TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Keven Hebert
Tuesday, Apr 21, 2015 08:13pm
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!
As a veteran off-road snob, I never did much on-road racing or even spectating for much of my RC career. Even though I’ve always marveled at how fast 1/12-scale carpet racing is, and how great heads-up touring car racing can be, I didn’t attend much other than the occasional Reedy Touring Car Race when Tamiya USA hosted it back in the 2000’s. Since joining a media company that actually covers racing several months ago, however, I’ve been to more carpet races in the last year than the last two decades combined. Though I knew Canadian Keven Hébert had done for on-road racing what fellow countryman Ty Tessmann had done for off-road, raising the bar of competition across North America, I was more familiar with making sure I remembered the accent mark in his last name than I was actually talking to him in person. Since year’s year’s Electric On-Road World Championships in Florida, however, I’ve had the chance to watch Keven scorch carpet in both hemispheres, and he’s one of the nicest drivers in the pits. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the young Quebecois, and now that he’s fresh off wins at the Asian On-Road Championship season opener in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago, as well as last weekend’s Mile High Indoor Championship, I thought this would be a great time to introduce his story to LiveRC’s audience.
Aaron Waldron: How did you get started in radio control, and how long have you been racing?
Keven Hébert: I got started with RC cars when I was 12 years old. My brother brought a car home in the winter time and by my birthday in march, my dad hooked me up with a Tamiya Madcap. Then at 13, I started going to the local club here with a Losi XXT-CR my dad had bought. I started out racing off road for a year, but only once a month or so. The next year, I got into on-road at the same local track which held carpet racing in the winter time.
AW: When did you decide to take RC racing more seriously?
KH: I started taking it more seriously when I got my first battery sponsor. At first, my dad was my mechanic and helped me out. Then I started to go to some races out of town with him and Andre (Meloche Hughes) from Pole Position Batteries, and I started to understand more about cars and started to take it more seriously. I would say that on-road racing got me more into it than off-road did at the time, but I think one of the reasons was that on-road at the time had more competition in my area and that is really what I was after - competition.
AW: How long did it take for you to start attracting sponsors?
KH: Three years after I started. The first year I only raced or practiced about ten times, but the following year I started to go to more local and out of town races. Then in 2004 I went to the US Indoor Champs in Cleveland with Andre. He got me in contact with Todd Hodge at Team Losi and few months later, I had a ride.
AW: When did you realize that you could turn your hobby into a career?
KH: After meeting Paul Lemieux and Scotty Ernst back at a Magma race in Toronto back in 2002. It was my first year running touring car and I was super impressed to see them and how different things were at that level. It was different than what I was used to at our small club and I realized that, with a lot of work and dedication, I could get there and I decided to put in the work and effort. I was 14 at the time and was sporting the ‘fro’ (laughs). When Losi stopped their on-road program back in 2007, I decided to go to what I felt was the best place for me to go to: Team Associated and Reedy. I was 19 at the time, and right when I got with Associated I decided to go spend a month and a half in Toronto to run at Fastcats to improve my racing and step it up. The Catricala family from Fastcats helped me a lot at the time and I am thankful for everything they did.
AW: Of what races are you most proud?
KH: I would have to say the International Indoor Champs in 2012, when I was able to TQ and win both Mod 1/12 and Super Stock Touring Car, and then qualifying and finishing a close second to Ronald Volker in Modified. Also, at last year’s IFMAR 1/12-Scale Worlds in Florida, it was nice to be able to finish fifth after some struggles early on.
AW: When did you decide to become an on-road specialist?
KH: When I started, I raced strictly electric off road for almost two years, and then raced both on- and off-road for two more years. I guess it just worked out that way. I decided to race more on-road because I had the resources to do it, especially nearby tracks. I could race 12 months a year because off-road was dead here back then in the winter time, because we didn't have any indoor off road tracks. I like racing in general, though I do have a preference for on-road because this is what I know best now, but in all reality, I like racing anything.
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most in RC?
KH: Number one would be my dad - he is the one who got me into it and helped me get where I am today. Todd Hodge back when I was that kid with the fro at the track, and everybody at Team Associated: Sean Cochran, Rick Hohwart, Brent Thielke, and Bob Stellflue have all been and still are great help.
AW: How much of an impact has RC made on your life?
KH: It has made a huge impact. When you stop to think about it, that is when you realize it. When you are in this deep in it, it is hard to see everything it has given you, but when I sit down and think of all places I got to visit, all the friends I got to meet, I realize how lucky I am. It also helped me learn English as well, because as a kid I could not speak a lick of English like most people here, and it also helped me learn more about myself and how to push myself.
AW: As a kid growing up in Canada, how did you learn what racing was like in the U.S. and abroad?
KH: Meeting Paul and Scotty in Toronto, which was still a ways away for me, made me realize what it was like to race the best in the U.S., and with the Internet it was easy to read and find out more about all the races. Andre and my dad helped me get to some U.S. races and after a few events, Team Losi got me a deal and I started to travel. At first it was tough not speaking the language too well, but it came along quick because I had to.
AW: In the last couple of weeks, you’ve won races in both China and Colorado. How often do you travel?
KH: It depends, I would say on average every 2-3 weeks but sometimes it gets busy. Sometimes I have four races in a row and sometimes there is a two-month break with no out-of-town races.
AW: What is your favorite track? What about your favorite racing class?
KH: There are so many tracks out there it is hard to pick one track and say it is my favorite. As far as races go, I would have to say IIC - I love the track too, even though it changes a little every year. There is just something special about the race and the atmosphere at the track that makes that race awesome. I will say that 5280 Raceway in Colorado has a very nice and clean facility with some cool features, too. Favorite class is a tough one because I like both touring car and 1/12-scale. The one thing I like most about 1/12-scale is how fast they are and how much corner speed they carry.
AW: What’s your favorite part of RC racing?
KH: The name says it: racing. I like racing and competition. That is number one for me, as it keeps me trying harder. No matter how hard I get beat or how much I win by I will still try as hard the following week because my competitors won't stop improving. Also, it is awesome to meet all these great people and friends from all over the world who all share the same passion.
AW: What about RC racing annoys or bothers you?
KH: The one thing I would not miss, if I suddenly had to stop, would be travel days. Going through customs, taking long flights, waiting during layovers, etc. I actually enjoy flying, but that starts as soon as I get on the plane - everything before and after does bother me a little. Although is that part of RC racing? I don't think there is anything that bothers me about actual RC racing. I love every minute of it.
AW: Do you have any big goals for your RC career?
KH: My goals are to always try to improve myself on and off the track, and do the very best I can at every race. Making the podium in 1/12-scale in China next year for the IFMAR Worlds would also be one of them. I enjoy what I do, and I recently started a store in Quebec called Total-RC and I plan to stay in the industry for as long as I will enjoy it!
AW: Thank you for the interview! Is there anything else you would like to add?
KH: Thanks to you and LiveRC. Also can't forget thank all my sponsors who help me do what I love to do: Team Associated, Reedy, Apex RC proshop, Futaba, Protoform, BSR tires, LeeSpeed, Cr graphics, rc-trim, Total-RC