By Aaron Waldron
Though the end of the 2016 season brought with it one of the wildest offseasons in RC history, with handfuls of major stars making moves to different teams, it's no doubt that the biggest buzz surrounded the decision of multi-time national champion Ryan Maifield. His 2014 departure from Team Associated for rival Team Losi Racing received similar interest, and led him to a Reedy Race title as well as a handful of national championships, but the Arizona native split from TLR in order to sign with both Mugen Seiki Racing for 1/8-scale racing and Team Yokomo for 1/10-scale off-road. On the eve of the 2017 Reedy International Off-Road Race of Champions, Ryan talked about the choices he made, what he's most excited about, and where he hopes the 2017 season will take him.
Aaron Waldron: Congratulations on making a few huge moves this offseason! What was the main factor behind your decisions?
Ryan Maifield: Thanks Aaron. I don't think there is any one reason - it was the best thing for me, I had a lot of success with TLR and Spektrum, and I appreciate the time I had with them.
AW: How much track time have you had with your new buggies?
RM: I haven't had a lot of time but I've had enough to know that both Mugen and Yokomo make awesome products. The quality is awesome and they are truly focused on racing and making the best RC cars for racing enthusiasts no matter the surface they race on.
AW: You noted that the chance to race with Adam Drake was one of the reasons you moved to Team Losi Racing, but he was let go just six months after you started. How much did he influence your decision to join Mugen Seiki Racing?
RM: Yeah - it’s no secret that Adam and I have been friends for a long time. He was a big reason why I wanted to race for TLR and he was a lot of the reason why I had so much success with them. I was very confused when he and Horizon Hobby parted ways, but I understood that it’s just part of the business. I've always known the Mugen Seiki 1/8-scale buggy is one of the best on the market and knowing I could possibly work with Adam again was a determining factor for sure.
AW: You had quite a streak of success with Team Losi Racing, including a handful of national championships in 1/10-scale and 1/8-scale as well as a Reedy Race title. Was it a difficult decision to leave?
RM: Yes. Obviously it was a difficult decision - you develop relationships with people and it’s hard to make a move like this without offending those people, but it is part of the business.
AW: When did you start talking to Yokomo? What excited your about the opportunity?
RM: Honestly, I spoke to Yokomo before Mugen, I know people in Europe have put packages like this [racing for Yokomo and Mugen] together but it hasn't really been done in the U.S. I was excited because I know Yokomo makes a great product that works on dirt and clay, but also works awesome on carpet which is part of our racing nowadays. After talking with them I understood that they wanted to get their dirt and clay settings and setups better in the U.S. so that’s where I can help. So far, the cars have performed really good - better than I could have imagined. I can help them here on dirt, and they can help me when I race on carpet or astroturf.
AW: Yokomo has a spectacular record of success internationally but hasn’t been at the forefront of the off-road scene in the U.S. in a very long time. What would it mean to you to add to the company’s racing accolades?
RM: I have been around long enough to know how big Yokomo is internationally and what they have accomplished, I also grew up racing in the late 90s when the AE team ran Yokomo 4WD cars. I always looked at those cars like they were the Batmobile or something; you would only see them in the hands of a badass, which back then only the badass drivers in the U.S. had them. I've never forgotten that, so now that I have the opportunity to help show what these cars can do I'm excited.
AW: Tell us more about the switch to MKS Servos - how did that come about?
RM: Well, with my departure from TLR, I also had to find a new servo sponsor. I've watched friends of mine, like Mike Truhe and Cole Ogden, run MKS servos with success. After speaking with Kenny Johnson, the MKS U.S. team manager, and understanding where the product comes from I knew it was the right choice.
AW: Your name came up in rumors regarding a bunch of different brands this offseason. How many other companies did you talk to before making your decision?
RM: I did speak to a few companies. Anytime there are rumors people start contacting you. I always listen and appreciate anyone that contacts me - you never know when you may have to call them someday. The Mugen/Yokomo deal was my first choice and I'm stoked that we got a package put together that works for everyone.
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RM: Thanks again, Aaron, and thanks to LiveRC for covering and broadcasting events all over the world. I would like to thank everyone that has supported me through this decision and throughout my racing career, and to all my current and newly added sponsors - without them I couldn't do what I love. Thanks to Yokomo, Mugen Seiki, JConcepts, Team Orion, REDS, Sidewinder, MKS, AMain Performance Hobbies, OCRC raceway, Stick it 1, Hobby Action, MIP, and Lunsford racing.