When you can drive both? Tom Mackie introduced me to Leanne Marin, who drives both a 1,000hp rail and a 2,000hp digger. Two incredibly powerful, purpose built race machines, with two incredibly different objectives. One runs the quarter mile as fast as possible, the other pulls a brake as far as possible through the dirt. We talked about both.
[bd] Introductions. Who are you, where are you, and what do you do for a living? Tom tells me you’re into “diggers.” I think that’s tractor pulling, but not sure. Tell us a little bit about that, too?
[lm] My Name is Leanne Marin. I grew up on a farm in southern Saskatchewan, Canada, and have been living in Saskatoon for 18 years. I am a single mom to one teenage son and an RVT in the Veterinary Medical Center at the University of Saskatchewan. I am also an energy therapist (holistic practitioner).
I am definitely also into tractor pulling. Three years ago, I was able to become the main pilot of the Boss Blue modified pulling tractor owned by Ken Beauchemin from Warman Saskatchewan, a family whom has had a large part of racing history in Canada and abroad. I am also the pilot of the Bad Girlfriend, a 1999 McKinny RED.
[bd] Here’s the one big question: What automotive skill has made the most significant impact on your personal/professional life?
[lm] I don’t know that it’s an automotive skill, per se, but I believe pride of ownership as well as a positive, healthy lifestyle has had the most significant impact on my life. Being able to see a project you have put your heart and soul into come into fruition is something that is inexplicable. And through this, being able to set a positive example for my son is invaluable.
When a person finds that one thing they truly love that can become their stress relief, platform for personal growth, and the place to be an example for anyone who really needs it, you are then truly blessed. I have had a very addictive personality my whole life and being able to pour it into something that requires laser focus with minimal, if any, room for error that feeds my adrenaline junkie nature is something that can’t be compared to anything else I have ever experienced.
[bd] Boss Blue. McKinny RED. What are these and what’s the difference between the two?
[lm] Mckinny RED is a rear engine dragster powered by a Sunset Racecraft 581ci (9.5L) engine that runs just shy of 1100HP. Its sets ya back in your seat! The Boss Blue is a modified pulling tractor built by Ken Beauchemin, powered by an alcohol-fueled Donavan Hemi, pulling around 2,000HP.
[bd] Let’s talk tractor pull. These aren’t your typical tractors. Thinking back to the last tractor pull I saw on TV, it’s like half a dozen bottle-fed, blown V8s yoked together in front of one crazy person strapped into a race bucket, lifting the front wheels into the air as a massive, dead weight is diabolically moved closer and closer to the hitch, slowly, surely dragging the whole rig to a halt in a furious roar of fire and mud. It’s just a brutal, brutal form of motorsport. How on earth did you get started in tractor pulling?
[lm] (laughs) By accident. Though my commitment to drag racing I was able to meet and casually get to know the Beauchemin family and through that was able to show commitment and a willingness to try something different, becoming the first woman in Canada to pilot that class of tractor – and feel very blessed to have had the opportunity.
[bd] You mentioned finding in “digging” (that’s what they call it, right?) an outlet for stress reduction, platform for personal improvement, and inspiration for others. Throwing that kind of power into loads designed to break it – competitively – sounds pretty stressful to me. How do you find digging reduces your stress?
[lm] I find that drag racing and tractor pulling drastically reduced my stress because of the rush of adrenaline. When it comes down to it, it’s just me and my car or tractor, and being able to get out an entire week of a stressful, fast paced job worked out in one enormous, no holds barred burn out. It is a feeling of freedom that can’t be explained.
[bd] I’d like to know more about what you meant by your commitment drag racing lead you to meeting Beauchemin family. Were you previously drag racing and your skills got noticed? Were you a volunteer/friend and offered a ride? How did this work out?
[lm] Being committed to the sport was multifaceted for me. It meant everything else with the exception of my son took second place to learning as much as I could and being as involved as possible, not only to promote myself and Saskatchewan International Raceway to the best of my ability, but to really go the extra mile for my sponsors.
To stand out above the rest you have to treat it like more than just a hobby. It’s almost like loving it to death. Commitment is more than just saying you will show up at 12 points races a year. It’s working all winter to ensure your car is the best is can be. It’s community involvement, public speaking; sitting countless hours at car shows, speaking to children, letting everyone see/touch/sit in and experience the car; painting them a picture of what it feels like to sit in the car, start it, doing the burn out, the feel of the launch, how the vehicle shakes below you, fixing it, the camaraderie with your crew chief and fellow team mates and families, having thick skin when someone makes assumptions – it’s really about being willing to do what others are not. That is commitment.
