TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Joe Bornhorst
Tuesday, Feb 10, 2015 02:09pm
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!
Joe Bornhorst, like many RC racers, found RC to be a safer alternative to a more dangerous form of full-scale racing - and, like an unfortunate number of others, learned the hard way. With an aspiring motocross career cut short by an injury that prevented him from climbing back upon a pair of footpegs, the now-21-year-old Kent State student translated that knowledge of navigating off-road tracks into finding quick success behind the pistol grip, scoring a semifinal spot at last year's ROAR Nationals and winning his second consecutive CRCRC title last month. Not only did his performance last season earned him a spot among LiveRC's top five breakout stars of 2014, Bornhorst signed a new deal toward the end of last season to provide half of a powerful 1-2 punch for upstart team Tekno RC in 2015. Not only is Joe teaming up with fellow Ohio native Ryan Lutz, but he is willing to do whatever it takes to realize his goal of becoming one of the industry's best. Here's what Joe had to say about his life, career, and the state of RC racing.
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
Joe Bornhorst: I am 21 years old, and I am from New Philadelphia, Ohio.
AW: How did you get started in radio control, and how long have you been racing?
JB: Well I raced motocross for close to 15 years, and back in 2010 I had a pretty bad crash where I shattered my lower leg. After some complications with the injury happened and I realized that I wasn't going to be able to race dirt bikes anymore, I looked for something to take it's place and found out about RC racing. I went to a couple club races in the beginning of 2011 but really didn't start spending any real time with it until the winter of 2011/2012. So a little over 3 years of actually racing.
AW: What was it that attracted you to RC racing after ending your motocross career?
JB: Pretty much everything. I completely think that RC racing is motocross with a controller. From the line selection, to the actual racing, to the car setup, to even the feeling you get when you're racing. Most of it can be translated from motocross. And you don't get hurt, so that's pretty cool too.
AW: When did you decide to take RC racing more seriously?
JB: During the winter of 2011/2012 I started to spend some actual time racing more often, and realized that I might actually be decent at this. So then in the summer of 2012 I jumped, or I guess limped, fully into it and started racing all the time. That year I got some nitro cars, I found out what the ROAR Fuel Nats was and did that for the first time, since it was close to me in Pennsylvania at LCRC. Since then I’ve just continued to try to step it up from there.
That's Joe going for the aerial pass! (Photo: Fox Photography)
AW: How long did it take for you to start attracting sponsors? Did you realize that the RC racing scene so closely mimicked the scene of amateur and professional motocross?
JB: I have been getting help since pretty much the beginning from my local hobby shop, Magic Hobbies in Strasburg, Ohio. But then in 2013, I started to get some interest from companies and got my first sponsors for chassis, tires, motors, etc. I started to realize the similarities between the two very quickly. With sites especially like LiveRC, it makes it seem a lot like the online coverage that motocross gets. Another big similarity is how you attract sponsors. The name of the game in motocross is that you have to go to the companies to get recognized, they won't just come to you. That means going to the races, getting results and making a name for yourself. It’s the exact same in RC.
AW: You’ve really starting gaining attention over the last year or so. Have you simply been practicing and improving, or did you have a breakthrough?
JB: I think its a combination of everything. Practicing is obviously a huge factor, and I do practice as much as possible, but I quickly realized that if you want to compete on a national level, it takes much more than just running your cars. For the first year or so that I raced, I really knew absolutely nothing when it came to setup. From track to track, I would run the same exact thing. It got me by, but it only got me so far. Since then, I have been working very hard at gaining more setup knowledge and also learning how to properly diagnose what the car is actually doing on the track to be able to make the proper changes. And now that my cars are better, it's a lot easier to get my driving better. Another big thing that has allowed me to improve is having the proper help and another set of eyes while I'm on the track - whether it's to give me opinions on what I should do, suggestions on what changes to the car I should make, if I'm driving too hard, anything. My good friend Jeff Beck does a very good job of this while I'm at home in Ohio, and while I'm out here in California, I have Daniel Lewis as my main help. It's pretty hard to beat having the designer of the car in your corner.
AW: What are you studying? What’s your dream job?
JB: I am studying Mechanical Engineering. My hope is to one day have a degree and work for a company helping with designing and developing cars. Or maybe act as a team manager of some kind. To be completely honest, I really don't know the exact job that I want to have. For now, my dream job is to be a professional racer, so I am going to give my full attention to doing my best at every race and also to finishing school and I think the rest will take care of itself with time.
AW: Is it difficult to balance going to college and racing as often as you’d like?
JB: It definitely was difficult trying to balance it when I was actually attending classes. Trying to plan out how much I can be gone and making up work was a struggle. But for this year I decided to try out online school so that I can do it while I'm on the road. So far it is working out really well and is definitely a lot easier to keep up with my work.
AW: What’s the best part of living in the Midwest? The worst?
