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 Nemo Racing USA owner/team manager Billy Tylaska to discuss his newest pro driver (Ryan Lutz), the recent success at the DXR DirtKings race, the future for Nemo Racing USA, and more!
LiveRC: Welcome Billy to this week’s edition of Talk It Up Tuesday! Let’s start off talking about where it all began for you. When, where, how, and why did you get started in R/C racing?
Billy: I started racing at the tender young age of 38. A buddy of mine that I used to build and ride motorcycles with said they were all going to buy short course trucks. I was familiar with RC cars, as I had had a very short stint with them in the 80s, but nothing serious. Just a kid that liked to jump and ultimately destroy any of the cars I had. So I said I’d get one of the trucks with them. Add to that, a brand new track had just opened up a few minutes from my office, so it seemed like a no brainer for me. So I go to this track to check it out, and it turns out that an old friend of mine, from big cars, was the guy that owned it. So it was an easy thing for me to get sucked into as I already had a familiar face there. Steve Pak…he is actually the reason I ever got an Agama in the first place. After I was over the short course deal, and started to get into nitro, I asked him what I should buy, and he said “Get an Agama”. I had no idea what it was so I dug into it. The body they had on the truggy at the time was awesome, different from the rest, so I bought one...and here we are. I’ve always been into being different and being the underdog, so it was just the perfect fit for me from the start.
LiveRC: When, where, how, and why did Nemo Racing USA get started?
Billy: Nemo Racing USA came to be in the early spring of 2014. It was also at that time that I had gotten involved with them as a “50% driver”. Those very early dealings I had with them are what cemented my loyalty to the brand. These guys just seemed different, and something about them rang with me. Fast forward to early 2015, I had just gotten laid off, and decided I was going to pack up and head to DNC on a whim. It was there that I first met Bloomfield and Dave Duggan and expressed my interest in fulfilling a role for them in the United States. At the time, they had no one here and all of the orders were shipping from a 3PL warehouse in California. After DNC, I volunteered to let them fly me to Vegas to pit for Darren at Silver State. The months following I began to do some social media stuff for them, put the USA FB page, and I just kept working and creating value in myself to them (all the while still just being a “50% driver”). So the FB page really got things rolling here, and they took notice. Next thing you know, I’ve got a factory deal and they are flying me to England for Neo'16. It was there that we shook hands on what is currently Nemo Racing USA. The trailer was bought, we closed up the warehouse in California, and I’ve been running things ever since - 3 years and counting now.
LiveRC: What does a day in the life of Nemo Racing USA’s head honcho look like?
Billy: Pretty mundane, day to day. Wake up, check and answer emails, head to the office, pack orders, answer some more emails, head to the post office, drop everything off (every order hand delivered by me to the post office), get home, answer more emails and messages....did I mention checking and answering emails? Messages too...24/7 it seems like sometimes 😉
LiveRC: You have always had one of the most badass rigs at the races. Is the Nemo Racing USA trailer only for pitting, or does it double as an on-site hobby shop as well?
Billy: Thanks man! We wanted to make an entrance when we show up to the track. The trailer is actually our “warehouse”. No one pits in the Nemo Trailer. We fulfill all of our orders from there. In addition, its brought to a lot of the bigger races in Texas so that we can support our team drivers. Imagine being at a race and not having to worry about having any back up parts. We are currently on a path to outgrowing it and are making some changes to what we bring to the races, but that level of support is very important to us and we are going to be getting back to it very soon.
LiveRC: Nemo and Agama is on the rise and signing a top contender such as Ryan Lutz is definitely a large part of that. This past silly season there were a number of drivers “up for grabs”, why did you choose Ryan?
Billy: Ryan found himself looking for a home, and we were just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. I’ve always had a list of guys I’d like to have drive for us, and he was near the top, but I never would have guessed that he would ever actually be available. Well, as fate would have it, some things aligned just right and he and I got to talking, found out we are a good fit for each other, and the rest just fell into place. I mean...there isn’t a more well rounded individual to be in the position he is in. Unmatched off-track persona and one of the most talented drivers we have ever seen.
LiveRC: Ryan just brought home his first major win with Nemo Racing USA at the DXR DirtKings race in the UK, against some of the best in the world, including reigning IFMAR World Champion Davide Ongaro. What were your feelings/expectations going into the race?