I really did get my start with racing way before I was ever able to get into a car. Being a farm kid gave me a close up look at how motors and equipment worked, how it all came together and produced horsepower and torque, how it equated into something running smoothly, what was required where for certain equipment to accomplish a job. I was always that girl who was out with the boys doing great big burnouts and talking about the next modification rather than figuring out what colour of eyeshadow went with what outfit. (lol)
After moving away from home and my son being born, I was able to find a job that I to this day miss like crazy – a counter job at Midas Muffler. It gave me the chance to be back around the things I appreciate and learn further into another aspect of vehicles – the financial aspect – and seeing how an efficient business is run around maintenance and performance. It gave me a real leg up being able to meet the people I did and having key conversations, even though it may not have seemed like it at the time, to teach me about running a fiscally responsible race team later on.
Through this relationship, years later I was able to have them help me find temporary work when the University of Saskatchewan went on strike and I found myself with no way to really support my son. The manager was able to send me to APD, where I delivered parts to shops across the city of Saskatoon, and during that time became acquainted with some people from the past. Though this I was able to get my first chance at driving – a 1979 Malibu door slammer [race car which still has functional doors -bd] and thank goodness I did! It was awesome!!!
Over a bit of time ownership of the car was transitioned to me and Insomnia Racing came into existence. I was first able to work with some of the boys at Thanes Repair, then was offered the assistance of “the old geezers” and, finall,y was able to make a deal with Skippy and Shawn Zezula to pilot the Bad Girlfriend Dragster!
My commitment to the SDRA is how the ride in the dragster came about. I served two terms on the executive board of the SDRA and was the Director of the Special Events Committee. I have been the recipient of the Carl Sapsford, Member of the Year, and Most Improved Racer awards. Throughout all of this, I was able to develop a friendship with Skippy ( track manager at SIR) and his wife Shawn.
I guess the moral of that part of my blessed life is a rising tide raises all ships. And how that lead me to Ken and Mary Jane Beauchemin was my involvement with special events, showing an interest in what they have done for racing, and knowing their family history, asking them questions and having no real fear of anything I guess is what was noticeable more than anything. Through the procurement of that relationship we had some discussions that landed me in the drivers seat of the Boss Blue! But really I could write a novel!
[bd] How much time do you spend in each machine in a year? Ever go from one to the other? Being used to 1100, unrestrained horsepower accelerating as fast as it can, I’d think double the power being drug to a stop against its will would be an entirely different experience. Curious how things are similar, and different.
[lm] On average, I am in the dragster for 14 events between May and September, and in the tractor for 4 events (2 pulls per event). There was a time when there was one conflicting weekend where the races were close enough in distance (about two and a half hours) that I talked friends into driving me back and forth so I would be able to nap between cities. It was a fun experience, but I found that anything further in distance is unattainable because track events are unpredictable timewise, you never know how many (or how long) any delays may take throughout an event. So double booking means Ken drives the tractor and I concentrate on the drag racing.
Both are a very different experience. It is like comparing apples and oranges. The experience is incomparable; the feel of being flung like a slingshot, of the wheel speed blowing your hair under your helmet with dirt flying in your face is just crazy. Knowing that, in the dragster I am inches from the ground, covering an amazing amount of ground at a crazy speed where the slightest error can land you in all sorts of trouble, to climbing up a massive tractor tire, smelling the alcohol blowing in your face, and unleashing hell when you overtake the brake with the accelerator, knowing the only way to steer is with the finest of movements of your left foot on the wheel brakes, maintaining an open throttle with the right, and having a steering wheel as a decoration and an “oh shit handle” for 300 plus feet. I would never give up either!
[bd] What’s the most important thing you’d tell someone wishing they could race for a living?
[lm] Personally, working to achieve the goal of someday driving a feature vehicle, I suggest you find someone extremely successful and learn. Empty your cup of what you think you know and be an empty vessel to learning everything you can about their success. Often we just ask the closest person to us or our peers for their opinion of what they may do in a certain situation. They may give you the best answer they have with the greatest of intentions, but if someone hasn’t accomplished everything you’re after, then you will be hitting the glass ceiling of someone else’s experience. Almost like the concept of checking the fruit on the tree.
To me this means fiscal responsibility, positive lifestyle, successful partnerships, as well as extremely precise skill. Being sure you give laser focus and intention to achieving everything you set out to accomplish. When you decide what success is to you as far as racing for a living goes, then everything in your being should encompass hitting your goal. Devotion of a block of time every day, making sure the things you are doing are in line with what you are working towards, what you can do every day, week, month, year to getting to where you want to be.
You can catch up with Leanne at insomniaracing.ca and Facebook. We’d also like to thank Doug Brook for generously providing the majority of images used in this feature. Take a spin through DougBrookPhotography.com and check the sweet images.