It was a broken leg that got Jean-Francois Gauvin, a veteran ATV racer from Beaumont, Alberta, into the sport.
Previously a dirt bike rider, Gauvin started riding ATVs after he took a nasty spill in a motocross race. At the time, ATVing was just for fun, but the hobby turned into something more when Gauvin started racing.
Competing in the CMRC Canada Cup, Gauvin quickly moved up through the ranks to pro, and by 2000, he was fourth in Canada. Dirt bikes became a thing of the past.
A change of pace
In 2007, a career change took Gauvin away from his native Quebec and the CMRC circuit to Alberta. After taking some time to start a business, he went racing again in 2012. This time, it was with the Alberta ATV Triple Crown, and that’s where he met Jamie Vanderaa from Rocky Mountain House.
At 19 years old, Vanderaa was a young up-and-comer, and Gauvin could tell he had natural talent.
“He was doing really great,” said Gauvin. “He was winning Top 10s and Top 15s always and qualifying for every final.”
Vanderaa was also pursuing the ATV Motocross National Championship in the U.S., but with races as far away as Daytona, Florida, it was tough for him to follow the circuit.
So in 2014, Gauvin and Vanderaa formed the Alberta ATV Race Team (Team AART). Together, they were able to follow more races and start racking up some points in the national series.
At the end of the 2014 season, Gauvin and Vanderaa went home to Canada with several Top 5- and Top 10-place finishes. It was a learning experience and Gauvin knew right away what was missing.
“In the states, you practice and you ride every two days instead of in Canada where you ride just the one night a week,” said Gauvin. “So it’s tough on the engine.”
Jean-Francois Gauvin competes in the Open A and the Veteran 30+ classes. — photo courtesy Jean-Francois Gauvin
Over the winter, they built two more race quads and several spare engines.
The race is on
This year, the pro national championship started on March 10 and it wraps up on August 9. Gauvin and Vanderaa have committed to eight of the 10 rounds, so for the next two and a half months, they’ll be on the road, competing with the biggest names in ATV motocross.
Their goals are to have fun and represent Canada. For Gauvin, it’s all a dream come true.
“When I was young and dreaming about to go to those big tracks that we all know, like Red Bud and Michigan and New York, and now I’m on those big tracks and hit those big jumps—it’s a dream come true,” said Gauvin. “That’s a big accomplishment, and just to be able to build this team and try to survive.”
What lies ahead
At 37 years old, Gauvin is nearing the end of his racing career. Until then, he’s going to give it everything he’s got, all the while passing on his knowledge to the next generation.
“I got a passion so bad,” said Gauvin. “I love it, but the thing is, until my buddies are going to tell me to stop, I just keep going. But even if one day, they say ‘stop’ but Jamie is going to continue or whatever, I’m going with him and I’m following anywhere he is going to be. I know what he can do.”