TALK IT UP TUESDAY: AKA's Brent Fiege
Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 03:58pm
By Aaron Waldron
Welcome to LiveRC's weekly column, "Talk-It-Up Tuesday!" Here we spend a little time talking with industry icons including racers, manufacturers, team managers, developers, promoters, and everyone in between! Sit back, relax, and go behind the scenes as we interview them all!
Since joining AKA a few years ago, Brent Fiege has been a very notable public figure - after all, he travels around the world with the company’s team drivers. He’s been involved in the hobby for much longer than that, however - it wasn’t until putting together this interview that I learned Brent’s family operated one of the most iconic off-road tracks in Southern California back in the early- to mid-90s. He told me all about that and more for this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday.
Aaron Waldron: How did you get started in radio control?
Brent Fiege: My older brothers had a couple of Tamiya Frogs way back when. I was too young at the time to have my own, but I participated in tearing up my parent’s entire backyard and turning it into an off-road track. A while later, my brother got an RC-10 and the Frog got handed down to me and we started racing at the local Southern California tracks in the early 90’s. I suppose my parents wanted their yard back, so my father opened R/C Off-Road Raceway in Fountain Valley, CA in 1993. It was all downhill from there…
AW: When did you get your first job in the RC industry?
BF: I believe it was 2010 when I started doing some freelance work in the industry. I worked with various media outlets such as RedRC, Neobuggy, and R/C Car Action.
AW: How did you get started with AKA?
BF: I knew Mark Pavidis from back at my family’s track in the 90’s. I ran into him for the first time since, at one of the big races in late 2011. While we were catching up, he mentioned AKA could use some help with their graphics and marketing. I went out to the office, met all the guys and started working as a freelancer for them. Everything worked out and here I am 3.5 years later.
AW: What is your position within the company, and what are some of your responsibilities?
BF: I never really sorted out a title, but I suppose you could say the Art and Marketing Manager. My responsibilities include all of the graphics (advertisements, product photography, website, etc.), marketing, and chipping in on team management with Mark.
AW: Did you know before taking the job that you’d have the opportunity to travel with the team?
BF: At first, no, but it became apparent that Mark was a bit overwhelmed dealing with a large racing team along with doing product development. We needed to have a better track presence. I love racing and traveling, so I just naturally fell into being quite involved with the team.
AW: Do you get to race more or less often now than you did before?
BF: I race less now than I did before. Racing has completely changed for me. Along with the AKA team, I am still very involved with Team Associated being the Region 12 Development Team Manager. Between the two roles races are a lot more work than play these days. I still enjoy it very much, It’s a lot different than being just a competitive racer.
Brent won 17.5 Stadium Truck at the 2013 ROAR Electric Off-Road Nationals at AMain.com's Silver Dollar RC Raceway.
AW: Do you think that your racing past was essential to succeed in your current role?
BF: Most definitely! AKA is a racing focused company ran by racers, hence the tagline, “world class products by world champions.” If I wasn’t as involved in racing, I don’t see myself having the proper tools and knowledge to succeed in my position.
AW: The off-road tire and wheel scene is one of the most competitive segments in the RC market. How difficult is it to keep coming up with great new ideas?
BF: Not only is it ultra-competitive, you are dealing with a wheel, a tire, and an insert. They are very simple pieces with lots of limitations. It makes it quite hard to keep coming up with new ideas that actually work. Mark always has new ideas and great tire designs; hats off to him!
AW: What’s the reaction within the office when you find out that another manufacturer has borrowed freely from your hard work?
BF: Honestly, it has happened so many times that there isn’t much of a reaction anymore. We try to just laugh at it and get back to trying to be innovative. Luckily, there is a lot more to making a good tire than just copying a tread pattern.
AW: In your opinion, how healthy is the industry right now?
BF: I think the industry is in a bit of a lull right now. We could definitely use another influx of racers like what short course brought into the industry, but it is not bad by any means.
AW: Do you think that RC racing is heading in the right or wrong direction? Why?
BF: There are a lot of issues with racing on a national and world level that could use some change, but that is for such a small percentage of racers. On the regional and local levels, racing seems to be good. A lot of series racing is thriving and getting huge turnouts with plenty of competition. Racing really speaks for itself. If people are showing up and still having fun, it’s going in the right direction.
AW: From the standpoint of a manufacturer, what are the biggest pluses and minuses of managing a team of sponsored drivers?
BF: Hands down, the biggest negative is the amount of support it take to keep a team competitive. The astronomical amount of money and man-hours behind the team is completely overlooked by most racers. It never ceases to amaze me how much manufactures support the races with hardly any measurable return on investment.
On the positive side of things, we have a lot of pride behind our products. Seeing it succeed in the hands of our team is always very gratifying.
AW: When you’re not at the office or racetrack, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
BF: I have a 2 year old German Shepherd and a slew of bicycles that keep me pretty busy nowadays.
AW: What is your favorite part of working in the RC industry?
BF: The people. Everyone from competitors to racers, they are generally all good people. We all work in a very small and unique industry that we share one thing in common; racing toy cars. It’s also not too bad to get paid to do your hobby.
AW: Is there anything about making your hobby into your career that you weren’t prepared for?
BF: Nope. I was forewarned from the beginning that the hobby would lose some of its luster. It has, but its still pretty damn fun.
AW: Thank you for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
BF: Thanks for having me! Always a pleasure.