of the hood. Mufflers would only get bashed off anyway — and add more weight. Leach’s ride might look like a truck but there’s not a lot to it anymore, after the weight-trimming.
“We took all the glass and the dashboard out — and there’s no bed or tailgate in the box.” All four inner fenders have been yanked, so when the mud flies, it goes wherever it wants to. For safety, the NWMRA requires a six-point roll cage, which Leach installed inside the cab. The single bucket seat has five-point restraints. “You need u-joint shields and drive-shaft hoops, in case things come apart. Thankfully, nothing has yet,” added the 28-year-old racer. “I also needed an emergency shut-off switch.” If Dad, Jim, wants some hay hauled now, it’s not happening in the stripped-down K-10 — which gets towed on Jim’s trailer, behind Cody’s Dodge Ram 3500.
When the $50K rig was all prepped, it naturally had to be tested.
“I asked my dad if we could do some mud drags on his field,” recalled Leach, laughing.
“He said no, so we went down the road and found some mud.”
Dad’s okay with Cody bringing foreign mud home from the races, though. “Some races provide a hose,” said Cody. “Otherwise, it’s bring it home dirty and pressure-wash it in the field.”
Leach’s fiancée, Allyssa Kuester helps with cleaning detail and travels to the races with Leach and Baird.
“Cory and I aren’t trained mechanics,” said Leach. “We do it for a hobby.” It’s been a learn-as-you-go process for the duo.
“Some people share their tips and tricks and some don’t,” said Leach. “But the people in the pits at any race will help each other out all day long.”
Mud drags are on a 200-foot (61 m) track. “My fastest pass is 6.3 seconds,” said Leach. “Some trucks in my class run 4s. They’ve got more money.” At least they used to.
Leach raced at Merritt last weekend, where an entry fee of $50 allowed two runs per day in alternating lanes, Saturday and Sunday. With the added rain, conditions were pretty foul.
“If you stepped in the mud, you’d be up to your waist,” figured Leach.
“One of the trucks was Frankie Junior and he dug a big hole in one lane and that was the start of our problems. People were calling it the ‘Frankenhole.’ It was the first time I’ve ever been stuck in mud racing — but I made it through the other time.”
When waiting for the green light, Leach stands on his brakes while laying on the throttle — not a healthy choice for a stock transmission.
“I load up my rpms to about 3500 then let ‘er go,” said Leach. “The motor redlines at about 8000 during a race.” The altered Super Swamper Bogger tires were deflated down to 8 psi, for extra bite but the mud was up to the top of the tires, said Leach.
“We wear goggles — and in Merritt we were getting blinded by half-way. You just keep going and you know you’re done when you’re out of the mud.” Leach will be driving in Hope’s Summer Smash and Brigade Days 4×4 races. Your closest chance to see him in a mud drag will be at Chilliwack, August 13 and 14.