Over the past year, a lot has changed in the R/C industry. Among those changes is a wide variety of news from Team Durango. The brand announced in late 2014 they would not have a ‘pro-team’ for 2015, as they were turning their focus to consumers and club level racers instead. Later, long time driver and supporter, Travis ‘Peanut’ Amezcua was assigned a full-time role within the company, and was recently scene at the IFMAR 1/10 World Championships in Japan. Sporting a new array of TD vehicles, Amezcua had an impressive showing (despite some electrical issues), and we decided to catch up with the veteran pro to find out the latest happenings with Team Durango, the future, and his racing program!
RCN: Travis, thank you for sitting down for a chat today! A lot has been changing with Team Durango in the past year. Let’s start by talking about your role, what is your primary job at Team Durango?
Travis: Yes some things have changed a bit this past year. I was given a new roll for the brand. My title is now Field Consultant – North America. This will allow our customers and team drivers to get in touch with me, If they need help with setups or have any issues I’m here to answer their questions. My email where I can be reached is email@example.com.
RCN: Last November the company announced they would re-focus the brand and company to a more local level of racing, as opposed to paying top pros to win national and international events. How has the decision to turn away from a pro paid team been working out so far?
Travis: I’m not too sure on that. That will be decided from upper management.
RCN: Do you expect we will see the return of a pro team again in the future for Team Durango?
Travis: I think at some point we will, but we need to first focus on the club level guys.
RCN: Despite the re-focus on local racing, we saw you and a fresh new set of rides at the IFMAR 1/10 Offroad World Championship recently. Tell us a bit about the new cars.
Travis: Yes you will still see me traveling around the world racing our cars. We are still a racing company. We have been working on new updates for quite some time. R&D is a never ending cycle. The new cars that I raced at the IFMAR Worlds in Japan included the DEX210F, which will be our Astro/Carpet 2wd car. This car was designed for these super high bite tracks. There was alot of testing done by our design team. We felt that we could not just make one 2wd buggy for all types of racing. The front end was carried over from the DEX210v2. This is a shaft drive car. Which allowed us to get the CG low as possible. We will still have our DEX210v3 for the dirt tracks which is our RM or MM car. The DEX410v5 will be our new 4wd buggy. Again the front end was carried over from the DEX410v4. The DEX210F and DEX410v5 will share the same rear end geometry. The chassis has been made wider to allow different lay outs. You can now run saddle packs forward or back, shorty pack with motor in back. Also you can use a gear diff in the center or the standard style slipper. This will allow our customers to set it up for the racing needs.
RCN: Without a paid pro team, many ask who and how are the cars developed for competition without the constant feedback and expertise of a pro team racing week after week?
Travis: Yes this might raise a question how things are developed. Our engineers are racers as well. They have been racing for 20 plus years like me. So we work closely on ideas. Our other team drivers send us info on what they like/dislike and we use their ideas also. Customer feedback is another step in the development process. Pro drivers race week in week out and are there to win that event. It’s the engineers back at the base that do the back to back testing on ideas. So our goal is for our engineers to create a faster product and for our customers to show its faster at their club meets.
RCN: Technically you were one of only a few in the running with the Team Durango platform at the event, however, the Serpent team showed up with what appeared to be a hybrid version of the Durango 4wd as well. What are your thoughts on the former Team Durango drivers, gone Serpent, and running these cars?
Travis: Yes I was the only one at the event with the new platforms. The Serpent team did show up with some new cars. Billy Easton brought updated Serpent cars to the event. The European Serpent Team brought hybrid version of the Durango car. They have a lot of experience with Durango cars on that type of surface. As a racer you want to win. So they felt that this was their best option for the event. From a company side trying to sell current products I think it was a bad idea, but every company works differently. I guess only time will tell if running the hybrids was worth it.
RCN: In the lineup of new kit vehicles, we see that a new 2wd stadium truck and short course platform is missing. Is there plans to fill the void, or does Team Durango see those classes as a dying breed?
Travis: I’ve done some testing for updated platforms. Will they make it into production? I’m not sure at this point. We only see these two classes being raced here in the U.S., and as we know short course has dropped off a lot here in the last few years. Stadium truck is still around, but not what it used to be. So from a company side is it worth spending thousands of dollars on molds to produce these vehicles? That’s for the higher up’s to decide.
