TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Austin Blair
Tuesday, Dec 23, 2014 02:31pm
By Aaron Waldron
By Aaron Waldron
When I moved to Northern California in 2011 to work for AMain (then A Main Hobbies), part of my job included traveling around the country with their team of sponsored drivers to help at the track, and blog about their performance. Among their talented group of young men, each looking to break through to that next level and start making the finals at national-level events while traveling across the country with their fathers, was a NorCal-based kid named Austin Blair. I knew Austin’s name (as well as his nickname, Weasel) from his stellar finish at the ROAR Nationals in Electric 1/8-Scale the year prior, and genuinely enjoyed the chance to meet and travel with Austin and his father, Steve.
It seemed that, with each race the team attended, Austin was getting faster and more comfortable driving at the limit. He soaked up information quickly, responded well to advice, and continued to manage his nerves while improving his skills. At 20 years old, Austin has a bright racing future ahead of him.
Aaron Waldron: How did you get started in radio control, and how long have you been racing?
Austin Blair: My dad had an old 1/12th-scale car laying around in the garage from back when he raced in the 80s. I wanted to drive it, so he charged it and I drove it a lot. I kept trying to jump it, so my dad later bought be a Team Associated T3. I played around with that in my front yard for a while. We later got started in 1/10-scale on road when I was 8, which was around 2002. We raced that for a little bit, but nothing serious. We then moved to nitro 1/8-scale on road. It got really expensive, I'd always bend my pipes every time I raced. Then in 2007 I started racing 1/10-scale electric off-road at the old Norcal Hobbies. I drove an electric 1/8-scale buggy and was hooked on the bigger cars. In 2010 I raced my first ROAR Nationals, where I finished 2nd in Electric 1/8-Scale Buggy behind Ryan Maifield and 3rd in Electric 1/8-Scale Truck. In 2011 I started racing nitro. I had some trouble getting my nitro program running smoothly, but it clicked, and I'm here now.
AW: When did you decide to take RC racing more seriously?
AB: I'd say when I started racing Electric 1/8-Scale Buggy, so about 2009.
AW: How long did it take for you to start attracting sponsors? Who are some of the companies that you’ve raced for?
AB: I had sponsors when I raced 1/8-scale on road, when I raced for Mugen and then Kyosho. I started getting bigger deals in 2010, when I started for Castle Creations, then after the 2010 ROAR Electric 1/8-Scale Nationals I attracted A Main and AKA. I raced for Tekno RC from 2010 to 2013, then in 2014 I signed with SWorkz.
AW: Was it a difficult decision to leave Tekno RC?
AB: Yes, or course. They treated me really well and I had some great results when running their products, such as the 2010 Electric 1/8-Scale Nationals and when I TQ’d the Dirt Nitro Challenge in E-Buggy. It's never easy to leave a sponsor. Making those decisions is something I don't take lightly.
AW: How did you get hooked up with AMain?
AB: I had been a customer for years. I liked how fast they were getting their orders out, and they had great customer service. I ran their ProTek RC batteries at the 2010 Electric 1/8-Scale Nationals and I contacted them after that race. It has been love ever since.
AW: With many of AMain’s drivers free to run whatever chassis they want, what prompted you to commit to Sworkz vehicles?
AB: After extensive testing with many different options, I felt that the Sworkz brand of cars suited my driving style the best. The durability, quality and the fact that they are always trying to improve their products stood out to me in a big way.
AW: Is it difficult to balance being a student with racing?
AB: I finished high school a year and a half ago, and I am currently attending a local junior college. It is difficult at times, but I always made sure I had my school work done before I would touch any of my cars. I would sometimes have my cars ready weeks in advanced because stuff comes up at weird times. I worked on my cars whenever I had a chance. I've had to miss some races due to school. My sponsors have always made it clear that school comes first.
AW: Of what races are you most proud?
AB: Of course, the 2010 1/8-Scale Electric Nationals because I finished on the podium in both classes. I TQ’d E-Buggy at the 2013 Dirt Nitro Challenge. In 2013, I finished 6th in 1/8-Scale Nitro Truck at the ROAR Nationals in Texas. But the race I am most proud of was when I finished 7th in Pro Buggy at the 2014 Dirt Nitro Challenge - being fast for ten minutes is hard, but being fast for 60 minutes is much harder. That's why I am so proud of that race.
AW: How important is your father, Steve, to your racing career?
AB: While I write this, he has a big grin on his face because he was included in this interview. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. He has done everything for me. While he doesn't work on my cars at club races like I've seen other fathers do, which can be hard at times, it has taught me to be independent. I can't complain because he has paid for everything. He always tells me what I could improve on even when I don't want to hear it. He just wants what is best for me. He has given up a lot to help me.
AW: Aside from your dad, who are some of the people that have helped you the most in RC?
AB: There are many people who have helped me along the way over the years. (AMain team manager) Marty Korn has helped me out a ton in the recent years. He has gotten me sponsor deals and has been like a second dad to me when my dad is away fighting crime (Note: Austin’s father, Steve, is a police officer). Also, former NorCal Hobbies owner and current AMain racing facilities manager Kevin Jelich - since I first started, he has always pushed me to do better and always provided amazing tracks to race on.
AW: What is your favorite track? What about your favorite racing class?
AB: My favorite track would be AMain's silver dollar track in Chico, CA. Hands down, my favorite class is nitro 1/8-scale buggy.
AW: You’ve had a few brilliant performances in nitro 1/8-scale racing despite less experience than many of those with whom you’re competing. Do you think your practice in 1/8-scale electric helped?
AB: Yes. I raced 1/8-scale electric a lot before I started nitro. I just practiced a lot. Practice makes perfect, so I guess I need to practice more. I really enjoy it.
Do you think that 1/8-scale electric buggy and truck will grow more than they have?
AB: I sure hope so, I really enjoy racing Electric Buggy. It is where I had my first big breakthrough race. I wish that, in general, both nitro and electric 1/8-scale buggy classes would grow. It has been on the downfall where I live.
AW: When you’re not at the racetrack, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
AB: I enjoy hanging out with my friends, family, and my girlfriend, but lately I've been riding my dad’s stand up jet ski. I don't care how cold the water is, I will ride it.
AW: What’s your favorite part of RC racing?
AB: I would say all the friends I have made and all the opportunities I have been given. As well as the competition - no one likes to lose.
AW: What about RC racing annoys or bothers you?
AB: Ah man, well I hate when my dad yells at me. Also in 1/10-scale buggy, all the crazy stuff that people do to their tires to make them that much faster. It happens with all brands.
AW: Do you have any big goals for your RC career?
AB: As I'm sure it’s anyone's goal, to win a Nationals and possibly even a Worlds. Only a few can win these races, but I would like to be part of that few. I would like to continue to promote my sponsors and always have fun.
AW: Thank you for the interview! Is there anything else you would like to add?
AB: Thank you for the interview! Also a thank you to my sponsors for giving the opportunities to race: AMain.com, Sworkz, ProTek RC, AKA, Tekin, Byron Fuels, Airtronics, and Upgrade RC.