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  • Writer's pictureRyan Lutz

How and why I started racing R/C cars

It was probably around the year 1990 when my dad laid me out on the front lawn and ran me over with his custom built twin engine USA-1 monster truck. A year prior I had got my first R/C toy, a little plastic buggy from Radio Shack as an Easter present. It was hidden behind the TV Counsel with a plastic Easter egg on it's protruding front bumper. As the weather warmed and I started playing with it outside I would run it up and down the driveway. One day I took it to far and went into the street and in my alarm quickly turned it around and it disappeared. Right down the sewer drain! My dad came out and we lifted the manhole cover and he lowered me down. But as I picked it up to my dismay a rear tire had broken off. As we who do this hobby know, if you break the radio shack car it goes in the garbage!

My dad owned the local hobby shop on the square of our hometown and on those days after pre-school let out I would be dropped off at the shop and I would take a nap in the showcases. Fortunately no one bought me and I got to stay with my family and play with R/C cars! As I got to around 7 years old I got my first race quality vehicle, a Losi Jr T stadium truck and began running stock truck.

In the winter my dad on Wednesday nights rented out the community center at the local fairgrounds and we raced flat track oval. So every Wednesday night I got to stay up until 11pm and hang out with my dad and race with my radio behind my back and upset the older guys with my natural talent of turning left. I also was allowed to purchase some candy bars and sell them at the race so it was my first little side gig job too.

My little brother and I with our awards.

When I turned 9 I got my first gas truck which I thought was so awesome! My dad had sold the hobby shop but he was helping the new owner and we would travel 2 hours south with the new owner in the winter to Columbus to race and there was also a ton of competition. I was only 9 but I was always battling in the top 3-5 in gas truck and stock truck at these really competitive club races. I loved racing and competing at that young age and even though I would catch flack from the older guys about taking them out on occassion or what have you, i'm sure they were mostly just upset at a little kid beating them.

Those year between 9-14 in the winter I also dabbled in some carpet banked oval at Classic hobbies. I got my first semi-industry help as the owner of Pro-Match would get me some of his best cells and motors so I could compete and be up to speed. This was the generation of everyone having dyno's at the track and soaking motor blankets in ice water to put on the motor right before the run to keep it cooler as long as possible. I would always be competitive there but being low budget, there were simply other guys who had faster cars. I could just drive.

When I was around 12 in the summers my dad would go to his friends house who had a little track in the woods behind his house. I specifically remember getting Bit-O-Honey at the gas station on the way each time we would go. The 3 or 4 guys there would all be running 1/8th Nitro buggies and I would beg time and time again for my dad to let me try it. Finally one day I must have been persuasive as I said I promise not to crash it. So he handed over the remote and as always it came with the cautionary words of "take it easy". Well I kept my word and didn't crash and obviously was hooked.

My dad went to the first Nitro Challenge which was held at Hobbico. Check out those Truggies!

In this timeframe I also did the CRCRC midwest gas champs each year as my big race I was able to attend from the time I was around 9 -14. I think the year I was 13 or so I TQ’d the event in 1/8th buggy ahead of Drake and a few other factory guys. I believe it was after that race Richard Saxton (with Thunder Tiger) had offered me and my dad a full ride with Thunder Tiger for 1/8th, and AE for 1/10th, but my dad turned it down because he didn’t believe in the Thunder Tiger buggy.

Now bear in mind being from Ohio I never thought sponsorship or being able to do this for a living was possible. These guys in the magazines all seemed to be from California and I was just doing what I loved to do for fun. Of course I always had the feeling of if I had their deal I know I could beat them. But there wasn't an end goal of doing this for a living. Heck, I wanted to be a pro bowler! haha.

So while still running a Mugen, when I was 14 I raced for the second time at the Freedom Hill Detroit track for the Kyosho Fuel Challenge. The first year I was in the E or F main which was about mid field. (There was only one class of 1/8th buggy.) But this year I had qualified into the top of the B main and made the Bump! In the 1 hour long A-main I finished 2nd being a no name kid from Ohio. In the main they even gave me a 5 second stop and go penalty for roosting a marshal!! (It was a loamy track and I don’t think they wanted some no name kid winning the race!) I ended up loosing by just 5 seconds. After that race I finally got some offers for sponsorship from chassis companies at 50%. Yes, it took me beating most of the best in the country to earn a 50% deal in 1999.

So we went with Mugen and I ran 50% with Mugen for the next 7 years where the only big race I did each year was the CRCRC gas champs. I did a quick 1 year culinary arts college degree and when I returned I did the Midwest Pro Series which was a big thing at the time. That first year back I won the Midwest division. Dave Kingston with Panther at the time who was also from Ohio noticed me and offered me a Panther tire deal and also got me hooked up with JR, Blue Thunder, and a couple other sponsors. I finally went to a big race in California (first time west of Indiana) in 2005 for the R/C Pro Finals and I did very well taking TQ in Truggy. When I got home I received a few different offers from various chassis sponsors and I ended up going with Kyosho on a full travel deal.

My R/C Pro Finals vehicles with my first pink and blue paint jobs courtesy of Chris Miller

Starting from my time at Kyosho in 2006 until today R/C racing has become my job. But I always can look back on those younger years and know I got into this hobby to have fun racing my R/C car! To have control over a vehicle and pilot it around a closed course and compete against the best out there who have the same passion!

Moving to California from Ohio. Took a stand on the 4 corners with my new employment colors!

If I can find anymore old photos i'll be adding them as well! :-) Thanks for checking out my history!

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