The Road to the U.S. National Title in Spec 17.5! :)by Jimmy Deprez 0
The road to this year’s U.S. Offroad Nationals has been quite a long one. Last year, Kyle Layton and Team Powers USA managed to obtain 2nd overall in the spec 17.5 division. This was a bittersweet moment for us as we were just one position from taking the national title. After the race I received my first call from our driver Kyle Layton. Up until this point I had only worked as the Team's Sales Manager. I knew of Kyle from results I had posted on our blog earlier in the year. As Kyle and I began to talk about the 2015 Nationals race I realized a few things. First, I was talking with a highly motivated youngster that was working hard to reach his goals. Second, I was talking to a highly motivated youngster that was frustrated with certain parts of his race program. He knew what he needed and he was conveying to me that we were lacking a bit on our side of the spectrum. Kyle and his Dad Barry had been practicing nonstop at every Northern California track possible. They had taken the advice of so many greats by trying to drive at as many different tracks as possible. Kyle was getting the driving and setup side of things but needed some help in the electronics department. Our motors were originally designed and tuned around On-road applications and much of the feedback Kyle was getting was from the Onroad side of things. We needed to work on the motor package as Kyle would often deal with low motor output and fading issues. We also had a brand new speed control available that had much better reliability and performance gains. Even though Kyle finished second, I feel that made him hungrier to figure out how to make up that last position. I hadn’t been able to race much at that time as I was busy trying to run the ARCOR club in New Mexico so I took interest in Kyle’s race program and decided to help in any way I could. Kyle worked on his race program end of things and I worked on the horsepower side. Team Powers USA owner Eric Vasutin was generous enough to allow me to purchase motor tuning equipment and plenty of motors to play with. After several emails back and forth to the motor designer and factory we started to make some progress. After a few weeks we were able to get Kyle some new motors for Surf City which he won and I felt like we at least made a small step forward for his motor program! He provided us with a lot of feedback which allowed us to again go back and forth with the motor designer and even make some interesting progress with our speed controls. From here Eric decided to fly Kyle out to New Mexico so that him and I could both sit down and talk about motors and run the Tumbleweed Classic to see what additional improvements were out there. Kyle was also able to win the Tumbleweed race as well. I have to say at this point there were some other sponsors that stepped into scene and took interest in the talent Kyle was displaying on track. I really have to give a shout out to JConcepts and Team Associated for becoming a bit more involved. After the Tumbleweed we went back to the drawing board. A few more programming updates were available for the speed control and before we knew it the Outback Shootout was right around the corner. I would fly out to this race to help support Team Powers and Kyle. He again took the win and it was here for the first time that witnessed an ugly side of RC. I never had to deal with this so much coming up as a Nitro racer but in today’s electric spec classes’, allegations of cheating are pretty serious. To my surprise this had happened quite often to Kyle. He had progressed so fast that he was always being accused of cheating. For those that don’t know this was the story behind Kyle’s tire sauce naming convention (Cheater Sauce). During that race I had to look an old friend (Race Director) in the eyes and express to him that we were in fact not cheating. The whole thing really put a damper on our qualifying sessions. This is not an image you want when you are trying to run an RC business. With that said I knew we were making progress in the horsepower department and Kyle used every bit extra we could give him. During this race he turned the second fastest time of the weekend out of all the buggies at the track (Including Mod)! I think it was at the Outback Shootout that I finally realized exactly how good Kyle was. I grew up watching Matt Francis, Joel Johnson, Atushi Hara, and I felt as though I was watching an up and coming champion. During one of Kyle quails I watched him run the same lines on the track from start to finish and his car’s attitude over the triple looked as if he had done it 1000 times before. They say to become great at something it takes ten thousand hours. I believe this kid has put in his time. Kyle took a short break during the first quarter of the year where I think he digested everything that happened the year before. You get to a point where you are pretty good and you pick up some sponsors. You’ve won some races and were successful. For some that is all they need, the fire burns out. They go on to do or try some other things. For others it is simply not enough. They then stare down the next highest mountain. I think in this 2016 year, Kyle decided to take his race program to the next level with the goal of graduating into the professional class and to earn that respect. I know he was frustrated with his first big modified showing at Reedy and I know it’s driven him to start to develop that skill set further. I think when you drive RC, you can obtain the skill of becoming better by being humbled. There is always more to get out of your race program. When you get beat it can show you where you are lacking if you are receptive to it. With that said he qualified 6th at the JC Indoor Nats in a field full of B6s with his outdated B5M. He has that ability.
Going into Nationals weekend I knew we had about the best package we could have had. We had done a years’ worth of work on our electronics. Our motor materials and numbers had improved. We had perfected a setup with the speed control and motor that was good for both Buggy and SCT. We had a wheel for a driver and I was so pumped up to watch the races on liverc! The seeding rounds would prove to be a bit difficult. Kyle struggled for grip and needed to work closely with AE to improve the setup on the new B6 platform. I knew from watching on liverc that the car wasn’t exactly right yet. After day one we sat 10th overall. I received a call from Kyle’s Dad Thursday night in which he expressed the level of motor competition at the race. He explained to me that almost every motor manufacturer had a motor tuner at the race and motors were being torn out of the cars after ever run before seeding started. Kyle’s motor tuner was out of vacation time and wasn’t able to attendL. I reminded Kyle’s Dad that we had done our homework well in advance of the race and to trust the setup we had created together and that Kyle didn’t need me to be in attendance. A bunch of chassis setup changes were made overnight with the help of AE and we looked to Friday as a brand new day. Kyle managed to win 5 out of 8 qualifiers I believe, leaving him TQ in both classes! It was then that we were again bitten by some bad luck. I’m not sure how this kind of thing comes about but at some point ROAR officials decided (Who knows why) they would tear down both of Kyle’s cars. Every Team Powers component was meticulously disassembled and analyzed using ROAR’s RMT instruments. Kyle would be the only one in attendance that would go through this kind of scrutiny. During the tear down of his SCT the ESC was shorted out while the motor was connected. Kyle would be plagued the next day in SCT as the motor never seemed to run at full potential again. Despite the normal cheating allegations ROAR determined that all Kyle’s equipment was legal. Hopefully now everyone will just accept that fact that the Team Powers equipment and Kyle are extremely fast, period. Kyle would go on to dominate the 2wd class winning A1 and A2 by a mile! During each of the races Kyle’s car looked as if it was just gliding around the track effortlessly, and most definitely in a league of his own. He battled it out in SCT with his hurt motor and managed to finish 3rd overall respectively. We changed motor/speedo settings every round for SCT and finally concluded during testing last week that we hurt the sensor board during the speedo short. I’m very happy to have had the privilege of working alongside Kyle during the last year and am ecstatic that Layton was able to bring home Team Powers USA’s first National Championship! A lot of people ask me about sponsorship now that I’m the Team Manager of Team Powers USA. What does it take to become a sponsored driver? I really feel like Kyle is a good role model for any up and coming drivers. He has earned his spot on multiple teams with the hard work that he has put into the sport, he has progressed on and off the track in both his driving and setup. Most importantly he has shared his setup knowledge and helped others every single time he showed up at the track. I believe he is even running local events in Sacramento, CA. Hats off to you brother, good luck next year in modified, I know you will do well! I want to thank Kyle Layton, Eric Vasutin, Larry Chiu, Barry Layton, Andy Tse, JConcepts, Associated and the many others that helped along Kyle's journey to become the 2016 2wd Spec Buggy National Champion!
Kyle used Team Powers Radon V2 140A ESC, Actinuim 17.5 motor, 5200mah Lipo, and the Shorty Primus digital servo.
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