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Chris Blais: Fighting Spirit

Chris Blais


Fighting Spirit


By Jerry Bernardo


When you enter a race, you always have to sign a waiver that’s included in the entry form you didn’t bother to read because a true optimist never falls down. No one ever wants to get hurt racing, but year after year--all across they globe--it happens. Injury is the “pink elephant” in the motorsports room, the one we never talk about until after we’ve been injured. The conversation will shift to, “When are you back on the bike?” and we go and sit on the sidelines in an idle fashion waiting for “it” to, hopefully, fix itself so we can get back out and immerse ourselves in the action once again.

            The two worst-case scenarios we face are death and spinal cord injury. Having been in the motorsports and action sports game for many years as an announcer, I’ve seen the mighty fall and sometimes, sadly, not get up.

            In 2007 I fielded a call informing me that mutual friend and fellow racer Chris Blais had been Life-Flighted out of the desert after a spinal cord injury he suffered while pre-running for the Vegas-to-Reno desert race.

            Chris has always been one of the nicest guys I know--constantly smiling, sickeningly positive and also a very accomplished off-road racer around the globe. Earlier that year Blais found himself the only American representing the Red Bull KTM factory team at the Dakar Rally and finished the prestigious event third overall. The smile on his face as he held up the highly touted Dakar trophy on the podium could’ve lit up half of Las Vegas with its beam and power. To this day, he lights up when speaking about that hard-earned accomplishment: “Finally finishing on the podium at Dakar was my greatest accomplishment as an off-road racer. The podium was my long-term goal and I reached it. The Dakar Rally is a life-changing experience and a race that I was fortunate enough to experience three times.”

            The highs and lows of life can often be a cruel thing; later that very year, Chris had his terrible crash and lay in the hot desert sun for three hours with no feeling in his legs, waiting for the medical chopper.

            Remember, though, this is a guy who never quit--ever. Spending countless hours on his bike at the Baja 1000 and other tough races never diminished his fighting spirit and now, facing his greatest challenge, he just shifted his focus over to making the best of what had been handed to him.

            “I’m paralyzed from the sternum down and currently still in the wheelchair. I’m doing the same things I enjoyed doing before--just a little differently now. I have no regrets and would do it all over again even if I knew that I would end up where I am now. Motorcycle racing was a life experience for me and it made me the person I am today,” Blais declares.

            Though his ability to walk vanished out in the desert that day, his mental drive just clicked up another gear and Chris soon found other ways to accomplish newfound goals and recreate. He went out and bought a Polaris RZR UTV and set it up for racing. With a co-pilot to hop out and change a wheel if a flat occurred, Chris now has racked up a number of wins in the WORCS series as well as other event wins.

            He also operates his own business along with his amazing wife Patty (a proven quad racer herself), and the two can be found in the shop most days running Blais Racing Services in Southern California’s high desert area. There, they spearhead a successful race team while Chris also juggles his duties as the Promotional Manager for the AMA Racing Hare & Hound National Championship Series.

            Blais is a master mechanic who personally builds all of the race bikes and motors that come into the shop. When the challenge of getting around out in the soft sand at the local desert races frustrated him, he just scratched his head and came up with a solution. He got his hands on a Segway and chopped it up, adding fat tires and a seat to his newest contraption. That solved his transportation problem at desert races; now, his mobility to and from the signup tent and back to his trailer is no longer an issue.

            In summary, Chris observes, “Life is a little different now and has its separate set of challenges than before. All we can do is move forward and make it work; there’s no reason to just sit there and cry about it--get out there and make it happen!”

            Or, as the saying goes: Winners never quit and quitters never win.

            Chris Blais has never been a quitter.




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