I journeyed to the middle of flyover country to a facility that epitomizes the phrase "if you build it, they will come". The MidAmerica Outdoors facility in Jay, Oklahoma is an off-roaders (and Barby Jeep lovers) haven. Hundreds of miles of off-road trails and multiple purpose built tracks which this year for the first time ever included an R/C track! I was blessed to be one of the 11 invite drivers in the event and have a shot at a portion of the $30k purse!
I arrived to the track on Wednesday for a media day to get some B-roll footage on the track and some pictures taken. This event had some big backing and would be our first R/C event that will be televised on MAVTV in a couple weeks. On Thursday it was our day to get some practice in with some open practice in the morning followed by some controlled practice / seeding rounds in the afternoon. The track at first glance was smaller than we are used to recently and laid out fairly easily. However it is the surface that would supply the challenge and make what looked easy, be much more difficult. All through practice my Kyosho MP10 TKI2 was turning some of the fastest laps and as the track surface got some character in it, my car was still handling it well. I got countless comments from people saying how good my buggy looked on the track and I was hoping to parlay that into some good finishing results. I would be the overall top seed taking fastest 3 consecutive laps.
Friday morning we got one more practice run to be sure everything was ready to go. In this run I tried AKA Soft Components and really liked them and stuck with them for the rest of the event in Nitro buggy. Our 3 qualifiers were all heads up and we chose a letter from a hat that was already assigned to starting grid positions and everyone would have around 23+ points of starting grid positions. For the first round I would start 10th out of 11 cars. I had a good first two laps moving up to 6th but made a mistake falling back to 10th. I had a steady rest of the race and would work my way back to 4th. However we finished in each of the 3 qualifiers would be how we would start for each of the 3 A-mains.
The second qualifier I would start 12th on the grid as they added a couple drivers who were winners of the first two open qualifiers. This would be an excellent race for me as I quickly moved through the pack as they struggled with the track and each other. I got into 8th on lap 2, 5th on lap 5, and 2nd on lap 9 before taking the lead on lap 12 and pulling away for a 6 second victory in the 30 lap race. This would allow me to start on pole for A2 on Saturday. The third qualifier I was really looking for a wire to wire victory as I finally had my chance to start up from during a qualifier. We now had the full 15 car field and I would lead them off and pull away ever so slightly as we had basically a 3 car breakaway. I would have about a 2-3 second lead on lap 8 when I came up to the first car I was going to put a lap down. They were right in front of me and they made a mistake and I ended up getting into them and flipping over on my lid. By the time I got marshaled I had flamed out upside down knocking me to last. With some issues by a couple others I would come back to take 11th but thought this could have been what would cost me my weekend overall chances.
We were also running ebuggy and my Kyosho MP10e was feeling pretty good but I was battling a bit of a loose rear end. This would have been the perfect track for my lightweight set-up with the 1950 motor and 4800 batteries but I really expected a much larger track and thus didn't bring them. The first two qualifiers I had some good lap times but I was making way too many mistakes especially rolling over on the right handed 90* after the finish loop. I was running SLW impacts primarily in this class as I didn't have enough of the components I was running in Nitro. Those first two rounds left me with an 8 and a 14 and needing a good run in Q3. I would start out in the top 5 but put in a nice clean run. I was battling with Tebo at the end as we were less than 0.5 apart heading onto the last laps. I would throw down the fast lap of the race on the last lap to take the TQ for the round and qualify in 7th into the A-main.
Saturday would be our main event day. We would start out the day with A1 of Invite buggy. I would start out 4th in this one. Again my TKI2 buggy felt pretty good overall as we were racing in overcast skies for the first time and I was on the AKA Soft Components. On lap 3 I was able to get into 3rd and on lap 5 into 2nd. It was a 3 way battle between Maifield, Rivkin, and I as we would all swap positions a couple times over the next 15 laps or so. On lap 26 I was able to take the lead and started to pull out a little bit of a gap. Soon thereafter though Maifield was beginning to press hard and on lap 33 I messed up my trickiest section and landed inside the pipe on the back jump and lost a couple seconds and allowed Maifield by for the lead. I would give chase over the last 7 laps and close in on the last lap but he held me off by 0.5 so I would settle for 2nd, just missing out on the $1,500 A1 victory bonus.
Next was the 8 minute Ebuggy A-main. I opted to use a used set of AKA Soft components for this one and they were less edgy for me. I had a great start and steadily moved my way forward from the 7th starting position. I even got up to 2nd on lap 12 but then I began making mistakes. 4 laps in a row of mistakes knocked me all the way back to 12th. I cleaned it up for the last 7 laps and was able to move forward back to 7th position but it was disappointing seeing as though I was in a podium position.
A2 for Nitro buggy was next and I was excited as I was starting on pole for this one. I had a nice start and pulled away just a bit but on lap 3 on the right hander after the drop off I clipped the inside pipe, I bounced off it and was trying to correct but 2nd place came behind me and tagged my right rear pushing me fully into the pipe and this knocked me back to 8th. I came back a little getting back into 5th. I was struggling just a bit as the sun had come back out and the track was at it's grippiest and I really should have tried to do some set-up changes. But I was trying my best to hang on. Then Maifield broke out of the race and I thought wow, with a 2nd in A1 and many who were doing good in the main were ones who struggled in A1, I thought this was a huge opportunity for me with just holding onto a decent run. However shortly thereafter on lap 20 on my in lap to fuel I ran out of gas. This was devastating. For the second time I had squandered my pole position start completely and this would spell the end of my chances at the overall. I got fired back up and by the end of the race with a couple other drivers running out of gas on the last lap I would move up and settle in 11th.
Heading into A3 the points were all over the map but with an 11th I was just hoping to make into the top 5 overall. I would have my work cut out for me starting 11th in this one after what had happened in Q3. I had made some set-up adjustments going into this one, I went up in my front and rear diff. I was 7-7-3 and went to 10-7-4. I also went up 50cst in shock oil to help slow down the reaction a little bit. I had another good start and moved up to 3rd by lap 9 but made a mistake and then fell back to 7th. I clawed my way back and some people were getting pretty heated on the stand and on lap 33 I was able to get into 2nd place and finish the last 7 laps i that position to get another 2nd. In the end two 2nd's and an 11th put me 4th overall.
Overall it was a really good week of racing. My cars were on point and I was competitive the whole time. I absolutely had an opportunity to win it all but it just wasn't meant to be this time around. A huge congratulations to Jared Wiggins on his first big event victory! I can't wait to see what MAVTV does with the coverage of the event and how the TV show of the event turns out. Thank you to LiveRC and all those involved in putting on this event and I hope it can happen again next year and that the entry count next year reflects the awesomeness we experienced this year.
Set-up notes: Was running 800/750 most of the weekend but as grip came up a little higher on main day went to 850/800. Was also running 7-7-3 most of the weekend but same reason as grip came up for mains went to the 10-7-4.