TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Ray Munday
Tuesday, Mar 8, 2016 04:36pm
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!
I had often seen Ray Munday’s name atop race results from his native Australia, but didn’t get a chance to meet him until I boarded the bus to go from the hotel to Yatabe Arena at last year’s IFMAR Worlds in Japan. By that time, I had answered a bunch of messages from his wife who, along with their son, was eager to watch him from back home. I learned all about Ray’s background in RC, his super cool job, and what the Australian racing scene was like (especially the thriving junior scene!) - which convinced me that he’d make a great candidate for a Talk It Up Tuesday interview.
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
Ray Munday: 39 years old. I was born and raised in Perth (Western Australia), but 10 years ago moved to Melbourne. This November I will turn 40 during the Australian nationals - party after the finals!
AW: How did you get into RC, and how long have you been racing?
RM: When I was a kid my uncle had some hobby cars (Tamiya Wild Willy) but I had no idea about racing. Around 1989 I found a copy of RC Car Action and a local magazine (Dirt & Track) at a newsagents and was hooked! I pestered my parents for a long time to get a car and finally in 1990 I got a Tamiya Astute. I made a course in the backyard using potted plants, hoses, sand piles, etc. and drove as much as I could every day. My first race was at the end of 1990, so just over 25 years ago. I took a few years off in the early 2000s to pursue full-size racing and karting, but after injuring myself karting in 2006 just after my son was born, I decided to get back into RC and haven’t looked back!
AW: How long did it take you to start taking racing more seriously, attracting sponsors and attending larger events?
RM: Roughly 18 months after I started racing I made the A main at the nats in stock, and got some sponsorship from a local hobby shop. A year later I had support from Schumacher after winning state titles. We attended the main events in Western Australia but back then it was very expensive to travel to the east coast where most of the competition was. My first breakout race was the 1997 nats in Canberra where I finished 2nd in 4wd mod, and in 1998 I came within a corner of winning 2wd mod at the nats. To be honest I was fast but erratic then. In 2000 I spent a year living in Detroit for work and made a lot of friends in the RC scene there (shoutout to Al Horne who is still super fast I see!). When I came back to the sport in 2006 JConcepts picked me up and I finally bought an AE 2wd buggy. Finally, in 2008 I achieved my goal of winning the nats in 2wd mod. For the last 5 years I have been a factory driver for AE and also now Reedy, and 10 years for JConcepts.
AW: What do you do for work? What does your employer think of you traveling the world to race RC cars?
RM: I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering and have had a blessed career. Out of university I started working for a car suspension R&D company which taught me a lot about vehicle dynamics and I was lucky to end up working with top teams in WRC, Dakar, F1 and Super GT as well as a lot of car manufacturers. Now I work for Toyota, where I manage the off-road testing department here in Australia. Australia is a huge place with very harsh environments and a lot of dirt roads, so it’s a great place to test their heavy duty 4wds.
Over the years my racing has benefitted from my work (especially in terms of planning and documenting) but I think my work has benefitted more from my racing! Racing RC cars teaches you so much about chassis setup, reading the road, driving theory and preparation, all of which transfer directly to full size vehicles if you use your brain. I was very fortunate to sit beside Sebastian Loeb in the Citroen Xsara WRC car in places like Finland and I recall thinking that the response of the car was similar to a 4wd mod buggy on dirt. When I worked with the Citroen WRC team the chassis group was run by an ex-French RC champ. In the Mitsubishi Dakar team we used some RC knowledge to solve a jumping issue. We use RC rock crawlers at Toyota to help safely demonstrate some driving techniques.
AW: What are some of your favorite memories and biggest accomplishments from your racing career? Do you have any particular goals?
RM: In terms of my own results – my biggest accomplishment was winning the 2008 Nats in 2w mod (also the first time for brushless to win the nats in 2wd in Australia). Making the top 40 at the Worlds last year (the first time I ever drove on astroturf) was a big surprise and I really enjoyed it. I’m also proud to have won 25 state titles, made the A main at the Reedy Race at Yatabe, and TQ’d the 2000 Canadian nats. Off the track, I’ve tried to change the mindset towards sponsored drivers by being very open with setups and run a help thread on RC Tech (http://www.rctech.net/forum/australian-racing/617877-ask-ray-munday-jconcepts-novak-associated-aussie-support-thread.html) This has had over 10000 hits and I have people asking me questions from all around the world which is very satisfying.
Attending the Worlds was a lifelong dream but 2015 was the first time I had actually been able to make it happen. To attend it as part of the AE factory team and be a (small) part of the team that won was awesome.
Over the past 2 years the shift to mid-motor cars has been very quick, and along with my teammates here in Australia we did a lot of testing to get them working here – to the point now we don’t take out our rear motor cars even on slippery tracks. This was a really interesting time and I cant wait for the next major shift!
Some other standout memories are watching my son develop over the last 2 years including winning the first junior state title last year. We have a very strong junior scene here and its great to see the young guys coming through.
