One of the more quiet, reserved, mild-mannered, and fan favorite racers on the circuit today is none other than Tekno RC’s Ryan Lutz. Lutz is known for his ‘on the edge’ driving style on the track, and his friendly, supportive, and welcoming attitude in the pits. Ryan and his Tekno teammates traveled across the pond for this year’s Neo Race (NeoX) in the UK. Immediately following the event, Ryan expressed his disappointment in several aspects of the race via his personal blog (Lutzinator.com). Ryan is not one to express such emotion so openly, therefore, we felt it necessary to catch up with The Lutzinator to get the inside scoop, chat about his new team, upcoming races, and more!
RCN: Hi Ryan! Thanks for taking some time to chat with us today. We have a lot to ask, and for some reason we feel like you might have a lot to tell! You are a VERY calm and collected racer, however, you published a blog report following the NeoX event that made it more than clear you were not a happy camper. Let’s jump in with the big question everyone has been asking, what happened at NeoX?
Ryan: This was my 7th year attending the Neo event. In years past we (Americans) could enjoy coming to this well orchestrated event that had rules and time tables already in place before the event ever started. Every year there was plenty of stop and go penalties and rough driving calls that kept drivers more honest throughout the weekend. Even if not everything was caught, it was still in the back of your mind that they were watching and you can feel that on the track because people race cleaner. However this year officiating during the racing was close to non-existent and the driving got a bit out of hand especially come main time.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing though was what I called #tiregate. When going to this event you get an email with all the rules well ahead of time. In those rules it states they follow BRCA rules. One of those rules is not allowing tire additives. In years past there was occasionally speculation someone was potentially using something but in general it was known to not be allowed and people generally policed themselves. However this year it became known on Sunday that suddenly they were going to allow any additive to be used because they had no way to police it. So honest people were at a disadvantage early on as some people were already saucing. Then by the end of quals Sunday to mains on Monday i’m sure nearly everyone trying to be competitive was saucing.
My only problem with this is the timing of it. Now I don’t believe in saucing as many of the chemicals are unknown in the products we use and most are known carcinogens. But beyond that, is that if they are going to allow it (saucing) they need to state this up front and not leave it totally ambiguous.
RCN: Clearly the tire additive situation (#tiregate) was an issue with not only you, but other drivers as well. What do you feel should have been done to resolve the issue?
Ryan: This race has always been good at stating all rules up front. This one needed to be clarified up front as well. The rules they stated they were using said no tire additives. At first I thought people were getting around this by ‘cleaning’ their brand new tires with ‘tire cleaner’. The true purpose of the product is to clean the tire bead which i’m sure it does well. But people were using it as an additive as it softened tires in one application. Truly strong stuff. But shortly there after, when consulting some race organizers it was told there was no way to police it and that saucing was to be allowed. (This is after 4 qualifiers were complete). They also never announced this to everyone so it was left up to word of mouth as to weather this information got to you or not.
RCN: What is your overall stance on tire sauce in general? Good or bad for racing and the hobby?
Ryan: As stated above, I value my health and try to be healthy. I know Nitro racing in general isn’t healthy, but the chemicals used in tire saucing can get pretty extreme. When you are basically required to subject your health to these saucing chemicals if you want to be competitive I think that is bad for the hobby.
The other stance is that we are all trying to simply go faster. If there is something available that is ‘legal’ for the event that can help you go faster then by all means do it. But it needs to be known up front. Especially when it is a hot topic at more and more indoor events.
RCN: The takeouts and rough driving…was it all from the same few drivers, or just something in the water had everyone driving on the edge?
Ryan: I feel it was due to circumstances I listed above. In previous years there was more rough driving calls and stricter officiating. Thus people knew they were being watched and thus they drove cleaner. But this year nearly nothing was being called so people took that opportunity to take advantage of the situation.
RCN: We are sure you’ve seen the “Pit Lane Punt” video which has created quite a social media stir. What is your take on the incident?
Ryan: Driver coming in to pit lane second needed to be patient enough to allow driver ahead of him to be picked up off pit lane. (Same as you must wait to put your car down after fueling if another car is coming down pit lane and risks hitting your car). So mechanic that picked up second drivers car was frustrated (he probably didn’t understand/see why his driver was crashed in pit lane) and he made a bonehead move by knocking other driver off the pit lane with his drivers car.
RCN: Let’s make a U-turn and talk about a few of the highlights for you from the NeoX. Obviously one of them being the new car, the new teammates who traveled with you, and the unique atmosphere (such as fire breathing ninjas) the event offers. Tell us a bit about all of that.
Ryan: Yea, it was the first international event for Joe, Danny, and Matt, and Danny was courageous enough to drive us to the track from the airport. It was a big learning experience for us with the cars and we had our struggles to be sure. But by the end of the event in the mains we showed great pace and had found our lap times and that was a positive to take from the event.
