By Mike Garrison
Welcome to LiveRC's weekly column, "Talk-It-Up Tuesday!" Here we spend a little time talking with industry icons including racers, manufacturers, team managers, developers, promoters, and everyone in between! Sit back, relax, and go behind the scenes as we interview them all!
For this week's Talk It Up Tuesday we sit down with Randy Pike (team manager for Tekin, AMain Hobbies, and ProTek R/C) to discuss his opinions of sponsorship, how it has affected the industry, the cost of stock class racing, and more!
LiveRC: Welcome Randy to this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday! For those who may not know THE Randy Pike, let’s start out by giving them a little background. When, where, and how did you get started in R/C?
Randy: Fair enough. I got started in R/C back in ’89 when I purchased my first hobby grade kit; a Tamiya Subaru Brat. I had 3 paper routes to pay for my early addiction and purchased it via Tower Hobbies since I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a local hobby shop.
LiveRC: What are your current roles in the industry, and how did each of them come about?
Randy: Currently my primary job is the Tekin Team manager. I also help Amain with the ProTek race team. Tekin is a much longer story but to summarize it for the viewers; I met Jim and Sherri Campbell at a trade show when I owned a hobby shop on one of the “dealer” days. I must have made an impression because a few weeks later we started talking about the industry, motor tuning, esc’s, etc. I was offered a job as the TM when they’re previous one parted ways. I’ve been with them now going on 12 years if I’m not mistaken. Amain/ProTek started off as one of the team drivers. I began providing feedback on new products, testing, and some product suggestions. Kendall and Kevin have always been good to me and treated me fairly and have appreciated my inputs when asked. They needed some help with their team again after the departure of their last TM. I’ve been with them now for 7 years in various capacities.
LiveRC: As a team manager, this time of year is VERY busy with sponsorship requests and applications. How has sponsorship changed over time since you first started in the industry?
Randy: Great question. Do we have time for this? LOL. Yes this is what we all refer to as the “Silly Season.” Sponsorship has changed drastically from how it was when I started racing. Back in the days (yes I’m old) you had to not only make the mod A’s, but you had to beat the factory drivers you were competing for sponsorship with, as a privateer. Stock racers were rarely if ever factory supported and the ones that were, were being cultivated to run the mod classes in the very near future.
LiveRC: Do you think the increase in sponsorship of drivers has helped or hurt the industry, and why?
Randy: Personally I feel it’s hurt the industry in the simple fact that the local hobby shops and race tracks have an even harder time turning a profit. It seems like these days half of their customer base receives some sort of discount or sponsorship. I work for racing companies, and we can’t race our cars if there are no race tracks left.
LiveRC: What is the biggest benefit to sponsorship from the standpoint of a sponsoring company?
Randy: The benefit is our customers are able to interact with a team driver or company representative that has extensive knowledge with our products providing a more positive experience with those products. This should also provide the dealers and hobby shops with the same benefits. They’re able to go to this driver/person who can then offer support to the dealer in regards to technical aspects and even product knowledge. Assuring they’re stocking the correct products for their customers and regions.
LiveRC: What is the biggest downfall to sponsorship from the standpoint of a sponsoring company?
Randy: I’d say the largest one is having a team driver or representative that is not capable or willing to do the above benefits. Simply put for us, this is the single largest reason we offer factory support to our team; customer and dealer support.
LiveRC: Approximately how many applications and resumes do you have to sort through each Silly Season?
Randy: Upwards of 400+ so far. I review every single one.
LiveRC: What do you feel is the biggest thing drivers forget when applying and/or receiving a sponsorship?
Randy: They forget to thoroughly read the instructions if they’re provided. Something as simple as making sure they check the “boxes” of what’s being asked. Tekin this year changed it up and asked for a “Snap Shot” which could be anything that would give us insight as to why you should be on our team; video, photo collages, racer resume, etc. I’d say 40% of the applicants sent us only the pdf app, which was only half of what was asked for.
