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  • Writer's pictureRyan Lutz

2018 Dirt Nitro Challenge

Updated: Mar 7, 2019

This past weekend I headed to Phoenix for the 2018 Dirt Nitro Challenge event. It could be considered the 2nd largest event on this years schedule behind the IFMAR Worlds with most of the top pro’s in the world in attendance. This year the track was done early and was overall packed better than previous years but with the slightly windy and sunny conditions of the early days it would dry out and break apart in some sections. This led to slightly rougher conditions in some sections which had to be properly set-up for.

Practice started off pretty good. They took your best 3 consecutive laps in either of your two practice runs and my Nitro cars were great out of the gate. I would seed 1st in Truggy and 2nd in buggy. Once qualifying got underway however it was a bit of a reversal. My fuel didn’t arrive to the track until a day late and so I was using some ‘older’ fuel that had been brought from a previous race. Things seemed fine in practice overall but once qualifying started my Nitro program began to struggle. In Q1 of truggy my engine just got leaner and leaner as we went through the run and while I was battling for the lead the first 3 minutes, it just got hotter and hotter and I lost power and came off near 400*. The glowplugs was damaged and most likely damaged the engine. I still managed a 7th for the run but should have been much better. In Q2 we put in a different engine and pipe from Danny’s car. It was decent but lacked bottom end (2060 vs. 2090) and I just struggled for power a bit and would manage a 4th for that run. So I was solidly into the A-main but I was struggling to get it all sorted. For Q3 it was a bear to tune it on the bench as suddenly it acted really really lean and I had to richen it a ton (Whenever that is the case something somewhere is wrong). Well we got it to sound ok on the box but once it hit the track half a lap in it went pig rich. So i brought it in and had him lean top 2 and bottom 1. It was ok for another half a lap as the race began and then went full rich again. So I had to pit during the run a couple more times to get the tune right. It was after this that we decided to try the fresh gallon of fuel that had arrived. Fortunately I had qualified 8th overall and into the A but I needed to get things figured out to have any shot in the A-main.

Ebuggy started off really well in Q1 and I was able to take the TQ for the round. Many people were struggling with the conditions and making mistakes and I guess I just made the least amount of them. In Q2 and Q3 I had solid runs although not quite as good as Q1 and I took 4th in both rounds. This qualified me 3rd overall and gave us Tekno 2,3, heading into the main event.

Nitro buggy was on Friday and after the great practice and how good my e-buggy had felt I was looking forward to some good results. But they didn’t come. I struggled with set-up in each round perhaps trying to change to many things and going in the wrong direction. Perhaps using the wrong tires for the conditions or maybe just simply making to many mistakes. I had qualifiers of 13, 11, 13 which were much below par for me and seeded me as BQ for the first time in a couple years.

Saturday was Truggy and E-buggy A-main day. First we had a warmup for each and again we were trying to get the truggy dialed in engine wise. It would sound ok on the bench but again once it hit the track it was again a struggle. So after again struggling and with only the A-main to go I decided to make a few changes for the main. I replaced the fuel tank and the carb incase the old fuel had in some way contaminated either one. I tuned it up on the bench and in the back alley and it seemed to be running consistent and how it should. Once out there for the A-main it seemed like it would be good and I was going to do my best to move my way through the pack. I was able to pretty steadily move my way up through the pack and by lap 15 found myself in 4th but already with a decent deficit to the top 3. I made a few long mistakes including getting hay bailed but otherwise drove pretty well and had some good battles with teammates Joe and Alex for a lot of the race. I was able to come away with the 4th position though with Alex 5th and Joe 7th.

E-buggy main was one I usually struggle with being just a single 10 minute race. At the start though I held my own and actually felt faster than the leaders. But a couple laps in I would short the front triple and have to double out and upon doing so Tessman hit my wing and went flying. So as we went to the top right corner before the drop down I was going to stop and let him go past me. (Turns out it wasn’t Tessman though and was more likely Stees) but anyways as I stopped to let them go they got out in the fluff and off line and came down into me and knocked me off the dropdown where I would drop way down the pack into 8th I think. So much for trying to be nice when I didn’t have to. Well I would fight back and get back into that 4th position by the end of the race for a decent result. Joe would do great holding his own in 2nd!

Sunday was nitro buggy day and I was pretty confident going into the B-main but that soon dissipated as we got started and I realized my set-up wasn’t ideal. My car was hard to drive and I missed my tune on the lean side and was having a bit of a run on issue the entire race. I received many challengers at the start of the race and I just made my car wide as I could. I would hold onto 2nd for much of the first part but by either the 1st or 2nd pitstop Drake was on me and he got by on the lap we were both coming into pit lane. He got in first but my dialed pit team got me out of pit lane first and I think it got into his head and he made mistakes allowing me to get that solid 2nd position again. The next challenge came the final 5 minutes or so of the race as Phend and Jellin both caught me and were honestly faster than I was able to go. I did all I could to just stay clean and let the chips fall as they may. I let Phend by and Jellin I think just pushed a little to hard and made some mistakes. Eventually he flamed out and I was able to secure the 3rd and final bump spot, but man was it a struggle.

For the A-main I would basically go and copy what Joe was running as he was pretty happy with his car in his A-main warmup. The conditions would also be better with the night moisture coming up. I also switched to gridirons in the rear instead of all impacts to try to get a bit more forward bite coming out of corners and such. As the main got underway I was super happy. My car felt Amazing and I was picking off drivers left and right for the first 3 laps or so. I felt I had the car to finish top 3 or 4 and I was stoked. But as I came off the drop down a couple of cars had tangled below and I lawn darted into an out of shape car and broke my front arm.

I was heartbroken as it seems to be my luck that when my car is good enough to challenge for the front, is when I seem to have early failures. This was also my chance to stake my claim near the top of the Top25RC rankings but instead this will now cost me for 2 years. Well anyways we went back and replaced the arm and hingepin as fast as we could and I returned to run the race and put in the 2nd fastest lap on the track. I would finish 14th overall giving it my all and super pleased with my vehicle. Afterwords my wife was kind enough to point me to Psalm 73 and it was a good reminder to get my heart in the right place.

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