TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Brian Kinwald on the evolution of off-road racing
Tuesday, Feb 3, 2015 02:25pm
By Aaron Waldron
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!
Brian Kinwald has been one of the most popular racers in RC for twenty years, and for good reason. His name and picture has been on everything from car kits and motors, to tires, batteries, and motor spray. Though he achieved success racing on asphalt and carpet, and even won a ROAR National Championship in 1/8-scale nitro buggy, it was his utter domination of the world of electric off-road that forever etched his name into RC's record books. Back in the late 90s he was almost unbeatable, winning two IFMAR World Championships (including the first ever for Team Losi), and over thirty national titles - a feat he accomplished quickly by often sweeping every class at the event. Several years ago, he took a step back from the busy schedule of traveling to dozens of races around the world, but has enjoyed a career revival since reuniting with Team Associated in 2011. Having seen it all over the last 25 years watching the industry change and evolve, "The Dirtinator" has a unique perspective on where RC racing has come from - and where it is headed.
Aaron Waldron: What has it been like club racing and hitting up large events since rejoining Team Associated?
Brian Kinwald: It has been amazing and they have been great. Obviously I have a lot of health problems, which sometimes makes it hard to travel or predict travel, and they seem to understand that pretty well. And I can honestly say I have had more fun doing my thing with AE than I had in a long time.
AW: You’ve helped design tires and inserts for JConcepts in the past, and you just started working on a new project with them by showing off the first products in the new “Dirt Racing Products” line at the Reedy Race. How have you enjoyed working with fellow 90s racer Jason Ruona over the years?
BK: Well, first off, I want to say how proud I am of Jason and what he’s been able to do with JConcepts. I met Jason when he was pretty young and just becoming fast. He's been able to go from an up-and-coming racer, to a top tier driver, to a major player in the industry - and he’s still really fast, which makes it all that more impressive. As far as working with him, it has been awesome awesome. We have always been good friends, no matter what team or tires or the situation was. Respect!
AW: What are some of the kinds of items we might see from the Dirt Racing Products in the future?
BK: That I’m not sure. I will shoot him an idea, or he will ask me about one of his, and if it’s something he thinks everyone will like then maybe it gets done. Hopefully just more and more trick, cool stuff everyone likes.
AW: What did you think when the crowd erupted when you took the lead in one of your heats at the Reedy Race this year?
BK: Yeah that was really cool. It scared me a bit and I lost focus, but it was really cool to see everyone cheering for me.
AW: You’ve helped most of your major sponsors over the last twenty years develop new products, and your name has been used to sell more RC gear than any other driver. What does it mean to you that your legacy has remained so iconic for so long?
BK: It means a lot more to me than most people would think. I have always tried really hard to be everyone’s friend and not get in the middle of things, and if I did I would really try hard to make it all good again. I think that has helped in some ways, but all in all, we all got into this in the beginning because it was fun and I have always tried to instill that into whatever it was I was doing.
AW: Who first came up with your nickname, “The Dirtinator?”
BK: It had to be Ernie Provetti, when I ran for Trinity. The Terminator movies were big and they came up with the name and did the ad with me sitting on a Harley dressed up like the Terminator. It was pretty cool.
AW: Though your career started on pin tires in soft dirt, you’ve seen the off-road side of RC transition toward dust-free tracks and tires with little tread, if any at all. Since you were probably the first notable driver to experiment with running hand-made slicks on dirt, what do you think about today’s tracks trending toward sticky clay or sugared outdoor dirt?
BK: Honestly, I think it’s just an evolution of racing. Even in other forms, like real short course trucks that now run on smoother, more packed tracks. BMX racing has g…one that same direction, and even Supercross tracks are more clay and hard packed. But for us RC racers, I think the fairness coming from the consistency of the hard-packed clay type tracks is why we have evolved to them. A lot of people don't realize back in the day, on a loamy track, lap times could vary from 1 to 3 seconds from one heat to the next. So I think it’s more about consistency and fairness, at big races anyway. As for me, I have always liked it mainly because the cars are so much faster on those types of tracks.
AW: How do you feel about this year’s Worlds being potentially head on astroturf or carpet?
BK: As far as grip level, fairness, and consistency, it will have it all.
AW: Have you ever raced on an artificial off-road track?
BK: A few different times in Europe a long time ago, and it was really fun.
AW: You were one of the first drivers to run for X-Factory, whose original three-gear mid-motor 2WD buggy was sometimes criticized for not having enough traction, so they introduced a four-gear transmission. Does it seem odd that, almost ten years later, some manufacturers have gone to a three-gear, mid-motor design?
BK: No, not odd. Back then you couldn't predict that RC would evolve into what it has. Maybe X-Factory did, but tires and tracks have evolved to where the cars and equipment has caught up.
AW: How has the process of a driver coming up with a new idea, and getting the company to make it, changed over the last 25 years? Has your role in the R&D process changed?
BK: Yes and no. So much is done on computers now, where back then it was me and a Dremel and I would have to prove to someone it was good. It’s harder now because I’m not as fast, and computers can predict a lot. But I still love to tinker with anything I can to make something better and if they think it is, then there’s a shot it will get made.
AW: Do you have any special goals this season?
BK: Yes. My #1 goal always is to have fun. My #2 goal is to do better, because it’s more fun. LOL