By Tyler Hooks
Press Release from Lutzinator:
This past Easter weekend I took a pair of flights across the pond to participate in the DXR Dirt Kings event at Harper Adams University. Previously dubbed the Neobuggy event, this year the DXR crew struck out on their own to put on a stellar race with a brilliant track. The event was title sponsored by Nemo Racing / Agama / Bullitt Engines and being my first year with them, I made the difficult decision to go for a meet and greet, and miss another Easter with my family. Thank goodness for technology and being able to facetime to keep in touch with them. But enough about that and on to the racing!
It started out with 3 rounds of practice on Friday and they would take your fastest 3 consecutive laps from any round to seed into qualifiers. Out of the gates I was already pretty fast lap time wise on the hot ticket at Harper Adams which is the AKA Clay Typo. I brought a lot of them figuring it would be my go to tire all weekend. We were only running 1 class being the Nitro Buggy class. One thing I was noticing straight away was the track seemed to be left drier than previous years which made the traction a bit higher straight away. I was able to seed 2nd or 3rd after practice (They never did post a final list) and thus was in one of the top fast heats for qualifying (as they mixed the top 30 guys between races 13 and 14.)
There would be 6 rounds of qualifying each 7 minutes long with 3 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. I would have pretty good runs on Saturday getting a 3rd, 5th, and 4th and staying near the top. My car was a little hard to drive though and I was making a lot of changes each run trying to get dialed in. This track is notorious for making cars feel aggressive on the front end and the rear kind of feeling loose or kicking out. Some changes I did that I haven't done at any previous races are I went two stages softer on rear spring than front (Usually i'm same front and rear). I also ran the same 2.4 swaybar front and rear and usually I am 0.1 or 0.2 lighter in front than the rear. Those things helped and it was time to see how Sunday would go.
In round 4 my car was super fast but I also tried some new lines and getting on the throttle harder through the whoops section. This proved costly with 8 seconds of mistakes but my pace was high and I still managed a 2nd. After that run I consulted with a lot of the team who had been watching and some of their cars looked really good so I adopted some of their set-ups including going to the harder arms. In Q5 my car felt really good and it was kind of an exploratory run for me. I was pushing harder because I could but I made mistakes on my own and finished 12th I think. After that run though I knew I had the set-up figured out and that the results were about to change. In Q6 I decided to try SSLW Zips in front and Double Downs in the rear because the younger Kilic brother had been running SSLW Double Downs all weekend and was getting faster and faster with them as the track dried out more. I figured this would be a good combo because I had 1 full set of Double Downs (thanks to the Kilic family) and one full set of zips. So I was able to make 2 sets of Zip Downs, one for Q6 and Semi, and one for the Finals. In Q6 I had one time where I crashed in the berm but otherwise was able to put nearly the same fast lap as Ongaro with what I was dubbing my main tires while he was still on Typo. I knew then I had a chance as I finished 2nd in the final round and thus would seed 2nd overall behind the perfect Ongaro as he went 6 for 6 in quals.
Come Monday in the Semi Final I would start first in the even semi and would pull out to an early lead. Berton would catch a bit, but throughout the 20 minutes I was able to maintain the lead. I had made a change from the semi warmup which was to go up in front shock oil to further support the front and it was a good change. Overall my car felt pretty good but it was still a little fishy on exit at times. I was able to win my semi and would again start 2nd behind Ongaro for the final as he beat my time. I noticed he ran Typo again in the semi and he started to struggle a little at the end and I was really curious as to his tire selection for the final. I knew if he would choose typo that he was leaving the door open for me as the typos were going bald in about 20-25 minutes and the final was 45 minutes.
In preparation for the final I went up to 4k rear diff from 3k just to try to settle the rear a little more and I think it worked. My goal upon seeing that Ongaro was choosing Typo for the final was that I needed to stay with him for the first half and then just pressure him into some dust to make mistakes in the latter half. At the start he exploded out to a quick 3 -4 second lead as he was on the fast tire. I knew it was his goal to get out to a big lead so he could ease up and cruise in the groove. But I was able to maintain pace and he made a mistake and I would be right on him. He would again nail some dialed lines and pull out again but another bobble would keep me right there with him as I knew tires were going to become a factor. 20 minutes into the main I would be right on his tail and make a brain fart mistake over the left double leaving me upside down and giving him a 5 second lead. But this was beyond the 20m minute mark and he made his own mistake the next lap and I was right on his tail then he went wide on the berm and got out of shape and crashed and I inherited the lead as we neared the 3rd pit stop. After the 3rd stop I had a 1 second lead over Ongaro and he had 2 seconds over Canas! It remained close within 2-3 seconds for the entirety until stop #4 at the 30 minute mark. I had a 1.78 second lead coming into the pits but hit the pipe and let Ongaro past as I had to turn around and gave up the lead to him. We came out of the pits and into the hairpin and into traffic. Lots of bumping ensued and I tagged him over the sharp single in the back and had to wait for him to regain position. Then we were off again but Canas overtook us and we were all within a second but Canas had to pit the next lap. For the next 5 minutes it was nose to tail racing and Ongaro got wide over the left double and shot across to I assume try to block but got loose and crashed which gave me the lead around 36 minutes into the race with 9 to go.
Just before our final stop Canas was again on our back door and the top 3 were separated by 2 seconds total. I came into pits first and Ongaro followed but this time he made a quick mistake on pit entry and Canas again got to lead for a lap as we had just over 7 minutes to go! After our pit stop laps I had 3 seconds on Ongaro. He started throwing off the fastest laps of the race and I made a mistake of my own which let him go by with 4 minutes to go but he made a mistake just after that letting me back by again! With 3 laps to go we were just 1.5 seconds apart and the excitement was high! I was able to stay clean and just squeek by the line for a victory lap!
Wow, what a race it was! Right up there with my best buggy race victories of my career! I couldn't be more thankful for the whole Nemo Racing Agama team. Billy Tylaska, Mark Rumble, Jon Hazlewood, as well as just everyone else involved. I am truly blessed to be a part of all of that. Huge thanks to the Kilic family for the tires and Gil Losi Jr. for the confidence to run that combination of AKA Zips front and Double Downs rear. I've just had this feeling this year, that I just want to keep telling people just give me a moment. Things haven't fallen my way yet, but they are about to. Things are about to get really good and i'm going to make this my best year yet! Thank you all for the support and all the kind well wishes on social media. I'm undeserving and truly blessed. Also a huge thanks to everyone who was in the hall who stopped and applauded me as I walked in after the race, truly humbling.
Next is less than a weeks preparation for Silver State! Can't wait! :-D
-Bullitt B-223 Engine
-AKA Clay Typo and SSLW Zip front and Double Down rear
-Futaba 7PX LE Radio and CB700 Servos
-ProTek RC LiHV 2200 Rx battery