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  • Writer's pictureRyan Lutz

TNR A-main Challenge (Thunder Alley)

This past weekend I made the trip cross country to attend the ever popular TNR A-main Challenge. This event has grown exponentially as the organizer gives back a ton to the racers in prizes and really puts so much into the event. The track was built by Levi Jackson and he did an amazing job considering the amount of rain and how wet the track was that he had to work with. The track flowed and held together remarkably well over the 3 day event.

*I had no practice heading into qualifier 1. If you care to read the whole situation surrounding that it's down below the set-up sheets.*

On to the racing we had the one qualifier on Friday afternoon. First up was Nitro buggy and it was my first time on the track. Due to the 60+ heats we were given just 1 lap of warmup and so I had to learn the track quick! I was able to actually put in a clean run and improve my lap times as the race went on and got a 14th for the round. I would also finish 14th in ebuggy and Nitro truggy.

Round 2 came about Saturday and I was able to participate in the 50 minutes of practice Saturday morning. Mostly I ran my ebuggy and tried some tires but I also got to run each nitro vehicle once. Shock wise I made changes on all platforms. On the buggies went with 8x1.3 all the way around instead of the 5x1.4 and 5x1.5 I was running. This seemed to help it be more stable on the high speed landings and not have so much 'compression/rebound' speed and instead it did that action smoother making the car easier to drive. In truggy I went with softer but longer springs to mimic what Spencer was running and it made the truck much more compliant and I will probably be sticking with those springs more often. As Spencer put it, our truck wants to have some roll and with me basically trying to take out so much roll it creates some tough handling characteristics at times.

Anyways in Round 2 of Nitro buggy it was going great and I was running a top 2 or 3 run for the round until the last lap where I crashed in the muck before the wall and flamed out upside down. In round 3 I was again running well but got taken out when passing a slower car and it gave me just an 8th for the round seeding me 13th overall and thus 3rd in the B-main. Disappointing for how good my buggy felt.

Ebuggy round 2 saw much more success. I was running SSLW AKA P1's in both buggies and they were running good. I was able to get a 3rd for the round. In round 3 late Saturday night I was able to get a 2nd for the round to seed me 3rd overall. In Nitro truggy the results were tough, with too many mistakes I only got a 10th and for Q3 I broke an arm cartwheeling down the back slope in the warmup lap and so I would qualify 14th overall and thus 4th in the B-main.

Sunday brought the mains and first was the Truggy B-main which was a 15 minute affair. My truck was feeling really solid on AKA SSLW Gridirons. On lap 1 I moved into 3rd and into 2nd on lap 5 and took the lead on lap 9. I ran a pretty clean race thereafter and was able to take a nearly 10 second victory to bump into the A-main.

Next brought the 15 minute Nitro buggy B-main. Again I was able to keep it clean at the start and get into 2nd 3 laps into the main. I would then run with Cavalieri most of the remainder of the race. I had a couple mistakes and a good battle with Carlos for a few laps about 3/4 in but I was able to retain the 2 positions and take the bump into the A-main.

The switched the order for the A-mains and my next race would again be the Nitro buggy in the 25 minute A-main. I opted for a fresh set of SSLW P1's and I went to the new Kyosho brown spring in the rear (had been running the black) and lighter shock oil for the dipping temperatures. I also put in the 12/18 center diff gears with 10k (was running 10/20 gears with 6k in the small diff). I did this to try to get a little more off power steering that I felt I was lacking a little in the B-main. At the start of the main I was feeling really good. All of my changes were positive and I knew I could move forward in the field. I would gain positions moving up from 12th on the grid to 6th by lap #7. There I would run for a while until lap 20 I got into 5th. I kept pressing and began to catch the 4th place car but I needed to do an extra pit stop which only allowed me to hold 4th for 4 laps. Before that stop I was only 6 seconds out of 2nd as well. But I then had some silly mistakes of my own at the end and fell to 6th with 3 laps to go to finish 6th overall. Still a decent result and pleased with how my car felt on the track and the improvements made throughout the weekend.

