Fast, reliable, and easy to drive. If the Can-Am Maverick X3 could be summed up in a few words, these are the qualities that stand out from a machine that has won every Dakar rally since the debut of the SSV category in 2018. Notably last year the X3 took Casey Currie and the Monster Energy Can-Am Team to the 2020 Dakar title
However what is even more interesting than a total domination of the SSV class Dakar record books, is that amongst the custom built vehicles that line up at the start of the Dakar, the X3 is almost entirely a standard production vehicle which anyone can purchase off the shelf. A ready made racer; tough enough to tackle the most gruelling off-road event on the planet.
What’s more, the reliability and affordability of the SSV vehicle has made the category one of the most exciting and fast growing additions of the modern Dakar. Nobody knows this more than the Monster Energy Can-Am Team. Read on for a deep dive into what makes the X3 just so special.
Prototypes vs non-prototypes
Straight off the bat, there is a distinction to make in the SSV class: the prototype Light (T3) in comparison to the lightweight (T4) vehicles of Austin Jones, Aron Domzala, Gerard Farres and Reinaldo Varela of the Monster Energy Can-Am Team.
“In reality we cannot speak about a battle between Light vehicles and the SSV because there is a different philosophy behind the two types of machines”, explains American Austin Jones and his co-driver, the Brazilian Gustavo Gugelmin.
“Our beast is a basic Can-Am that you can buy off the shelf, adapted to race with all the navigation systems and the safety equipment that are necessary and required by the rules. The engine, the gearbox, the transmission, and the differential are standard. As for the chassis and the roll cage, which is FIA approved, this is designed and built in house by the team, South Racing, that provides the service to our Can-Am Monster Team”.
Surprisingly, behind the existence of the muscular and aggressive looking Can-Am X3 there are two sweet blue eyes and long blond hair that frame the pretty face of Charlotte Saguez; the 26-year-old lead engineer at the technical department of South Racing; one of the most winning and experienced team on the bivouac and the biggest this year; fielding 12 Can Am vehicles, with 12 crews from all over the world (From USA to Brazil, from Europe to Middle East) and a total of 102 people.
“I arrived at the start of the project three years ago, so together with the other engineers, I can say that the Maverick X3 that you see surfing the Saudi desert is our baby that has won so far all the Dakar participations since the introduction of the category in 2018”.
On her laptop there is the whole design from scratch. “We started with the design of the chassis and from this, we put all the components of the car, respecting the rules that prescribe the use of standard power pack (the engine, the gearbox and the CVT belt), plus all the suspension components and all the body as the look as to look as a Can Am”, explains Charlotte.
For safety reasons, and due to the official Dakar race regulations, there are a few changes to the standard production X3, however these are relatively minor. The standard production roof assembly is custom adapted to the body, and the power is actually turned down. The SSV class has a restriction which means a 1000cc engine can only put out around 170 horsepower and must have a speed limit of 130 km/h.
“The overall shape of the car and the wing are designed to have the best air flow”, continues Charlotte, “As for the aerodynamics we cannot really look at the development than in other sports as Formula One, for example, because the conditions on the Dakar are so hostile that the light parts used in road racing wouldn’t last the first kilometre here! Instead you need to find the balance between the weight and the strength of the parts.”
This year the digital roadbook was introduced for the elite racers like Austin Jones and all the Monster Energy athletes. Fitting all the navigation systems was an extra challenge for the Monster Energy Can-Am team and designers because the digital iPad alone is bigger and heavier than the traditional paper-roll maps. “All in all, the electronic roodbook is good because the Can Am is open so even if you take water – as it happened in Baja Portalegre or Baja Poland - it won’t get wet!” continues Jones.
One of the key strengths of the Maverick X3 is to ride. “You won’t believe it, but especially on the dunes, the Can Am is easier to drive than a Buggy or a T1 4-whell car. This explains the success of the SSV category”, states Charlotte, “it’s the mix of power, weight and drivability that makes this car so driver-friendly”.
Finally there is one last point in favour of the Maverick X3. “It’s that muscular, robust and sports look that remains the same; whether it’s the standard version parked in your garage, or the adapted racing version - I love it”, confesses Austin Jones, currently second in the overall classification. This creates the connection and turns the Maverick X3 into the vehicle you want to buy.