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  • Writer's pictureRyan Lutz

2019 Dirt Nitro Challenge

This past weekend was the 20th annual Dirt Nitro Challenge which this year was held in Perris, California for the first time. It wasn’t looking good forecast wise and the track had to be improvised from the original location due to large amounts of rain. None the less Joey and the Dirt crew worked their magic and we had a great event to participate in. 

The level of competition this year was probably the highest it’s ever been with I believe 22 of the top 25 drivers in the world in attendance. Of course I was rocking my new Agama rides and doing my best to get up to speed and show their prowess around the track. 

In practice we navigated some rain to get two rounds for ebuggy and nitro truggy and just one round in nitro buggy. This race is a challenge with the limited amount of practice and that coupled with a rapidly deteriorating track surface that was getting very bumpy as well. After practice seeding I would be in the A sort for the buggies and the b sort in truggy. 

During qualifying day one we had ebuggy and Nitro truggy to run. We had a late start due to wet conditions and thus they condensed the qualifiers down to 5 minute runs. In ebuggy I was working hard on setup trying to get dialed in but I think (after Monday’s testing) that my biggest obstacle was running shorties instead of a larger pack for a bit more weight. I had a little to much rear weight bias and just didn’t put in the cleanest runs with the rough track. I would end up qualifying 19th or 7th in the B main. In Nitro truggy I was off to a slightly slow start just lacking a little drive in the first qualifier and just off pace. In Q2 I had an unfortunate break. We went and did some changes for Q3 and the truck was awesome. Even with a traffic issue I managed a 5 for the round. This put me 2nd in the B main or 14th overall. 

Friday came as Nitro buggy day and we would be doing 6 minute qualifiers. Taking what I had learned from ebuggy I got my Nitro all set up and it was excellent! The track was getting tougher and my buggy was just getting better and better. My Agama A319 felt great through all 3 qualifiers and really just some traffic incidents kept me from higher finishes. Overall I would still qualify 10th overall straight into the A main and confident in a better possible finishing result!

Saturday was the mains for Ebuggy and Truggy. Ebuggy was up first and I had high hopes having put on my nitro buggy setup. But the traction had also come up a lot in sections and I was just a bit to edgy and it sat a little on the rear corner while cornering. This just resulted in to many mistakes and not a great finish for me. But of course will take all the learning and carry it forward to the next one. 

The Nitro truggy B main was next and It felt great. I got out to an early lead until I dug in my nose on the back right triple and fell to 4th. I battled around the position for a little while until settling into a groove in 2nd and stayed there for the remainder of the race. My A215t felt great and I was excited for a good A main performance later that night. 

That Amain would be in the dark so I opted for some yellow wheels to help aid in my sight. As we went out for the warmup laps I immediately lost a steering servo. We ran it back to the pits as I scrambled to get a new one installed and setup. I have a huge thank you to give to all the racers and announcer for holding the program for me for a couple minutes so I could get up and running. As we got back to the track they immediately put me on the grid and we were off. I had a great start moving to 9th on the first lap and continuing forward until I crashed in the fray and fell to last on the 2nd lap. But the mayhem was still happening and by lap 6 I was up to 6th! My truck felt great but I did make a couple mistakes on my own which kept me in a battle in the 7-10 positions. I started to feel my groove but 15 or so minutes in I landed the top right triple and my outer steering spindle broke. We dremil it a little to get a bit more steering throw and unfortunately it took to much of a beating this time around and I had to retire. I was bummed as the truck was really good. Will just have to regroup and try again next time!

On Sunday we had the Nitro buggy A main warmup and I prepared some Gridiron 1s in SLW and my buggy felt amazing in the warmup. I felt I had the best car on the track and that my line was solid. I was ready for that Amain! 

Later that evening the bumps were at their worst. The line I had ran in warmup was needing to be slightly altered but I felt confident in the 5 minute warmup. Starting 10th I would make good progress getting by some people and then get caught with someone and fall back. This happened for a few laps until we could separate a bit. Eventually I would be battling around 5th and feeling great starting to find my groove. After my second stop though I suddenly lost drive. I couldn’t believe my luck. Turns out the setscrew that holds the front center diff coupler came out. Sometimes I just can’t believe my luck with the amount of effort I put into this but it is what it is. Billy went back and put a new one in but wasn’t able to set the tolerance right so after a few more minutes of getting back out there it ended up sacrificing the front diff due to the play in the pinion. 

When I consider that it hasn’t even been 2 months since the change I can find some solace in what was accomplished. Making the A’s in Nitro and being competitive on this really challenging track with minimal track time with a majority of the Worlds best in attendance. It may not have been the result I wanted or know I was capable of but it’s so encouraging in my first race against the best to see where I am at, at this point. Things are falling in place this year for me to give my best effort ever and I’m going to make the most of it and I’m sure the results will come! 

Next up I head to Texas this weekend for the RC Pro Race and even more testing afterwords. 

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