By Aaron Waldron
Team Associated team manager Brent Thielke joined the company as a sponsored driver in 1999 before being hired on full-time in 2004. During that span, AE has released 11 different 2WD buggy kits between new platforms and special edition kits - and not only has he had the chance to race competitively with each one of them, but he’s responsible for finding some of the fastest racers in the world to join him. Brent took some time out of the first day of qualifying at the Horizon Hobby Off-Road Championships at Trackside Hobbies & Raceway in Milwaukee, WI to talk about the new RC10B5M Champions Edition, which he’s driving this weekend along with the two racers for whom the car was named: Spencer Rivkin and Ryan Cavalieri.
Aaron Waldron: Since the original B5M was released as a “Team Kit,” was a full-option version always in the plans?
Brent Thielke: No. It’s a lot of work to release a new car, so we didn’t just assume a full-option kit would be made. We race week-in and week-out and we learn more at every event. Over time, we continue to develop the car and when we feel we have enough to truly made the car a better performer, then we consider whether we need to release a new kit. In this case, we continue to see a disparity in the tracks that warranted a lot of different major tuning options.
AW: How long after Spencer’s and Ryan’s big wins was the decision made to call this the “Champions Edition” instead of just a “Factory Team” version?
BT: The name was finalized pretty recently to be honest. Team Associated had such a great ROAR Nationals with Ryan Cavalieri sweeping all the classes he entered and the whole team was pretty pumped. Spencer had a great Nationals as well and he pushed Ryan quite a bit. Then we went to the Worlds, and we were absolutely thrilled to see 4 cars in the main and to watch Spencer race like a veteran to win his first IFMAR World Championship title. Ryan was super fast there, too, and finished on the podium. After all the hard work was put in back at the office and at the track, these two guys produced amazing results. We felt it was appropriate to create a tribute to one of the best years ever for a race chassis and the pair of drivers that produced the results. We rarely put drivers’ names on a box, but after a year like this, it just felt right.
Rivkin preparing his B5MCE for the first round of qualifying at the Horizon Hobby Off-Road Championships.
AW: It seems the overall theme of the Champions Edition, in addition to including the goodies that racers would’ve previously added to the Team Kit, is tunability. The Champions Edition buggy not only includes the gull wing and straight-arm front suspension setups, but both 3- and 4-gear transmissions, and two different slipper assemblies. How important is tunability in today’s incredibly versatile world of off-road racing?
BT: Tuning is everything. Racing around the world is tough because there are so many track surfaces and traction levels. Most cars are fairly adjustable, but what we did with the B5MCE kit is really go into the major components and offer the parts that make the biggest changes and provide the most versatility. All the parts that are in the box are used by our team at a tracks they visit throughout the year. As an example, gull wing arms were used by the entire team at the IFMAR World Championship because of the high bite, but the flat arms are typically used on clay.
AW: Are there any specific pieces you feel provide an exceptional value to the racer, or is it more about the overall package? What do you anticipate dedicated drivers will be most excited about?
BT: The thing the racers will like the best is the value. This car will be priced similarly to those from our competitors, but this is no base kit. With the B5MCE, the racers will also get a box full of performance-enhancing Factory Team parts as well. If you force me to pick one component, I’d say the Fox® Shock Bodies with Genuine Kashima Coat® have been in really high demand since they came out and we haven’t had a single racer bolt them on and be disappointed.
AW: Team Associated decided to build dedicated rear- and mid-motor platforms rather than trying to make a convertible B5/B5M, but racers have overwhelmingly chosen mid-motor chassis on every track condition. Was the decision to include both 3- and 4-gear transmissions with the B5MCE similar to originally weighing the choice to design a car that could be built two different ways?
BT: You are correct that most racers have chosen the mid-motor configuration, but a lot of that has been dictated by the tracks going to higher and higher bite surfaces. While the mid-motor configuration is the most popular, racing still requires a lot of feeling. The two transmissions feel different on-throttle and off-throttle and they jump differently as well. Even at the same track, we still have have team drivers that prefer the 4- gear transmission to help get the maximum rear traction, while others like the newer 3 gear transmission because it keeps the car flatter throughout the lap and gives better corner speed.
Ryan Cavalieri wheeling his B5MCE to the first round TQ at the Horizon Hobby Off-Road Championships
with Chad Due, who finished with the third fastest time of the round, to his right. Teammate Corey Liebherr was second.
AW: Will the original Team Kit still be available once the Championship Edition hits the shelves?
BT: No, the Team Kit is being replaced by the Champions Edition. We will continue to offer the B5M Factory Lite, however, because it provides a great value - especially for the stock-class driver looking to get down to the 1500g weight limit for the class.
AW: Thank you so much for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
BT: Yeah, this is a limited production kit. When they’re gone, they’re gone. We timed this car to be released in advance of the holidays so the racers will have the perfect platform for their 2016 race season. More good news is that the spare parts are already on the shelves at most good hobby dealers. And finally, go Arizona Cardinals!