LiveRC: As a team manager, what is the most important thing you look for when selecting drivers for a sponsorship?
Randy: ROI; return on investment. Can he/she influence enough sales to outweigh their potential costs to the company.
LiveRC: Once a driver is sponsored, what do you expect and/or hope to see from them the most?
Randy: I expect them to simply follow the guidelines set forth in regard to race reports, ESC and motor setup sheets, photos, decal placement, etc. All these things are outlined in our contracts so that the expectations are very clear, and always available for reference.
LiveRC: Recently on social media you have expressed some frustration and concern while reading through the stacks and stacks of sponsorship applications on your desk. Tell us a few of the frustrations and concerns you have with drivers applying.
Randy: Ha! Live RC follows little ‘ol me? I’m flattered. Joking aside my biggest peeve is lack of attention to detail. I’m certainly not a grammar or spelling Nazi, but as a TM I have to look at each applicant to see if he/she has the ability to represent us well? If they can’t take 10 minutes to read the instructions on how to apply assuring they’re sending in whatever is required, how am I to expect they’ll take the time to learn our products and gain the knowledge that he/she should have to help our customers and dealers? Quite simply I can’t. Silly mistakes like not editing out the “other” companies you’re sending this resume to as the one post I made was showing. What most racers may not realize is that the majority of us TM’s speak to each other. At Tekin we are looking to build long term relationships with our team drivers. 99% of our Pro team guys have been with us well over 5 years. We build a family feel to our team. At any given race or event we give our entire team the same level of support, whether you’re a 60% Regional driver, or Adam Drake on the Pro Team(name drop).
LiveRC: Outside the role of team manager, you are an avid racer as well. Talk to us a bit about your personal racing, plans for 2019, and what races we might expect to see you at?
Randy: “Avid” racer is a very polite way to put that, thank you. I do love racing, nearly all forms of it. I enjoy racing as much as my schedule permits. I’m looking forward to hitting up some tracks and races I haven’t been to, spreading the good word of my sponsors that support me. I try not to miss the April Fools race at IRCR in Utah, as it’s become one of my favorite events of the year. I will very likely hit up races that I haven’t personally been able to attend: PNB, JBRL Races, and a few of the JConcept races.
LiveRC: Stock class racing has become more popular than the mod classes in many parts of the country. Why do you think this is the case?
Randy: Quite frankly it’s a good speed for the average to above average club racer. The full mod setups we’re using now are simply too fast for the average hobbyist. This is easily proven at most tracks when the fastest 17.5 guys are running nearly identical laps as the fastest mod drivers.
LiveRC: Many say that stock racing costs far more than mod racing if you want to be competitive. Do you feel this is true?
Randy: I disagree. We’re essentially buying the same equipment aside from maybe the charger setup. Same cars, same batteries, same motors, tires, etc. The costs rise when the perception is that they MUST spend big $$ on all hop up parts. I personally dislike the fact that to be competitive you need a $600 charger/discharger setup. While the batteries can take this, it reduces life cycle count and adds unnecessary costs to the racer.
LiveRC: What is the “best of the best” from Tekin for 17.5 2wd and 13.5 4wd stock class racing?
Randy: Simply put the Spec R 17.5 and 13.5 motors coupled with the RS Pro BE esc; touting the lowest on resistance of ANY esc on the market today. This of course must also be paired with one of our new Tekin Servos ;)
LiveRC: Randy it has been a pleasure talking to you as always. We look forward to seeing you at the track again soon and we wish you a very Merry Christmas! Is there anything you would like to add before we go?
Randy: The pleasure is all mine guys. Thanks of course to everyone at LiveRC who has been pushing hard to bring r/c racing to the masses. Then I would simply like to thank everyone at who supports me providing me the opportunity to enjoy this great sport and hobby more than I could have ever imagined: Tekin, ProTek, Amain, JConcepts, MIP, Avid, Factory RC, SikLidz paintworks and most importantly my lovely wife who has put up with my crazy schedule and life for the past 21 years.