My goals for the future are to keep having fun and using my technical knowledge to help develop cars and help drivers of all ages come through. When I was young I was fast but didn’t have the setup experience – I want to make sure others aren’t in that position and can get the most out of their driving. I plan to do more coaching and setup seminars when I get some free time!
AW: Where have you travelled for RC races? Do you have any favorites?
RM: Internationally I have raced in Japan several times (mostly Yatabe) and I spent a year in 2000 in the Michigan series. In Australia I have raced all around the country. Yatabe would have to be my favourite facility – its RC mecca and just an amazing place to go (just a shame it was covered in turf!). In Australia, my favourite track is the regional track of Mildura. Always a fast flowing layout, great weather and great surface.
AW: Did you have to encourage your son to become interested in RC, or did he make that choice on his own?
RM: Lachie has always been interested in playing with the cars and coming out to the track with me – since he was 5 he has come with me to the track most club race meetings and raced in the novice class here from around 6 years old (he turned 10 a few weeks ago). My wife and I haven’t pushed him to race, but we do push him to try his best at everything he does. RC has taught him a valuable lesson already – you need to work at something to get better at it. Around 18 months ago he wasn’t doing so well so we took it back to basics and just did an hour practice each Saturday afternoon. Something clicked and he suddenly dropped 3s a lap, and last year he did really well in the junior 17.5 scene here including winning the Tasmanian state title and Victorian state series. This year he has moved to mod and he made the A main in the 2WD open class at the Keilor Invitational a few weeks ago. He enjoys mod a lot!
We have a very strong junior scene here which helps. At most race meetings there are at least a half dozen kids under 12 who race together, then play together. He loves the racing almost as much as playing with his mates! My daughter (age 6) is now starting to drive and loves it for the same reasons. There was a lot of resistance to having junior racing but I can’t stress enough how successful it has been here. It builds the confidence of kids, keeps them out of the way of the adults while they learn, and has attracted a lot of new racers to the sport.
AW: Can you describe what the off-road racing scene is like in Australia? How does it differ from other places you’ve been?
RM: The scene here is mainly outdoor dirt tracks, and 99% of the tracks are run by clubs of volunteers. There is a lot of variation in tracks – most tracks are clay with bumps and some dust, especially in summer – although for larger events there is the ever-increasing pressure to treat / sugar tracks. Artificial surface tracks are pretty rare here. At the club level 17.5 2WD is always big (we get 30-40 on a club day at my local track, Keilor). We have a great state series here in Victoria as well. One of the struggles we have here is that the country is so large, its not cheap to travel around, so its hard to get the top racers against each other all the time. I’d like to see a better series of racing (like EOS) with fewer races but deeper competition at each event. At our local track we run a Reedy-style Invitational event – this year it was huge with Kyle McBride, Josh Pain, Ari Bakla coming down and around 180 entries – I’d love to see some international racers come down here in the future!
AW: What are some of your favorite non-RC hobbies?
RM: Spending time with my kids – watching movies and riding bikes. We are all Star Wars fans!
AW: What’s the best part of racing RC cars? What about it annoys or bothers you?
RM: The best part for sure is the people you meet and the lessons you learn which help you out in life. I’ve made some lifelong friends from around the world and made great memories.
What annoys me? People who complain about the work of volunteer clubs without lifting a finger to help. Trust me, it ain’t easy.
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
RM: Firstly my Dad. He helped me a lot in the first few years driving around and helping with car prep. Also Tim Vickridge who was my first sponsor.
Jason and Allison Ruona for picking me up in the early days of JConcepts and supporting me a lot. Brent Thielke from AE has been a great help as well. Charlie Suangka was a big supporter when I ran Novak, and now Rick Howhart from Reedy.
My wife Christina is also a huge supporter of our racing (especially since Lachie started). Without her, I couldn’t do it at the level I do.
Matt Griffin and Andrew Selvaggi are my 2 teammates I have learnt the most from over the past 10 years and I thank them for that as well.
I’d also like to thank each and every person who has ever asked me a question on my help thread, via email or at the track – I learn something new all the time when I answer questions and it keeps pushing me to learn new things!
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RM: Thank you Aaron and LiveRC for the opportunity! I’ve already thanked my sponsors but I’ll do it again (Team Associated, JConcepts, Reedy). Ive been very fortunate to watch the sport grow over 25 years and it has come a very, very long way. It will be very interesting to see where the sport heads in the next few years – whether we will move back to dirt or further away (or continue to expand in all directions). For it to continue growing, it needs the support of all racers at all levels to keep having fun, and I hope to see more collaboration between manufacturers, organizers and racers to promote the sport better. Having sites like LiveRC has helped take the sport to a new level but I think there are many opportunities for future growth that haven’t yet been tapped into. My advice to all racers - if you see something you don’t like or could be improved at your local track, don’t complain about it on Facebook - speak to your club and let them know your concerns and ideas you have to improve. And most of all, keep having fun!