RCN: Team Durango has always been praised for its 4wd short course platforms. Tell us a bit about the DESC10, and what sets it apart from the competition.
Travis: Yes the original 4wd short course was amazing. Some racers reported they wanted even greater strength for big outdoor race tracks, which contained harder landings and bigger obstacles. 4wd short course is a different type of racing. Most customers want lots of horsepower in these trucks. The DESC10 was designed just for that. Built to take a beating on the most demanding of tracks.
RCN: Enough about business, let’s talk about you. You have a long list of brilliant race results filling your resume. What are your personal race plans and goals for 2016?
Travis: For 2016 the plan is still for me to travel to all the major events, but I will also be traveling to other events as well that are more customer based. First race will be CRCRC here in the next month. Then of course the Reedy Race. Any event that I’ve attend I give it 100%. And that will be the same for 2016. You have to have a mindset that you can win.
RCN: You are no stranger to the IFMAR World Championships. Will you be competing in the 2016 Vegas IFMAR 1/8 Worlds? If so, do you feel you still have what it takes to win?
Travis: Yes, I will be competing at the 2016 IFMAR Worlds in Vegas. I have a great 1/8 car now, and we will continue to develop it throughout the year leading up to the event. I wouldn’t be racing if I didn’t have what it takes to win any race. Just like the Worlds in Japan, I had a top 5 car in the 4wd class, but only to have electronic issues. To win the worlds everything must go right for you that weekend.
RCN: You have raced just about any and every class of R/C over the years. What is currently your favorite/primary focus and why?
Travis: Favorite class would be 2wd mod buggy. It’s the hardest class in offroad racing. I will focus mostly on the offroad side of things this year, but will do a few onroad events has well. I like to push all of our products. So when our customers and team drivers need help I can have the answer for them.
RCN: Back to business, what is Team Durango’s primary focus right now (1/10 offroad, 1/8 offroad, onroad, short course, etc.)
Travis: All the classes are primary for us, but when you look at the big picture I think there are a lot more events on the 1/10 offroad side right now. It’s the easier class for customers and racers. With nitro you need a pit guy at all times. With electric you can just show up and run. Plus I think the cost for the average racer is much cheaper for 1/10 offroad.
RCN: In a lot of regions around the country there has been a major decline in nitro 1/8 racing, and 1/8 scale racing all together for some. Do you think this is the beginning of the end for nitro? Is 1/10 scale taking over once again (as it did many years ago)?
Travis: I don’t think 1/8 nitro will ever die off, but yes there has been a decline in the class. I think the major reason is cost. When a customer spends between $60-80 on tires, wheels, and foam and they only last a few runs…it’s hard on the wallet. Most 1/10 indoor tracks are clay. A customer can get a few race weekends on a set of tires. Brushless motors and LiPo batteries have really helped out this class also.
RCN: Despite what it may seem when your spending hours upon hours at the track with 500 other racers, the hobby and R/C racing community is still very small. What do you feel is holding it back from growing in popularity?
Travis: Yes I get that a lot when I tell people what I do for a living. Well I think we all would agree that it needs to be on TV. With that being said we need outside sponsors to make it happen. Which is something I’m working on for myself at the moment.
RCN: A lot of new racers jump in, but quickly lose interest and find other hobbies. What can we do to prevent this?
Travis: I think the problem is the learning part. You go to school as a young kid to learn. R/C takes some skills, but it also takes practice to learn the skills of driving and working on your stuff. I came up with a logo for my own brand about a year ago. PRD (Peanut Racing Development). I want to be able to teach R/C racers what I have learned throughout my racing career. This could be from setup help to driving. When I go to some of these small events, I will watch other drivers. Then I will talk with them asking how their stuff is working. Then I can give them some tips for tuning their car, or give advice on their driving. Let’s say for instance they are braking too early of late in this corner. I will tell them what I see track side. The next part is finding a way to put this together to help.
RCN: Travis, thank you for taking time to chat! Is there anything you would like to add before we go?
Travis: I would like to thank my sponsors for there continued support; Team Durango, Maclan, Panther, Xpert, Futaba, Trak Power, O.S Speed, Much More Racing, DE Racing, MIP, Lunsford, Avid, Schelle, Sidewinder, Stickit 1, LiveRC.com, and PRD. Remember, ANYONE can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org!