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  • Writer's pictureRyan Lutz

OS/Futaba Nitro Challenge

This past weekend I took a couple short flights to St. Louis to attend the OS/Futaba Nitro Challenge. I arrived to a very wet track with no pipe laid down yet on Thursday afternoon. There was due to be practice Thursday afternoon into the evening, but it had to be scratched due to the rain. We did have a quick seminar though put on by Hobbico where I talked a bit about My Futaba equipment. Adam Drake then talked about OS engines and we fielded any questions people had. I think it was a good experience for all and hopefully it helped some people’s programs. Friday morning we arrived to see a still wet track and pipe would get laid until the late morning. There was due to be one qualifier on Friday night but due to the lack of practice a decision was made to just do all 3 quals on Saturday and do a seeding practice on Friday evening. The weather for the rest of the weekend was set to be absolutely perfect for St. Louis at the end of July. Temps in the mid 80s and relatively low humidity. It was an awesome treat.

Come Saturday the track was already starting to take a slight groove. This track grooves faster than any track I have ever been to. (Must be the 20 feet of water that floods it seemingly every year to the top of the drivers stand.) We also get to utilize tires at this race that I don’t get to run very often. Even though the traction isn’t very high here a harder tire works better. So while starting qualifiers on AKA Soft and soft long wear, I progressed to Medium by the end. My tread patterns of choice were impacts for truck and impacts, ibeams, and enduros in buggy. The track held up really well on Saturday and wasn’t blowing out as much as usual due to the early rains. Qualifiers started out great with me sweeping Q1s with TQ in all three classes I was running. I would continue to TQ Q2 and Q3 in Pro Nitro Truggy and Ebuggy. In Nitro buggy Q2 my eyes decided to burn and water profusely making me wish I wore my Goggles and giving me a 3rd. In Q3 it was around 11 at night and I did my best with my old man eyes but made a couple mistakes on the track that had gotten twitchier that night. I ended up missing TQ by 0.8 tenths behind Ogden.

Sunday saw the track start to flake apart a little and the groove to also deepen. Mid day under the sun conditions were slick in some spots. We had double A mains on tap with finishing position not to really matter. It was all down to combined laps and times from the two runs in each class.

Ebuggy A1 was up first and I was on Medium I beams. I found in my A main warmup that I preferred the enduros but only had two sets so reserved those for my Nitro buggy. My Ebuggy was a bit loose in the midday sun but I was able to battle out front with Ogden for the first 7 minutes until he took the lead only to strip a spur that next corner onto the straight. This gave me a big lead over 2nd and I came home with a 13 second or so win.

Nitro Truggy A1 was next and my truck was dialed. I ran my only set of Medium Impacts and they were absolutely the right choice. I held the lead at the start and allowed the battle behind me to ensue. Knowing it was all about laps and times I was digging for every second I could achieve. I came away with a 19 second victory in the 20 minute race. Nitro Buggy A1 cane next and the track was at its most difficult. There were more bumps and dust and loose sections making it a real challenge. I got into my best robot mode and held off some hard charging fellows behind me. I seemed to have a much earlier slow down point on the front straight but used it to get me through the following 180 quicker. I got into the lead early and throughout the race used my consistency to plug away laps and build another 19 second victory.

A2 would bring some challenges and I feel allowed me to exercise my experience to persevere. Truggy A2 was first and the challenge started early. They were doing driver intros while we did some warmup laps and I felt an issue with my driveline. I babied it into pit lane and ran down the stand to my car. Yanked off the body to see the rear pinion bearings had failed. I sprinted with my bodiless truck to my pit across the track and began to remove the rear end. I took the rear clip off and then the rear diff out where I saw the metal shavings and bearing balls inside my diff case. I didn’t have a new diff but I quickly replaced the bearings and reinstalled the ring and pinion. I heard them calling for a few more marshalls and a track fix. I’m sure they also were gracious in giving me a few extra moments on top of it. I got it all back together, and as I heard them say they were getting ready to start, dead sprinted back to the track and handed off my truck to my pit guy who reinstalled the body, fired it back up, and took it to the line to start the main. I was out of breath and had a truck I had no clue how long the rear diff would last having already skipped and damaged the gears. I took a deep breath and on the tone we were off. I tried to take it a little easy at the start but coming around the first lap under breaking I heard that dreaded crunch. I quickly dialed out probably 8-10 points of Brake EPA and adjusted my lines on the track. I avoided hitting the brakes on all but the most critical points. I slowed down more when needed or would steer harder to slow down the truck and rotate as to not use the brakes. I also did what I could to land off power. I knew I had a 19 second cushion from A1. The start was going amazing too. My competition was crashing behind me and I actually worked up a few second lead. But soon Ogden was on me and He put in an inside move and I conceded the position. My goal simply being truck and 19 second preservation. I was able to stay within 5 seconds for the next 10 minutes and also retain 2nd place. In the last 5 minutes I started to tighten up my lines and push a little harder gaining a little confidence it could hold together. I caught up and on his mistake actually took the lead and the win and overall victory! Ebuggy A2 was immediately to follow. I had to run back to my pits to grab my buggy. By this time I’m getting a little tired but it’s what we signed up for. At the start I’m going pretty well but get into a battle after a mistake with Ogden and Tollard. I again knew I had my cushion and Ogden was out of this one because of the first run so I just tried to remain clean. After they made some mistakes I again would be able to use my consistency to take the win and overall victory. Finally the third race in a row Nitro buggy was up next. The track had actually gotten easier with the sun setting. It was a little less catchy in sections and we were going fast. Again I was starting with a 19 second cushion over Ogden. At the start I was driving my 90% cruise consistent line and Ogden was slowly stretching out a lead. A couple minutes in he had a 3 second lead. I felt I was doing good lines but if you watched him at Nationals you know he’s capable of just checking out and that’s the mode he was in. I was starting to worry and made a mistake and suddenly found myself in a battle with Drake. We fought back and forth for a couple laps and suddenly Ogden was hobby 13 seconds before the first pit stop. I decided I had to go for it and dialed it up to 100% driving harder than I have in a long time. Every couple minutes they would call out the gap. I was driving what I felt were awesome laps and now I was holding the gap at 13-14 seconds. After the last pit stop I crashed off the track in the back and thought it was over. I was down by 16 seconds and my cushion was down to 3 seconds for the overall. I continued to push and suddenly he was making mistakes. He said his car got soft and in those last minutes I was actually able to catch back up to within 7 seconds for A2 and thus I was able to win the overall!

I want to give a huge thank you to a lot of people who helped me this weekend. The Fletcher’s for the food and marshaling and just being awesome. To Tony Burton for all the last minute pit help and great pit stops. To Jared Wiggins for allowing me to pit in his trailer with him. And to everyone else who helped with marshaling or filling up my car throughout the weekend. Next up for me is Wicked Weekend middle of August. Time for a bit of family time!

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