Next was the 25 minute Nitro truggy A-final. It went much the same as Nitro buggy where I gained a few positions at the start and by lap 19 was in 6th. I kept pressing and my truck felt pretty good and consistent. A couple times if I pushed too hard I would diff out and get a little out of shape which cost me some time near the end of the race. I did get into 4th briefly before a final pit stop and then was holding 5th for the final 4 laps until a huge mistake on the last lap dropped me to 6th. A bit disappointing in the mistakes made but my truck felt the best it has in quite a while and I think going up a diffs just a bit more will put me in a good starting set-up heading into the DNC.

Final race of the day late into the night was the Ebuggy 10 minute final. This one did not go well at the start and I made a big mistake. Coming around the top left I clipped the pipe and shot across lane and overcorrected for the second double and flew right into Ogden (My mistake, Sorry!). After that I had to regroup but about halfway into the main running 8th I had too much closing speed over the front double and tagged Cav's buggy sending us both tumbling (Sorry!) I waited for him to get going but unfortunately he would bow out shortly thereafter. I felt like quite the failure during this one. Somehow though in the end through others mistakes I was able to move to 5th on the last lap.

So in the end two 6th's and a 5th is a respectable finish for how it all began. I'm pleased to have finished all my mains and have two events of solid results to start off 2023.

Set-up Notes:

-Switched to the 12/18 gearing in the center for the Amain. Prior to that I was running 6k in the small diff. I switched to 10k in the small diff with the 12/18 gearing. I did this to get more off power steering.

(My take on the practice schedule and event entry cutoff)

Lot's of drama has unfolded regarding the event on social media due to the '500 entry' cutoff on the flyer and yet we reached nearly 700 entires. As far as how my situation went on Thursday night most all the 'pro's' agreed to forgo the Friday morning practice and instead practice on Saturday morning when the track would be closer to race conditions. Initially upon arrival we assumed practice until 11am Friday and then 2 qualifiers, then practice Saturday morning followed by 2 more qualifiers. You could basically choose which practice to do. Well as the entries rolled in beyond the 500 mark at about 9:30am on Friday we received word that practice would go until 1pm now and there would be just 1 qualifier. So most all the pro's abandoned the Saturday practice and now joined in on the Friday practice. We were still told a minimum of 2 hours of practice for Saturday morning for those who didn't run Friday.

Well I did stand in line for about 20 minutes thinking I would also practice Friday but the line hardly budged as people were allowed to keep handing in tickets and run 2 or sometimes more times in a row as long as they gave the guy a ticket. I didn't want to stand all morning so I just resolved to go into Q1 with no practice and I would practice Saturday morning. Well as we got closer to noon it was said there wouldn't be any Saturday practice. Then shortly after it was said there would be 50 minutes on Saturday morning. So that all was pretty frustrating but I know they did the best they could with the influx of drivers and the limitations on drivers stand size and nightly curfew for noise.

Perhaps my biggest beef with the whole situation was watching my teammate stand in line for 55 minutes to get his practice run in and yet saw a number of 'pro' drivers, and a certain 'pro' driver in particular run 4 separate times in that same time frame. They would find a buddy in line and cut in line. What infuriated me even further is when on Saturday morning when I finally was able to run some practice, that same 'pro' driver went to the organizer and said I had practiced on Friday and basically said I was lying to him to get more track time. This driver has been doing this for so long and is just so confident no one will ever call him out on it. I don't know how he can justify his actions and yet have the gall to accuse me of lying. The organizer even said he saw him running so much but wasn't going to say anything to him because no one brought it up to him so he figured no one cared enough about it. Perhaps it's time when we all witness these 'entitled' drivers cutting in line that we reach out to that driver or the organizers to express our issue with it so something can be done.

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