For a guy for whom racing is a business decision, Doug Fortin sure seems to be having a lot of fun.
Of course, it helps to be winning regularly and be near the top of the points. Heading into Round 13 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Fortin sits tied for second in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Pro Buggy Unlimited Points with Cameron Steele; the pair are 10 points behind leader Larry Job.
Fortin's primary goal in racing is to sell product; the family business, Fortin Racing, builds a variety of parts applicable to off road racing. The company builds and sells hubs, power steering racks and more, but is most known for its transmissions. Customers have used his parts to win the Baja 1000 and run the Paris-Dakar Rally.
“I'm 40 now, and while I have a desire to go out there and win for sure, it's not my primary objective,” he says. “I love racing, but the main goal is to get out there and prove the products and sell some more. It's a business decision, and I have to treat the racing side of it like a business. We watch the money we spend on it – it's a marketing budget, basically. And we try to pick up sponsors where we can.”
That limited budget explains why Fortin is racing buggies again after entering a Pro 2 truck last year. Of course, that truck's purpose was to prove his company's new 4-speed sequential truck transmission.
Like many others, Fortin grew up into off-road racing. His father raced, and when Fortin was 18, he started in the Mickey Thompson series in Super 1600 buggies. He raced in desert off-road racing at the same time, and won the SCORE overall points championship and the Baja 1000 five times – three times overall.
A few years ago, as the short course off-road market was growing rapidly, Fortin decided to get into it again. With the help of Racer Engineering's Dale Dondel, he built a buggy specifically for short course racing, with Fortin's short-course-specific racing bits incorporated. “Not just using stuff that was existing, but making specific parts for this class. I think that our car is perfectly suited for this sport,” he says.
If his position toward the top of the championship is any indication, then he's right. Of course, some talent behind the wheel helps as well. But Fortin credits his success this season with consistency and having a reliable car. He also adds that he's not an overly aggressive driver, willing to take a second or third if that's the best he can do without taking too much risk. That attitude runs almost contrary to the reason he loves short course.
“I love the intensity,” he says. “I love the wheel-to-wheel contact. When you're out desert racing, you're racing you and your car against the environment, the course. You're worried about getting to the end; you're not worrying about anybody else until the last 100 miles. Short course is very intense; it's 100 percent all the time around the track. You're not pacing yourself, you're going as fast as you can the entire time.”
And that intensity is in direct contrast to his favorite forms of recreation. Sure, he likes snowboarding and mountain biking, both of which can be rather fervent in their own right, but he likes relaxing in the country and fishing.
“We have a house near San Diego, about 30 miles east in Alpine,” says the father of two girls. “We like hanging out there, we've brought a lot of friends out there. It's just mellow.”
He may like mellow when he's away from work, but his business marketing activities are anything but.