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  • Writer's pictureRyan Lutz

Dirt Nitro Challenge 2020

Over the 3rd week of February I traveled cross country to Perris, California for the 2020 edition of the Dirt Nitro Challenge. This year the event was held for the second time at the Southern California Fairgrounds but they were able to use the desired track location this year for the first time. Also more dirt was brought in and Joey worked some magic and created a very fun layout for us to race on. By the end of controlled practice day on Wednesday the track was already starting to develop character and we all knew we were in for a very rough track come main time!

Qualifying for Nitro Truggy and E-buggy were done on Thursday. They had a water schedule as well where they would water every 3 races or so. It was important to pay attention to that as well as the time of day you were projected to run. Reason being is the temperatures would swing from 40's for an early morning run to 80's in the sun for an afternoon run back to 50's for a night time run. We were changing shock oils every run adjusting for the temperature swings. It was also important to try to gauge if you were a watered heat, or a second heat after water, or the 3rd dry heat. All these things played into what the tire selection would be. On my end I often found myself on the wrong tire this weekend during qualifying not taking one of the aforementioned things into account and just being to busy with other priorities to remember to double check those things. In E-buggy for instance in Q1 I went with SSLW Zip Downs but the track had a larger layer of dust so they weren't the right choice to cut through the dust. I probably would have kept the zips up front but impacts or grids in the rear would have been a better option. In Q2 I ran SSLW catapults and they were really good through the bumps, however it was a watered run so the track had more moisture and fluff so I should have been on more of a pin in this one. In the end my qualifying effort just wasn't there in E-buggy and I would sit 21st after qualifying or 9th in the B main.

Truggy was a bit easier as we don't have a huge tire selection for the class and so it was SSLW grids the whole way through. I was on top 5 runs in every round of qualifying but a couple of inopportune crashes on my own in Q2 and Q3 meant runs outside the top 10. In the end I would still manage to qualify 9th overall directly into the A-main and feeling confident that I would be able to be competitive in the 45min final.

Friday would be Nitro buggy qualifying day. I was hoping to have learned from E-buggy and transfer the knowledge to Nitro buggy. I spent so much time working on my car throughout the day making sure all the joints and pivots were as free as possible. All this helped but I think I really just needed to be softer on my shock oils than I was being. Through qualifying my best run was only a 16th. I was just making to many mistakes on the track and crashing too much. In the end qualified 21st overall or 9th in the B-main.

Saturday was the mains for E-buggy and Nitro truggy but it was going to be a delayed effort as rains moved in midday causing a lengthy delay to the program. Not only was it a rainy day but it was also much colder. So for the main I opted for SS P1's for e-buggy and I ended up being in just the second race after resumption of the program so the track was still pretty wet in spots. I should have gone with a gridiron as the P1's got built up with mud too much where as the further spacing and larger pin of the grid could have helped me cut through it a bit better. I had a terrible start with traffic and got sent to last. It's just wasn't a pretty 10 minutes for me. I did best I could and was able to move to 8th on the final lap to finish 20th overall for the weekend.

Saturday evening / Sunday morning would be the Truggy 45 minute final. I was fortunate enough to take a nap before this one to try to be fresh for it. I would be on my SSLW Grids yet again and everything felt pretty good in the warmup laps. I had a great start moving from 9th on the grid to 5th on the first half a lap. By lap 16 just after our first pit stop I found myself in 4th and was able to click off 12 straight sub 40 second laps just cruising and finding some cleaner faster lines as I kept the lead pack in eyesight. But on lap 27 it was all to come to an end as I entered the front right bowl corner and went to turn around it as I had been the whole race but instead it went straight and I had lost my steering servo. Pretty bummed about that one as my truck usually just continues to get faster as a race goes on and I felt I was in a very good position to at least fight for podium. But that's racing and i'll just have to try again next time!

Sunday would end our long week of running with Nitro buggy mains. I would be in the B main around 6pm as the sun was starting to set creating some shadows. I opted for SSLW Zip front and Impact rears as the track was being watered before every main. I think my tire selection was ok but unfortunately my line selection wasn't good until about 12 minutes into the main. I was going ok at least for the first few laps holding position in the 8-10 range until I just had some absolutely terrible laps on lap 6 and lap 10 loosing about 18 seconds. I was sitting 14th all the way until lap 13 when I finally was able start cleaning up my act and finding some better lines for me to run in. By lap 23 I cracked into the top 10 again and ten laps later I was able to get into 5th position on lap 33 which was my high water mark for the race. I was still about ten seconds behind the final transfer spot and I was pushing hard as a last ditch effort but ended up with a couple mistakes and just falling back with 3 more bad laps near the end putting me in 7th overall for the B-main and thus 19th for the weekend. Obviously not what I expect of myself. I did learn a ton this weekend which I think is going to help me on the rough tracks moving forward. All these subpar results lately are really igniting my fire to push harder and do better and I know a breakout event is on the horizon for me!

On Monday morning before my flight I got my A319 outfitted with my GoPro Hero 8 and got some really fun footage and I hope you enjoy it! This track was one of the biggest tests for the Hero 8's stability and I think it did pretty well. I can't think of anyone putting their Hero 8 through more abuse than I have over the past 3 months. I'm pretty amazed at the durability and I hope you enjoy the results!

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