February 21, 2018

Gene Hickerson wins at 2017 FORCE Series finale

The 2017 FORCE Series finals of the eight-round series was held this past weekend at Mills Pond in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The final round was postponed due to the hurricane that went straight up the center of Florida last Fall. Mills Pond is one of if not the Most Southern track in the USA, so the weather was nice and warm all weekend long in the winter month of February. The track was treated with calcium chloride and sugar to try to keep the dust down and increase traction levels. Unfortunately the Florida sun won again and it became a dust bowl with huge ruts and bumps and cupped out jump faces, making the very simple tight layout into a real challenge due to the super high grip and sandy rutted track. 160 entries signed up to battle in the 3 -day long event.

The track was heavily watered and the ruts patched Friday night after practice, so Saturday morning saw a damp slick but smooth track for the first round of 40+ Buggy qualifying. Local fast guy Luis Perez set TQ in round 1 with his Mugen by 4 seconds over the infamous and legend Gene “The Machine” Hickerson whom is now about to turn 44 years of age. The Machine who recently announced that he was stepping down as a factory team manager/driver to race for fun again as a privateer, was there testing various buggies. This made the race director – World famous Lance MacDonald – angry because The Machine kept running a different buggy each qualifier and they had different transponders in them. This round the Machine ran the new Mugen MBX8 with a few changes to Adam Drake’s setup on it. In round 2 the track was now dry and dusty with loads of traction. The Machine set TQ with the Mugen by 0.5 seconds over Carlos Segui’s MBX8. The final round of qualifying saw a very bumpy and super grooved track. The Machine once again took TQ, giving him the overall TQ for the 45-minute A-main. But what was a shock to many was that The Machine drove a JQRacing Black Edition car.

The lower mains were all run Saturday night, leaving all the A-mains for Sunday. At 9:00am, the first 45-minute A-main was up – the 40+ Nitro Buggy class. Since THE CAR was so good in the last qualifier, the Machine raced the JQRacing buggy again. Hickerson and Perez checked out and battled for the lead for the first 8 minutes until The Machine played it safe and pitted. Perez took over the lead until the 9-minute mark when he pitted at the correct time for a 45-minute main. Then the battle was back on until Perez had an unfortunate flame out. That gave The Machine a huge lead so all he had to do was put it on cruise control and take an easy win. Unfortunately Gene had a malfunction. Sources say that age has taken a toll on The Old Machine and the joints and muscles do not work like they used to, nor the hand and eye coordination and reflexes needed to be fast in RC Racing – maybe a lack of proper oil and lubrication for the rusty Machine was the culprit. Hickerson, who had looked great all through qualifying and THE first 15 minutes of the main, now looked like a novice driver who kept making mistakes and whose timing was all off on every jump. It turns out that Hickerson had lost all feeling in his throttle finger making driving an RC car virtually impossible. With each following pit stop and crash, The Machine would put the radio in his right hand and shake his left hand vigorously until blood flow returned to his finger and woke up again so he could continue driving. That added an extra five to ten seconds for each pit stop, but The Machine still ran away with the race and won by over two laps over 2nd place Carlos Segui and six laps over Kawri Brown in 3rd.

Source: JQRacing [jqracing.com]


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