Billy: I honestly felt really good going into the DXR race. It was a surface and track type that we have been putting a lot of time on getting Ryan accustomed to the cars. I told Jon (Hazlewood, owner of Nemo) that I felt like we could win weeks before we got there. It couldn’t have happened under more ideal conditions. Nemo is based in the UK, and we were also the title sponsor of the race. Certainly a fairy tale type scenario. I was so happy that we could do that on Nemo’s home turf. All the guys over there deserved to see that.
LiveRC: Now that he has proven that the Nemo Racing package is a very capable of winning, what are your feelings, expectations, and goals moving forward?
Billy: I think we have a shot to win at every race we attend. We aren’t showing up to get on podiums, we are showing up to win. It’s honestly a pretty amazing feat considering how short a time we have been working together. It’s testament to the capability of the package, as you said, but more so to Ryan’s work ethic. The fire is lit in him, for sure, and things will only get better and better as we continue on.
LiveRC: What do you feel are some of the advantages and conditions the Agama vehicles excel over the competition?
Billy: The reality today is that all the cars are good enough to win. Well, most of the cars are good enough 😉. In my opinion, our car is one of the more well rounded cars. Lots of stability, lots of grip, easy to drive hard, and still nimble enough to be fast for a driver like Ryan. Very wide tuning window, and for the majority of drivers, it doesn’t take massive setup changes from track to track. More driving, less wrenching...and we all want that, don’t we?
LiveRC: Talk to us about Bullitt engines. Racers are often shy of straying too far from an engine brand they are comfortable with. For those who are skeptical, what makes the Bullitt engine something worth trying?
Billy: Bullitt Engines are one of, if not the first, brands to be built by OS for an outside company. Jon Hazlewood was a factory driver for OS and parlayed that into the opening of Bullitt. When you buy a Bullitt engine, you support a small company that loves to race, and with the Japanese pedigree, and unmatched quality. Nothing to be skeptical of. The best Japanese steel fueled by a passion for racing.
LiveRC: You have been doing a lot of track building lately. When, where, how, and why did you decide to branch out and become a track builder as well?
Billy: One of the guys that I first started racing with was big into BMX. Those guys always built their own jumps and things, so when we started spending all our time at the local track, we just kinda started working the track and taking care if it. From there I started designing them, and it just kind of developed into this thing it is now. I love doing it. Taking an idea and turning it into this tangible thing. I’ve actually got an art degree in sculpture, and in some ways I put a lot of that into my tracks.
LiveRC: Talk to us a bit about your local stomping grounds and your involvement in the R/C track at the Alliance Skate Park.
Billy: I started skateboarding when I was 12 years old (currently 44). It’s been a thing in my life that has shaped the person that I am today. It will always be a part of my life. I actually put a track together at a local skatepark. They had a piece of land that they wanted to use in a different way, some people got them to commit to a track, and we got involved and got it up and running. It’s really more of a basher type deal these days. We tried to run some races last year, but the weather here just didn’t seem to want to cooperate.
LiveRC: You’ve got some skills on a skateboard as well as behind the wheel of an R/C car, correct?
Billy: Yeah, but unfortunately my knees are about as stable as a box of broken glass, so I can’t really do it anymore. Up until about 6 months ago, I was still pushing myself, probably a little harder than I should have. Skateboarding is also an integral piece of my track building skill set. Understanding transitions, jump faces, and landings. It plays a big part.
LiveRC: We have to ask…can you please explain your Instagram famous human-faced cat?
Billy: Monkey. He is awesome. He is just like me. He gets a bad rep from his face, but is really a sweet boy. He was a rescue cat from Qatar, but he lives here in Texas now.
LiveRC: What is one thing most people don’t know about Billy Tylaska?
Billy: I can sing. I actually really enjoy doing it. You might hear me let loose occasionally in the pits...maybe...occasionally...or not, who knows.
LiveRC: What is the best way for racers, customers, and fans to follow your adventures, contact you, and learn more about Nemo Racing USA?
Billy: The best way to keep up with our exploits is on the Nemo Racing USA FB page. I can be reached via my personal FB messenger or email at email@example.com. And you can check out all our products at www.nemoracingusa.com.
LiveRC: We know you are a busy guy, and we’ll let you get back to work now. It’s been great catching up with you, and we hope to do it again soon! Is there anything you would like to add before we go?
Billy: We are here for the long haul, and are ready to bring to the masses what we have known about our stuff all along.