By Aaron Waldron
Frank Root is one of many RC industry professionals who turned his hobby into a fun, rewarding career - first as the store manager at SoCal retail icon Pacific Coast Hobbies before joining Horizon Hobby as a Senior Product Developer specializing in the Team Losi Racing brand. Having cut his teeth in the Arizona racing scene before moving to Southern California, Root had developed plenty of talent behind the wheel - that no doubt plays a role in helping create and refine new vehicles expected to compete at a world championship level.
Just hours after the official release of Root’s latest project, the 22 3.0 2WD buggy, he granted me this in-depth interview talking about the process of creating the car, who was involved, and what it means to him to see the public reaction.
Aaron Waldron: How excited and relieved do you feel now that the car is finally out? How long have you been keeping its development a secret?
Frank Root: I am SUPER excited to finally share this one with all of our consumers, friends and team drivers. It takes 12-18 months for projects from the time we start testing until it hits the shelves. One of the hardest parts of my job is having to keep new projects to myself - I really just want to share them with everyone but we just can’t until the official announcement.
AW: As a Product Developer for Horizon Hobby, what was your role within the 22 3.0 project?
FR: The 22 3.0 was my project, so I really had my hands in it from start to finish. As a Product Developer, I tell people I don’t do anything, but I do everything - LOL. I manage all aspects of the project from design, prototypes, testing, production, scheduling, ordering, marketing deliverables and everything in between. The team does a lot of the testing, our engineering team does the design work, the purchasing department places orders, the marketing staff actually creates the box art, manual, etc. I have my hand in everything and am responsible for all aspects of the project, but it’s a huge team effort that pulls these projects off!
AW: What were the development team’s specific goals for the new buggy?
FR: Every new car we work on has two major goals: faster and easier to drive. With the 3.0, we decided right away to focus on mid-motor, and without the rear motor suspension to work around, we were able to really optimize performance for the mid-motor platform. Overall, we made the car quicker, much easier to drive, much more competitive for spec racing, and easier to work on.
AW: Since you’re quite a talented off-road racer yourself, how much input did you have on testing features for the new car along with information from team drivers?
FR: I always have a bit of input on the geometry, but on this project, we really relied on Ryan Maifield, Dustin Evans, and Dakotah Phend. We have very talented drivers who also know exactly how they want a car to work. I work with them during testing to run through concepts and changes to get them to a car they are really happy with, then we design the production from that geometry.
AW: How much consideration is there for using existing parts and components when updating a platform like this?
FR: It is considered with each and every part. But, if a new part makes the car handle better, more durable, more adjustable, easier to work on - then we’ll move forward to make the best car possible.
AW: Why did TLR decide to use Maifield's paint job for the box art?
FR: He’s one of our key drivers and hasn't been on any of our boxes yet. People link Ryan with winning, and that's what they can do with the new car.
AW: When the 22 2.0 was released, many TLR drivers were still torn between rear- and mid-motor. How far into the 3.0’s development did the team decide to go mid-motor-only?
FR: By the time the 2.0 shipped - LOL. As a team, we realized mid-motor was here to stay the month the 2.0 shipped during the Surf City Classic at OCRC. The 2.0 development was rear-motor-focused, and so was the market during the 18 months we worked on it. Then, right when it shipped, everything went mid-motor. I still believe the 22 2.0 is the best RM car ever released. Most of the concepts on the 3.0 are things we wanted to work into the 2.0 to improve the MM side, but we knew we couldn’t accomplish them with a shared platform.
AW: Which new features on the 3.0 do you feel will offer the biggest advantages?
FR: That’s a hard one, because there are so many substantial changes. I’d say the improved rear weight bias, motor location, 3-gear tranny, and VLA front arms. These are the meat and potatoes of the geometry updates that really make the car much quicker and easier to drive. And that is really the biggest improvement.
AW: Thank you for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
FR: Absolutely. Thanks for the chance to do this interview. I want to thank everyone who had a hand in the TLR 22 3.0 project: Mike Mellin, Todd Hodge, Brian Nunez, Brian Kinney, Jukka Steenari, Brent Redlin, Scott Cramer, Andy Ziegler, Salvatore Carovilla, Debbie Ridgeway, Larry Genova, Kevin Gahan, Ryan Maifield, Dustin Evans, Dakotah Phend, JR Mitch, and the entire TLR Race Team. Also, OCRC Raceway and Scott Bergen from SDRC Raceway for the testing time. I might be the guy on the video, and be active on FB and forums about the release, but I don’t think people really understand how much work goes into a project like this. Without every one of the people listed, the project would not be completed and available this year - if ever!