• Ryan Lutz

Southern Nationals 2019

This past weekend I took a couple short flights to the Bayou to participate in the 2019 Southern Nationals in Monroe, Louisiana. This is one of the best races in the US schedule for a couple of reasons in my opinion. They cap the entries at 400 or less (They basically fill a preset number of heats). This allows for manageable days and more practice time available for all. The track is also always epic with some of the biggest and most flowing jumps of any track around. Piles of dirt 7ft high in the back make up some of the jumps and landings. The track starts out super smooth but by the end being rodeo arena dirt it develops some character and when the jump faces start to go a real off-road challenge is what we get.

I was racing my standard 3 Agama rides at this one with my A319, A215ESV, and A215T. Practice was going well and on the fresh track that had good moisture in it I was running on my AKA SS and SSLW Grids, Impacts, and P1's. On Friday night they didn't water as much as they had in years past and so as the track had been drying out near the end of practice it was starting to dry out even quicker than usual on Saturday morning as qualifying got underway. While the grip seemed higher than it has ever been, the track was also starting to get dusty as little holes broke apart and it was making for a very challenging surface.



As qualifying got underway the first round was pretty mediocre. I made a mistake or two in each class and my truggy transponder decided not to count for 3 laps in a row near the start. Fortunately they were kind enough to reinstate my laps and I took a 2nd in truggy and a 3rd in both buggies. In round two I finally had a bit of a breakthrough run in truggy getting a TQ and my truggy felt awesome on SSLW Impacts. In E-buggy it was another 3rd and NItro buggy I borrowed a set of tires from someone and they came unglued and so I got to make a bit of a fool of myself with my foam shooting out and all that comes with that! ;-) In the final qualifier in truggy I was up their battling for overall TQ and my engine let go. In e-buggy I finally bounced back and took a TQ run, and Nitro buggy I would get another 3rd. So overall I would qualify 2nd in Nitro Truggy and Ebuggy and 3rd in Nitro buggy. But I could already see my luck at this race was continuing from past years. (I've always seemed to have some bad luck at this race).



First up we had Ebuggy A1. I had a good start and was following Rose around the track. I made a mistake on lap 2 though in the whoops section and fell to 4th. I came back to 3rd and then someone shorted the cross over and I landed on them and cartwheeled off the track loosing me 7 seconds. At this point it was just maintaining position and I moved back from 4th to 3rd by the end of the run.



Next was the 45 minute Nitro truggy A-main. I was feeling pretty good about it opting to run SSLW Impacts. I was having to borrow Billy's 10+ gallon old engine and it was lacking a little bit of grunt but I just adjusted lines and made due best I could. At the start on the first lap Ogden piped it and I got into him and corrected him and ended up taking the mistake and falling back to 4th. I came back to 2nd momentarily two laps later only for a leader to have crashed and come back into the line and hit me and I cartwheeled for a while knocking me back to 5th. I was just being made a ping pong ball for a while there but by lap 15 I reestablished myself in 2nd but now about 12 seconds behind Joe. I started clicking off laps and doing my best to reel him in and I was able to whittle the lead down to the 3 second range by lap 53 which was my in lap to pit and I ran out of gas. :-( Having to put the engine in right before the main we didn't really know my mileage ability with it and I was pushing hard to catch Joe and it just cost me. Anyways got fueled back up but lost nearly 2 laps but was still in 3rd. I only got to race for another 2 laps though and my steering servo let go. It just wasn't meant to be this go around.


After that we had A2 of E-buggy and my snowball would continue to roll downhill. I was running more droop here than usual in the rear and to be honest my chassis is pretty worn out. Well the droop screw when forced down against the chassis can slip and cause it to momentarily add further droop. Well in my warmup lap I hit the whoops section and hit the rut in the face and went cartwheeling and my rear dogbone popped out of the outdrive. So we called for a minute and got out there just in time to start and first lap I did the same thing. So we went and fixed it again, I was running SSLW Zips front and Impacts rear and decided to try Double downs in the rear for the remainder of the race to get a feel for them as that is what I was going to run in Nitro buggy. So I utilized the remainder of the race for that purpose.



Next was the 45 minute Nitro buggy A-main. I opted for SSLW Zipdowns and with some set-up changes for the really tough track conditions my A319 felt the best it had felt all weekend. I added some rear toe-in and went with softer springs. The rear-toe to give me better exit traction and the softer springs to try to aid in the bump handling. My car felt decent but my luck was set to continue. On the first lap I would short the last jump of the six pack and skid on my lid knocking me back from 2nd to 7th on that first lap. A couple laps later a car crashed on the left side straight and was sitting upside down and I nailed him full throttle as I didn't see him until it was to late. I thought I broke right there as something didn't feel right in the front end but it kept going so I kept driving. I would get to drive for the next 20 or so laps and be running back into 2nd place and pacing Ogden in the lead though he had a decent lead at this point. However that crash proved to have been fatal, just delayed. As I jumped the back step up my arm went flopping and I knew it was a casulty of that earlier crash. I pulled it in and we ran back to the pits to get fixed up. I noticed the arm wasn't broken it all and the hingepin had actually punched the B block pill through the B-block and the hingepin completely fell out and was gone. So we replace the arm, pill, and hinge pin and got back out there to run some more. I got to run for maybe 15 laps before the lower screw in the steering knuckle came out and I saw the front wheel start to lay over. About 3 laps later this allowed the dogbone to come out and I was done. Looking at my 5, 10, and 15 average even with 30 less laps I probably would have been a solid 2nd and perhaps could have been fighting for the win. But alas this just was not to be my weekend.


Finally we finished off with Ebuggy A-3 and the easiest way to put it is that it was a repeat of A2. Same thing in warmup, got out just in time to start the race, but I did get to finish this one. Only problem was I tried the softer springs on this car too and they were to soft for me to drive comfortably and I was getting way to much roll. The whoops were kicking my butt and it was just a struggle throughout.



Overall it was my biggest dud of a weekend in a long time. But as always the information gained will simply be used to improve next time out and Lord willing I will do my best once again and we shall see where we end up.


Next is preparation for the RCGP final round and then the actual even the second weekend in October!

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