Thunder Bay Based Mechanic Builds Race Engines
By Scott A. Sumner
Dallyn Maxwell is the full time mechanic for local snocross racer Colin Chaschuk. This Kakabeka Falls resident is very active in the technical side of the sport. During an interview, just before his driver Colin Chaschuk's Semi Pro Open heat, we found out a lot about the sport from the perspective of a highly ranked semi pro national team.
"When you enter the races you get put in your division and they break it up into heats based on how many sleds there are entered in that division. So in Colin's division - semi pro open we are on heat 22. When it gets to heat 25 I have to go up there and pick a pin out of that bucket. The clothespins have numbers on them so everyone who goes in that race takes a pin. If I pick number 1 I stage first. That means when Colin goes to the starting line first he gets to pick his place on the starting line, states Dallyn Maxwell. Everything is my job until he gets on the sled and goes to the starting line. I bring the sled right up. If it is a cold day the riders will want to wear their warm up ponchos. They'll have thin gloves that they ride in. So if they wear the warm up suit to the start the mechanic rides down there with them."
"We check the sleds thoroughly during the week. You check for things like loose bolts and worn out parts. You change the oil in the chain case as the chain case is very important. It has to stay together. You check all the clutch components, all through the motor components to see it is running up to snuff - ski alignment, the bars - everything. I clean things up - replace any broken parts, get the sled ready to go again for another week. You try and be prepared that way before you come here," says Maxwell. "When you come here you look at track conditions, the temperature, relative humidity in the air, the barometric pressure, how thick the air, all to know what kind of jetting you will need to run. You look at the track - if it is a short little o ring - if you need quick acceleration or if it is a big long track like Geneva you adjust gearing. Duluth is a middle of the road track. Green Bay was a very small track. There is clutching and jetting adjustments as well as suspension adjustments for big bumps like supercross style track or small tracks with lots of holes and stutter bumps - they are totally different suspension set ups. The shocks are very easy to adjust now a days - they have clickers for adjustment of compression and rebound. The front shocks have air pressure to adjust the spring pressure. That's mostly what takes place from day to day during the weekend here at the races."
During the week if you need a huge change, well then you might get into the middle of the shock and start valving and stuff like that. The shocks fade, they get moisture in them from condensation from being warm and cold and being out in dirt and snow and stuff like that. The oil will break down. When the oil breaks down it gets thinner and then the shock reacts different. Colin notices that kind of stuff. During the year we may have to rebuild those shocks two or three times," notes Maxwell. "We got the sled at race school in late October. We totally disassembled the sled and blueprint the chassis. Blueprinting is taking everything and making sure it is straight, mounted in the right location and works properly. You go through the skid frame and make sure all the wheels are the same diameter and straight. You replace them or machine them if you can to get them straight. The rails are absolutely parallel, the driver runs straight and true, the gears, the chain case alignments, the jack shaft - everything runs straight and true. The brake disc and the secondary clutches must be perfect. You go into the motor to make sure everything is right. Make sure the crank runs out correctly. Spec everything and make sure the steering is set perfectly. Colin does his own settings with the bars and the brakes and the throttle and stuff like that."
"The machines are assembled on the assembly line really quickly. They can't afford someone to do this sort of thing so it is a basic set up for everybody. Anyone could take the sled out in the sport classes or even bottom end semi pros, do fine and not really notice. But when you get up into the higher end of Pros and Semi Pros, they are really looking for that advantage and they can be fussy. If you are going to spend $15,000 to $20,000 to go racing there is no sense in going out there with a product that is not up to par with the rest of them," states Maxwell. "So we might as well take that time and make sure that sled is perfect. It gets as serious in the high end Semi Pros as the Pros. The difference between a team like Blair Morgan Racing and us is they have bigger budgets and more stuff at their disposal. I like to think that we don't fall a whole bunch short from that as far as what we know in terms of set ups."
Dallyn Maxwell operates his own performance shop, when he is not on the road with Colin Chaschuk. "Up until Spirit Mountain I was working 14 to 18 hour days. In my shop at 700 Hunt Road (phone 807-475-0528) I'm open 9am to 11pm. We do boring of heads, pipes and build race motors for Ski Doo, Polaris and Arctic Cat sleds, states Maxwell. Increasing the performance of a sled is almost always a compromise because you re generally taking something from somewhere. Whether it is reliability, bottom range or mid range power and putting it up top or whether its top end power and putting it down low. It's always a compromise. It is tailoring it to the environment that it is going to be living in. A snocross motor and sled is obviously very different than a drag race sled and from a trail sled. A trail sled is a compromise of everything that a sled has to be designed for. A trail sled has to run across lakes wide open for miles on end. It has to go through tight twisty trails and not load up. It has to run in 40 below and plus 10 sometimes. It has to carry a 250 pound guy and a 120 pound girl. It is a blanket set up that takes into account all that."
It will be fun to follow the progress of Colin Chaschuk's team this year.