TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Ryan Lutz
Tuesday, Jun 16, 2015 12:00am
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!
Ryan Lutz has attended every ROAR Fuel Off-Road Nationals for the past decade, yet his chances of winning a coveted championship this year are perhaps the best they’ve ever been. He was third in both classes last year and has been on an absolute tear since joining Tekno RC, scoring two runner-up finishes at this year’s Silver State at the last truly major nitro off-road race. With the race being held at AMain.com’s Silver Dollar RC Raceway in Chico, not too far from Lutz’s Northern California home, could the “home track” advantage be what Lutz needs to finally snag that elusive win? I exchanged online messages with him as we both packed for this week’s travel for this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday interview.
Aaron Waldron: Since you live in the general area, have you had a chance to run much at Silver Dollar RC Raceway? Do you think any additional track time, even if it’s on a different layout, will be an advantage?
Ryan Lutz: I was able to get up to Silver Dollar RC Raceway three times prior to the Nationals Warm-Up event. I do feel that it being my 'home' track does give a slight advantage in that I am comfortable there. I know what to expect out of the track, the weather, and the conditions. Also, the Nationals layout has many of the same sections as the warm-up event so I am already well adjusted to probably 60% of the track.
AW: Is there anything special that you do to prepare for the Nationals than any other race?
RL: In the past, yes - and I think that was a cause for issues at times. I used to want to build a new buggy, break in new engines, and have everything all freshened up. But a big lesson I’ve learned, for myself at least, is that I just need to keep my cars in a constant state of repair. Rather than replacing everything at once, just replacing parts as necessary. I find this gives me a more consistent feel at every event I attend, and my cars don't need that break-in period. I have had a lot of success this year finishing races which I attribute to the super durable Tekno vehicles I am driving, as well as my newfound preparation methods.
AW: ROAR re-combined the 1/8-scale buggy and truck classes six years ago along with switching to IFMAR’s ladder qualifying system, and you’ve made 8 out of 12 finals in that time. Do you think that the race-your-way-in schedule plays to your strengths?
RL: Wow, I love stats but never thought of that one! I'm honestly a bit disappointed I haven't made more finals than that, LOL. Now I need to go back and see why.
Anyway, I feel I quite often that I am a better main driver than a fast qualifier. I wish I could have my “main event” mentality during qualifying, but it's hard to do. During the mains I can calm down way more knowing it's a longer run, and that generally helps me secure those bump-ups into the A-finals in the ladder format. I feel I've gotten better at that over the past few years.
AW: Other than the format change, how has the ROAR Fuel Off-Road Nationals evolved over the decade in which you’ve attended every year?
RL: In a way, I feel it's been pretty consistent over the decade. There are a few new faces that come through the system every year, but there are still a good number of fast drivers that I have been competing against that entire time. ROAR is also still in a constant state of controversy year-in and year-out, but in my mind at least we have the sanctioning body and this prestigious event where we get to compete for a title. Also, I do believe that nitro racing has grown for these big events as people want to see where they stack up. This year was remarkable, selling out in a day.
AW: Is there any particular Nationals track in the last ten years that sticks out in your memory? Why?
RL: Probably the 2007 ROAR Truck Nationals and the 2014 ROAR Nats. The 2007 race was at the Farm II in North Carolina, and last year was at the new Thornhill facility. Both of these tracks were really large, and it made for some great, fast racing with the wide lines but still long lap times due to the track size.
AW: Do you feel any additional pressure during Worlds-qualifying years at the Nats? Is this year any different since next year’s Worlds is in the U.S.?
RL: I don't personally feel any added pressure this time. I believe I am automatically qualified for the Worlds with my A-Main finish at last year’s Worlds. This year is different, though, in that the event did sell out in a day and everyone wants a shot at making that top 40 or so to qualify for the Worlds in our home country. Drivers are going to be bringing all they have and the competition should be fierce. Also from the Nats Warm-Up I know the layout is pretty easy overall, and there won't be much crashing. So qualifying is going to be very close and I think where you qualify is going to be critical.
AW: The forecast for this week shows temperatures in the high-90s. Does that present any particular challenge?
RL: The higher temps, dry air, and also the altitude of this track do pose a slight challenge. Generally, engines seem to run hotter here and fuel mileage goes down a bit because the air is not as dense. Flameouts are pretty common, and I think because of the thinner air you are going to see a lot of pit lane flameouts when the fuel guns come out for main event time. (Just a hunch.)
AW: You finished third in both classes last year, and second in the Truck division in 2013. What is it going to take to take that final step to the top of the podium this weekend?
RL: Yeah, the last couple years have gone pretty well and I look to continue that this weekend. I feel the package I am bringing to the table for this event gives me what I need to take that top step. It's going to be critical for me to qualify well, and just put all I have out there, and I'll end up where I deserve.
AW: Thank you for the interview, Ryan, and good luck this weekend - maybe you’ll be the one I interview on the broadcast Sunday night!
RL: Thank you for this opportunity and I truly hope to be talking with you Sunday Night!