RCN: You have been travelling and racing a lot with teammate Joe Bornhorst. Who is Joe? Where did he come from? Do you see him as someday being a Top 10 guy at most major races such as yourself?
Ryan: Joe came from Ohio (about 45min from where I grew up as well). His specialty had been 1/8th electric buggy but he is getting his nitro program all figured out. He absolutely has the speed and pace to be a top 10 guy at all major races and I think by the end of the year he will be proving that. He has a motocross background so his transition into R/C has been a quick one and he will excel for sure.
RCN: Tekno has just released the new SCT410.3 short course and EB48SL buggy. The SCT is an updated truck, which is pretty self-explanatory, but the EB48SL is a new style E-Buggy. When, where, and what conditions would you choose to run this light weight and nimble ‘Super Lite’ buggy?
Ryan: As far as I know the SL is meant to generally be a new class. It runs on 2s and a SC motor and I believe is geared for those indoor tracks where big overpowered 1/8th e-buggies are pretty dangerous. This class can bridge that gap and have something over a pound lighter and with not quite as much power. Also a bit cheaper in the battery department.
RCN: Have you played a role in the new developments and products released from Tekno lately?
Ryan: Development not so much as there are already personnel in place for that at Tekno. But I have been a part of the testing of these new products to be sure they are ready for prime time.
RCN: You’ve driven the full lineup at this point, what is your favorite Tekno vehicle and why?
Ryan: The NT48 Truggy is the most amazing truggy out there. It is so much fun to drive and it can just be pushed to the limit.
RCN: Shifting gears again, let’s talk about Lutz RC and Alpha. Things have been a little quiet lately from Alpha, as many of the other manufacturers have been unveiling their new engines for 2015. Anything new in the works at Alpha that you could shed some light on?
Ryan: Actually Alpha has just released their new Dragon II engine which team Driver Derek Weatherholt has been having good success with here in the US.
RCN: How about your own company, anything new we should know about at Lutz RC?
Ryan: LutzRC is now the distributor for the full line of Alpha products including all engines, exhaust, clutch kits, clutch bells, and all the parts necessary for the engine area. LutzRC will also have Tekno/Losi style clutch bells within a month along with clutch kits which will allow those drivers to have the option for a 3 shoe clutch set-up.
RCN: When we think Ryan Lutz, we think of big whips, backflips, and wide open drifts in an 1/8 buggy or truggy. While 1/8 scale is what comes to mind, before switching from Durango to Tekno you dabbled in a little 1/10 scale racing as well. Is there any talk of Tekno joining the 1/10 buggy scene anytime soon?
Ryan: Not so much. The focus is on making the cars they already make be the best on the market. They don’t want to spread themselves to thin.
RCN: Will you be racing the 2015 IFMAR 1/10 Worlds in Japan? Either way, what is your thought on an all astro-turf track?
Ryan: I will not be attending the Worlds as far as I know now. Again, I believe the original rules were for offered tracks for Worlds events to be primarily Dirt. If people are happy with rules being changed then so be it. I’ll stay out of that one. 😉
RCN: Speaking of Worlds, what are your thoughts on the RC Tracks Las Vegas facility (host of the 2016 IFMAR 1/8 Worlds)?
Ryan: Facility and location are wonderful. Easy access for all incoming travelers. Parking is a bit tight and the track isn’t the best i’ve been to in regards to spectating. Perhaps in the next year + they will be able to address that and maybe add some taller bleachers or something. The track is also quite a bit smaller than recent World Championship tracks. Different isn’t always bad so we will see how it all shakes out.
RCN: Do you feel confident that you will be a potential threat for the World Championship, and possibly bring Tekno their first Worlds win?
Ryan: I feel I can always be a potential threat and if the stars can align for me anything is possible.
RCN: So far for 2015, would you consider your season a success at this point?
Ryan: While not perfect or fairytale as would be ideal, I still feel i’ve had some good successes. Every track is a new learning challenge with the new cars. I’m sure results will get better and better as the year goes on as more experience is gained.
RCN: What is next on your schedule of events?
Ryan: Psycho Nitro Blast, Battle of the Sikest, NY Classic, and SWorks Challenge will get me through May. 🙂
RCN: I think that pretty well sums it all up! Thanks for taking some time out with us today Ryan, we certainly wish you the best of luck in the upcoming races, and look forward to chatting again soon! Is there anything you’d like to add before we go?
Ryan: Thanks for talking with me. I would like to thank my sponsors who make my career possible for me. Tekno RC, Alpha Plus, AKA, Byron Fuels, Futaba, Tekin, ProTek RC, 4C Hobby supply, 92 Zero Designs, Misunderstood Graphics, PT RC Racing Oils, LiveRC.com, LutzRC.com Also to everyone out there who supports me, and what I try to offer this hobby.