The LeDuc name is synonymous with off-road racing in North America. Family patriarch Curt LeDuc is an Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer and Dakar veteran, and son Todd is a multiple champion across several classes and tours the world with Monster Jam.
Then there’s Todd’s younger brother Kyle. Kyle LeDuc has an impressive résumé too, with seven Pro4 off-road titles and a ProLites title to boot; not to mention more than 100 wins on dirt. Now he’s about to embark on a new challenge with Chip Ganassi Racing in Extreme E.
International off-road racing is nothing new to the LeDucs, but for Kyle it gives him a chance to properly follow in his father’s footsteps and take on the world.
“Growing up, my dad was in racing my whole life so he raced off-road trucks, trophy trucks, desert, dirt, he did Paris to Dakar six times, rallies and a bunch of cool stuff,” he told DirtFish.
“When I was in high school my dad was racing Kias in Dakar and we went over there with a Hummer – I never went but we built the cars in my dad’s shop in Southern California and he went over there and did all these, and he did Pikes Peak and [was a] trophy truck champion. He’s done all these iconic massive things and I always wondered what it would be like to race outside the country and never thought it was something I was going to be doing.
“I’ve obviously raced in México in trophy trucks and multiple levels of desert stuff, but this morning I was showing my seven-year-old son where we’re racing, the locations that we’re going to be at.
“It seems crazy to point and scroll around – normally we travel north and a little bit west here in the States and then to be able to see, scrolling all the way across the country and showing him that we’re going to be driving a boat through all these passageways to get there. It’s pretty eye-opening.”
I feel our team already is, by far, way ahead of the competition before a flag even fliesKyle LeDuc on Chip Ganassi Racing
Extreme E’s driver line-up is one of the most varied in motorsport, with the roster of talent coming from the worlds of rallying, rallycross, Dakar – both two wheels and four – and Formula 1, to name a few. But with a lifetime in and around off-road trucks, LeDuc comes into the all-electric series with knowledge of big-bodied, big-wheeled machines. He’s built them too.
He doesn’t see any of that as an advantage per se, but he definitely sees value in having that varied knowledge base.
“I definitely think – and I think Mike and Chip both agree – that we’re on track to have what it takes already,” he said.
“I mean, the team, the guys at Ganassi have gone above and beyond already that I feel our team already is, by far, way ahead of the competition before a flag even flies. The amount of work and research that we’re all doing because myself and Sara – I build my cars from the ground up. Literally tube for tube, weld for weld, I’ve done it my whole life.”
Like LeDuc, Sara Price – LeDuc’s co-driver – has a history in off-road racing and that’s made hitting the ground running as team-mates easy, too.
“She knows how to get it done in the desert and that is not an easy thing to do, to get in a trophy truck and drive is one [thing] but to be somewhat competitive and be able to run upfront is a whole nother level. And she’s obviously proven that,” he said.
“Plus she has a background in Moto and I grew up on two wheels riding mountain bikes and ride dirt bikes, even yesterday, so it’s good that we have that similar connection in terms of dialogue. I think that is going to be a very good and easy way to get the ball rolling as soon as we climb in this car.
“The dialogue back-and-forth is going to be super-easy and I think we can make quick, quick progress with the short amount of time for testing that we have.”
But it’s not just LeDuc and Price’s truck racing experience that could give Ganassi an edge. LeDuc is also bringing his own crewmembers to the team.
“I’m bringing my short course off-road crew chief Trad Ronfeldt, he’s going to come and be one of our crew, he’s going to be one of the seven in our team,” he revealed, adding that at least three other members of his championship-winning Pro4 crew will be joining the Ganassi fold with him.
“We’re going to have the tools and the gusto of turning this stuff around between races and setting up the truck and knowing that myself and Sara can push the truck to the max and really try to show these guys not too much pre-season with some of our testing content that we’re going to create, but going to round one and really blowing their doors off I guess you could say.”
With familiar faces around him, Extreme E won’t be an entirely new world for LeDuc, but going electric will definitely be a first for the man that’s used to roaring V8s.
I’m really happy they’re allowing us to not have to manage power but letting us go full-on off-road racingKyle Le Duc on Extreme E's format
“When you see these numbers they all seem a little crazy – 500 horsepower, 800-900 ft-lbs of torque, you’re like ‘that’s not possible’. But I watch videos and I see experiences and they are real, so to know what that’s going to be like, instant power in the dirt, is tricky,” he said.
“It’s going to be tricky to control, but I definitely want to have access to all of it whenever I want it, because there will be times when the car gets sketchy and you need full power.
“I’m really happy with the structure that they’re doing and a little bit differently than Formula E to allow us to not have to manage power but let us go full-on off-road racing and full power when needed, so that’s very exciting, and that was a pivotal thing to make this massively successful.”
The electrification of the series is part of Extreme E’s wider environmental agenda. Off-road racing hasn’t been at the forefront of the green movement, but LeDuc’s been impressed with what he’s seen so far; both from an environmental standpoint, and from the perspective that the series has the potential to open motorsport up to an entirely new demographic.
“I don’t know what came first. You always say ‘did the chicken or the egg come first?’ – does the concept of equality and the global environmental concept start first, or did we build this electric car concept off the Formula E experience and then create this whole storyline to make this an interesting and new concept of motorsports?” he said.
“I think the concept behind Extreme E is good. The concept of doing something new with rally cars and electricity is obviously new, but the way he [Alejandro Agag, Extreme E founder] is marketing it and the way he’s opening up the fanbase to the entire world outside hardcore race fans.
“Everybody knows our team; everybody’s team is going to get known. But I think the biggest thing is that Alejandro is inviting in more fans across the world that are familiar with climate change and the gender side of it, so he’s really opening [up to] current race fans, and bringing in a ton of new fans.
“We all need that in motorsports, we need more fans and more people to tune in so I think it’s a killer program.”