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 one of Pilot RC's founders and accomplished racer Matt Cline!
LiveRC: Welcome Matt to this week’s edition of Talk It Up Tuesday! For those who don’t know you, lets start out talking about where it all began. When, where, how, and why did you get started in R/C car racing?
Matt: Thanks Mike, very happy to be here! For me I was introduced to RC at about 15 when my dad brought home a Traxxas Rustler. Unfortunately I was occupied at that time by school and other sports and wouldn’t race until I was 18. I started racing at my local track The Ohio RC Factory and started to race more seriously during my freshman year of college. The main thing I loved about RC when I first started was I could race on the weekend and attend my classes through the week.
LiveRC: What is racing accomplishments are you most proud of in your career so far?
Matt: I’d have to say one big one that stands out was winning the stock buggy class at CRCRC in 2016. This is my home tracks biggest race and was the same week I had signed with Team Associated. Other than that I’ve attended the Reedy Race and just about every big race in the country which has allowed me to meet so many great people. Building Pilot RC Products has also been a great accomplishment and has allowed me to combine both my hobby and my education!
LiveRC: Let’s talk Pilot RC. When, where, how, and why did you decide to launch your own company?
Matt: Actually many might not know this but Pilot has three owners! Both of my long time friends Randy Butera and Michael Gers started it with me. The brand started as we were racing together, We saw the need for multiple products and quickly realized we could build a brand. Each of our everyday jobs have brought the skills needed to start and run Pilot. Our main goal is to help improve and grow the sport as much as possible while keeping it fun!
LiveRC: We are a BIG fan of your shock piston drill set, but the Pilot RC brand has expanded to offer far more than just that. What are some of your newest products?
Matt: The shock piston drill kit has been a great first product for us! Recently we partnered with Reedy to bring a full line of pro tuned stock motors. Also we have released many of our own products such as our Carbon Fiber Ball Stud Washers, Pilot X-rings and our new Magic Maintenance Mats.
LiveRC: Tell us a little bit about the Pilot RC X-Rings. What are the advantages to these X-Rings over those found stock in most kits?
Matt: The best part about the Pilot X-Ring Kit is it saves you money. You can rebuild them over and over without having to buy new ones because they do not swell like the kit ones. Personally I’ve been running the same set in my car for months now with simply cleaning them from time to time. Our goal was to help keep the shocks more consistent over the longer race weekends. Which has proved to work well as I’ve used them to win the Team Associated race, JConcepts INS and place in the modified A-Main at CRCRC all on the same set of X-Rings!
LiveRC: Another interesting product you have released is your line-up of carbon fiber ball stud washers. Besides looking cool, what is the advantage and purpose behind these compared to the traditional aluminum or steel washers?
Matt: This is one of my favorite projects we have done mainly due to the looks! Also they are pure carbon fiber which is very strong and does save weight for all the stock guys looking to save every gram off there kit. The main selling point for most is the looks tho as lots of people love that super clean carbon finish!
LiveRC: You recently partnered up with Randy Caster and 1up Racing. What exactly does this partnership mean?
Matt: This partnership is a nice addition to our brand! Both Randy Castor and Joe Pillars have been extremely nice to work with. They have grown 1up Racing so much in the last year offering many new products. With Pilot being a new brand, potential customers are happy to see that we already have partners like 1up Racing and Reedy! We have just gotten in our first order of 1up stuff and have plans to work together to offer multiple products that will come packaged together to give racers the best value. So look for more very soon!
LiveRC: Where do you hope to see the Pilot RC brand in the next 5 years?
Matt: Personally I’ve loved growing the business. We have plans to offer lots of things and hopefully grow to be a household name in RC over the next 5 years.
LiveRC: Do you have any new products or ideas brewing that you might be able to share a sneak peek or hint about?
Matt: We have some very cool things coming out soon. In the last week we have received 4 new products that will be coming out very shortly. The best hint I can give right now is that we have a product that includes both 1up products and Pilot products that we hope to release this week or early next week.
LiveRC: What are the biggest pros and cons to being a small business owner in the R/C industry?
Matt: Personally the biggest pro for me is watching racers have success with our products. I do most of the design work for Pilot and seeing others use it as an advantage at the track is awesome along with all the feedback that I get to use towards my own racing. As for cons there are many late nights and things that all three of us have to do to grow the business. Ultimately if we don’t work hard the growth stops!
LiveRC: What are your thoughts on sponsorship?
Matt: This is a hard subject, sponsored drivers are a double edge sword to me. Yes the industry needs sponsored drivers, they help support new racers and help to sell products. However this trend that everyone gets a sponsor is not helping to grow the local shops which is ultimately closing down tracks and small businesses. I’m a believer that the big brands need to start to limit the number of team drivers. However some brands are unfortunately now surviving by there “contact customers” so I see no end in sight sadly...
LiveRC: Outside of the R/C world, what are some of your hobbies and things you enjoy doing?
Matt: Outside of R/C I have a few things I enjoy. Before I started racing I played travel hockey and still play occasionally on a local team. I also enjoy owning a few nice cars and am always in the mood to shop for the next one! I also spend time at the lake with my family in the summers and enjoy going boating with family and friends.
LiveRC: What is one thing most people don’t know about Matt Cline?
Matt: I’m not to sure! I’d say one thing most people don’t know is I’m secretly a good cook and enjoy grilling in the summers and making new or interesting foods.
LiveRC: Thank you very much for joining us today Matt! It has been great talking with you, learning more about Pilot RC, and plans for the future. Is there anything you would like to add before we let you get back to work?
Matt: I think we covered a lot, it was great being on Talk It Up Tuesday and I hope to be back again to share more!