JB: Well, right now in San Diego, it has been sunny and 70 pretty much every day. Back in Ohio, it has been snowing and 15 if they are lucky, so you can use your imagination on what the worst part is. The best part is the sheer cost of living. It's definitely quite a bit cheaper at home. Oh, and the traffic! After experiencing the 5 and the 15 (ed. note - two main SoCal Interstates) during rush hour, I will officially never complain about traffic in Ohio.
AW: You’ve been in San Diego practicing and racing with the Tekno RC team for a few weeks now. Will you ever bring yourself to leave?
JB: Well, the original plan was to go home in January 28th. Then I changed it to February 2nd. Then I just decided to stay until Nitro Challenge and go home after. I'm just kind of playing it by ear and living it up while I can!
AW: Do you have time for any other hobbies?
JB: With both racing and school taking up so much of my time, there's not really too much left for anything else. If I do have extra time, I usually like to play some Playstation with my buddies.
AW: Of what races are you most proud?
JB: There's quite a few that I'm proud of. My win at CRCRC last year was cool because it was my first win at a major race. Then getting a win at AMS last year in E-buggy was really special because that was definitely a hard fought battle with Ryan Lutz in both mains. Then making a semi-final at this years ROAR Fuel Nationals was a proud moment. I'd say a toss up between those for now.
AW: How much did it mean to you to win at CRCRC this year?
JB: It meant a lot. With it being a home race, I obviously want to do well at it. But more so this year I wanted to do good for Tekno especially with it being the first major race that I have done for them. So to go there and TQ and win both of my classes was a pretty cool feeling for me.
AW: By signing with Tekno RC toward the end of last season, you and fellow Ohio native Ryan Lutz have helped launch one of the newest companies to mainstream 1/8-scale racing into the world spotlight. What was it that attracted you to represent a company that’s still looking to cut its teeth in the racing world?
JB: A big part was definitely the team support that Tekno RC has across the U.S. Another was, obviously, the cars. I came out and tested the cars in August and was immediately impressed. Another is how much that Danny and Matt believe in me. Then once I signed and later found out that Ryan was signing, especially since I look up to him the most as we’re both from Ohio, it was just icing on the cake.
On top of the Tekno RC deal, Joe joined Lutz at Alpha for 2015 as well.
AW: You certainly race a lot of 1/8-scale and 4x4 short course truck, but do you ever practice with anything else?
JB: In Ohio, 4x4 SCT and E-Buggy are the two biggest classes outdoors. It's pretty hard to find a class of nitro at anything other than big races. So while I'm in Ohio, I primarily run E-Buggy but I practice nitro during the week quite a bit.
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most in RC?
JB: There has been so many. In the beginning, my friend Kyle Tharp was a major supporter of mine helping me out with anything that he could, and still does. While I was previously with Serpent, Paul Ciccarello helped me and taught me a lot. Now with Tekno, Daniel Lewis and Matt Wolter have been a huge help, not only with the opportunity that they gave me but also getting to learn from them has been awesome. And also back in Ohio, Jeff Beck has been a lifesaver every step of the way.
AW: What is your favorite track? What about your favorite racing class?
JB: For the West coast, I would say Chula Vista. For the East coast, LCRC is pretty hard to beat. And my favorite class is Ebuggy, but Nitro Buggy is a very close second.
AW: What’s your favorite part of RC racing?
JB: The feeling that you get right before a race starts. And throwing whips, whips are cool!
AW: What about RC racing annoys or bothers you?
JB: I plead the fifth!
AW: If you could change one thing about the current state of RC racing, what would it be?
JB: I know that this is a pretty standard answer, but I would really like to see more mainstream coverage for RC racing, more like what motocross has.
Also, I think that big nitro races should be double or triple A-mains. After attending The Battle of the Sikest at Fear Farm in November, and seeing how fun that triple 20 minute mains were, I really don't see how all major races are not like that. With the one long endurance race that most races have, anything can happen. And everyone knows that the thing that comes along with nitro is inconsistency. So to be there for 5 days, make the main and have something uncontrollable happen to you in the first 5 minutes that takes you out of the race, it is a major bummer. Also, I think the quality of races would improve with shorter sprint races. But then again, that's just my opinion.
AW: Do you have any big goals for your RC career?
JB: In the end I want to be a major name with the likes of Cav, Tebo, Maifield, Lutz, etc. Obviously that is a very hard goal to accomplish, but I will at least try my best to get there. Other than that, I just want to be a respected person at the races and make a positive name for myself.
AW: Thank you for the interview! Is there anything else you would like to add?
JB: Thank you for having me! I would just like to take a moment to thank all of my sponsors for the continued support and for everything that they do for me. Tekno RC, AKA, Tekin, Alpha Plus, Magic Hobbies, SMC Batteries, MIP, Avid, Byrons Fuels, PT RC Racing Oils, Radio Impound Podcast, 92zero Designs and all of my family and friends for their help and support! See everyone next week at Nitro Challenge!
Unfortunately for racing dads, we foresee Joe being too busy at races this year to babysit.