Where did that year go?? Last weekend I made my final trip of the 2013 season travelling to a rather nippy Omaha, Nebraska, for the Finals of the five round JConcepts Indoor National Series. Our second year to cover the series, I have to say I always look forward to joining Jason Ruona and his crew for these events as after a long day at the track the ‘craic’ (Irish word for fun/enjoyment) on the trip to & from the track and during dinner is always good. Not just a successful designer of RC products, Jason is also an excellent story teller with a great memory for funny moments from years gone by. Add in anecdote’s from the straight talking Ryan Maifield, Dustin Evans, Team Associated team-manager Brent Thielke and the odd one liner from new 4WD World Champion Steven Hartson and you always end up having a very entertaining night of conversation.
While the weather was in the region of as low as -10 Celsius, Steven obviously didn’t get that memo as he arrived in from California expecting the hot weather to follow him. Sporting a pair of shorts when he arrived into Omaha Airport on Thursday evening, this helped kick off the weekend’s banter. Rocking shorts for the entire weekend, while the rest of up layered up like eskimos, I think Steven can officially be declared the coolest World Champion, literally!! Although only a sub 5-minute drive from hotel to the track each morning watching Jason and BT, who are used to the Florida & California sunshine respectively, in the front of our rental mini van was like watching the pair set off on a polar expedition!!
My first time to the HobbyTown USA Hobby Plex facility one couldn’t be but impressed by the place which covers a total of 32,000 sq feet. A complete child at heart and holding the view that adult hood is highly over rated, the hobby store was like an Aladdin’s Cave of not just r/c cars but other cool stuff which was handy as I picked up a few last minute Christmas presents (well that was my excuse for treating myself to a Estes Proto X nano quadcopter). As I visited the shop a number of times throughout the weekend I spotted many of the drivers having a ramble with them all commenting on how ‘cool’ the place was. One of the franchise stores of HobbyTown USA, which originally started out just 45-minutes away in Lincoln, the Hobby Plex is often used to show potential franchisees the possibilities of what can be achieved. To the rear of the store, shoppers, its an extremely busy store, can overlook the pit area which also houses a carpet track that will host next year’s ROAR Carpet Nationals. Out a set of double doors to the rear of that you then have an impressive sized indoor dirt track which features a pretty interesting incline away from the unusually high, for indoor racing, drivers stand.
One thing to stand out at the event was the large number of young drivers competing. One frustrating thing I find in doing my job is the number of top drivers who try to impersonate F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen who is famed for his short/or lack of answers to media questions. I learned to expect this from Teemu Leino as after all he too is Finnish but is surprising how many of the Pros are hard to get information from. Not so the case with the up & coming generation. Posting the third fastest time in the opening round of 4WD Open Buggy qualifying, 11-year-old Aydrin Horne took me totally by surprise as he gave with ease a full account of his impressive run. Top Qualifier of 2WD Open Buggy, 15-year-old Taylor Larsen had no problem giving me a run down on his performance and as always 13-year-old going on 30 Daimon Borkowicz, although he didn’t have the best of weekends, is more than capable of handling any questions put his way.
Having come from a previous working background of looking after young racing drivers seeking to pursue a professional career in motorsport, I have a natural interested in watching & encouraging the next up & coming r/c talents. I have great admiration for Jason Ruona on his mentoring of Daimon Borkowicz. Chatting to Jason at the Clash earlier this year about his journey to starting up JConcepts, he explained how Mike Reedy was a huge part of that story with him going to live with one of the sport’s greats for the Summer of 1995. In the evenings after clocking out from work, he would go and practice with Mark Pavidis who would become a good friend and his travelling partner when they both raced for Team Associated. Jason finds it funny that they have both ended up running tyre companies. Based on his own experience and the opportunities it gave him I suppose his support of Damion is only a natural inclination.
While Jason is away from competitive racing these days, the same cant be said for Ryan Maifield who it is good to see is ready to lend support to the future generation of racers. Maifield is one of the worlds top offroad drivers both in electric & nitro and I have often been told by his rivals that of all the drivers to have behind you going onto the last lap he is the one you least want in second place. The Arizona ace has taken 15-year-old Spencer Rivkin under his wing and taking to him as he watched his protege secure 2nd overall in 2WD Open Buggy at the weekend he is really into helping his fellow state’s man go about things the right way. Maifield’s initial contact came as he intervened in an incident in which Spencer started mouthing off on the drivers stand after an incident in a nitro race with an adult racer, Jeff “Humpty” Helms. Having seen the incident, Maifield asked to sit down with Spencer and his father where he explained that such an attitude was going to see him have a short time in the sport. Admitting that his own past was less than perfect, he said it was only after “Humpty”, who started to help his former abuser, asked if he could help get Spencer to some bigger races that he got involved. Having made ‘many mistakes’ on his rise to being one the best drivers in the World, Maifield’s main reason for taking on mentoring the youngster was mainly to help him to try avoid making the same bad judgements but having worked with him he now clearly rated his talent. Helping him to secure support from Associated, Reedy, LRP and JConcepts he said this helps them to share set-ups. Maifield takes his mentoring role seriously and its not just his on track performance that he offers his input but also his conduct away from the track. School work is key element to the continuation of this partnership and this has led to big grades improvements from Spencer. I think a driver like Maifield taking the time from his own already pretty hectic race schedule to give a young driver this amazing opportunity is highly commendable and I hope it results in more PRO drivers doing like wise. I have to acknowledge Yokomo bound Lee Martin, who like Maifield claimed at World Championship podium finish in Chico, who has been very supportive in guiding the career of young British offroad talent Jack Embling which is great to see.
So thats it from me for 2013. Time now to shut down for the Christmas Holidays before the start of what is already looking like an even busier 2014! I also need to start being good so Santa will deliver everything I requested in my letter!! I have to admit that writing this column after each of my racing trips is not something I relish but to everyone who encouraged it and contributed to making it possible I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you. Wishing all our readers and their families a very Happy Christmas and I looking forward to meeting more of you in person in the coming year.
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Oisin O’Briain is Red RC’s Event Editor. Traveling the world reporting on some of the biggest races in the sport he regularly chats with top drivers and key industry figures and in his new column ‘On the Grapevine’ he will try to bring readers an insight into the latest talk that is doing the rounds in the paddock along with the odd bit of trivia information that comes to light.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.