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 multi-time National Champion and seasoned pro Mike Truhe to discuss his career, the evolution of R/C, his opinion of the industry, and so much more!
LiveRC: Welcome Mike to this edition of “Talk It Up Tuesday”! Let’s start by asking who, what, when, where, how, and why did you get started in R/C car racing in the first place?
Truhe: I started racing R/C back in the late 90s. I was very into R/C airplanes and got a job at the local hobby shop when and the car guys sold me a Team Losi XX buggy to go with them to the track. I spent many of my early years at SoCal Raceway racing. That’s where I became good friends with Brian Kinwald and that whole crew. He was a very pivotal person and influence to my success as he was with so many of us! R.I.P. Dirtinator!
LiveRC: When did you realize that R/C car racing is something you wanted to do seriously as a career?
Truhe: I learned to love the racing and competition very early on. In the early 2000’s I felt like I had a chance of doing it as a career, and really pursued hitting the racing scene hard and traveling to more and more races. At the 2003 World Championships I was able to finish 3rd in 4wd, and it was then that I really thought I could do this full time.
(Photo by RC Car Action - Chilly Duncan)
LiveRC: What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?
Truhe: I am very proud of all my National Championships. To be able to have two 2wd modified titles as well as a 1/8t scale title is very special to me. I was always proud to have titles in both disciplines. I am also very proud of my 2008 1/8 scale worlds TQ and runner up. I will always wish I could go back and re-drive the last 15 minutes of that final, but hindsight is always 20/20.
LiveRC: You have worked for various companies over the years as a paid driver as well as in product development. What are your current roles at Mugen Seiki Racing?
Truhe: These days I have started working outside of the R/C industry so my roles at Mugen aren’t near what they used to be. I still am involved with product development and testing with the team. Adam Drake, Ryan Maifield and myself still strive to better the product for ourselves and ultimately for the customers. I am very happy with the core group of guys we have, and we all work very well together.
LiveRC: We had a bit of time to catch up and chat after this year’s ROAR Nationals at Thornhill. You mentioned a lot has changed in the R/C industry over the years, especially in off-road racing. Let’s start by asking what are your thoughts on today’s 1/8-scale off-road racing tracks and track surfaces?
Truhe: The industry definitely has changed from what it was 7-10 years ago. The cars, engines and everything else in the cars has definitely improved to make it more of a plug and play situation so the times of having a mechanical advantage or “trick” things in your car are things of the past. I also think that the tracks and surfaces have changed dramatically in terms of them being “off-road”. A lot of the tracks now are trying to make the surfaces grooved and super smooth which can be nice, but also at the same time in my opinion takes away from the racing that happens on them. They become a very one lined track and instead of racing each other you end up just racing the clock and the track itself. In the past you didn’t necessarily have to have the best lap times to win a race if you had a good race craft, but now if you don’t have the lap time you really don’t have much of a chance to show off whatever race craft you may have.
LiveRC: The “tire game” was very different 10-15 years ago, as there were far less tread patterns, compounds, and companies to choose from. Do you think the advancements and increased options in treads and compounds over the years has helped or hurt off-road R/C racing?
Truhe: I don’t mind the evolution of the tires so much. I definitely don’t like the surfaces that bring upon the “tire game” though in my opinion. Once again, these types of surfaces don’t allow for racing each other to happen as much as the only place these prepped tires work is in the narrow groove that forms on the track. You cannot take a slightly different line than your competitors in attempts to setup a pass. All you can do is follow and try and force or hope for a mistake.
LiveRC: Headsets used by drivers and mechanics are also “new” to the 1/8 scale off-road scene as of recent years. What is your opinion of headset communication during the race between the drivers and mechanics?
Truhe: Once again I don’t necessarily hate the ability to communicate with your pit crew, especially pre-race for last minute tuning or adjustments. The one thing that can get annoying to me is when the person next to you is having a full conversation for 45 minutes during the final. I always joke that there should be a rule that once the race starts the driver should have to raise his or her microphone so the communication is only from pit guy to driver.
LiveRC: When you first turned professional, becoming sponsored (let alone getting paid) was not an easy task. It’s not nearly as difficult to receive sponsorship support from brands in the industry today. What are your thoughts on sponsorship today?
Truhe: Sponsorship today is definitely a way different ball game from back in the day. The thing that got me sponsored by a chassis company back in the day was getting 3rd at the World Championships. The other big difference was you didn’t really pursue sponsorships back than like you do now. It was more of you make a name for yourself by doing good at the big races and the companies would approach you. It is really a shame how it works these days mostly for the hobby shops and tracks. They are the ones that are really getting the short end of the stick with all the companies sponsoring or having “guaranteed customers” as some may call it. I really wish that everyone would get together and agree to not do it so direct as it’s done today, but maybe run these sponsorships through some of these hobby shops so they are not completely left out of the circle and could benefit from the drivers influence. Could be a win-win for everyone in my opinion, but would take agreement from all which may be tough.
LiveRC: One thing you wish you could change about the R/C car racing industry?
Truhe: I wish the sponsorship situation could change. I really believe it’s the biggest thing the industry is doing to shoot itself in the foot as it directly effects the local hobby shops and tracks. Without those we don’t really have a racing industry.
LiveRC: You have traveled the world racing R/C cars. What is the best place on earth to race R/C cars?
Truhe: The USA is definitely a great place to race. California treated me very well with so many tracks and fast people to race with on a weekly basis. It was on top for sure back in the day. The rest of the world has definitely done a great job catching up to us though in off-road racing for sure.
LiveRC: Worst place on earth to race R/C cars?
Truhe: I don’t think that there can be a worst place to race R/C cars. I mean no matter what your still racing R/C cars [laughs].
LiveRC: If you weren’t in the R/C industry, what would you be doing?
Truhe: I recently started a new career working in the semiconductor industry and I have been very intrigued by it. If it wasn’t for my R/C career though I was on the path to become a pilot. I got my pilots license at 18, and was pursuing that but after the 9-11 tragedy that industry really stalled for people in my position, and that’s about when the R/C opportunity presented itself so I ran with that.
LiveRC: Who is your favorite person to race against?
Truhe: I have always liked racing against Cavalieri and Maifield. They definitely will bring out the best in you, and if you faulter in any way they will expose it quickly. To win against them really makes it special because of that.
LiveRC: Who is your least favorite person to race against?
Truhe: Masami was probably one of the toughest people I raced against. He definitely will run you hard and sometimes maybe a little too hard in some people’s opinion. He is definitely one that you drove looking in your mirrors against (no disrespect).
LiveRC: What is your most memorable R/C racing trip/adventure/journey to date?
Truhe: I would have to say the 2008 IFMAR 1/8 Worlds in North Carolina. It was an awesome week for me where everything seemed to be firing on all cylinders for the most part. Like I’ve said before, I wish I could redo the last 15 minutes of the final, but at the same time I definitely learned a lot from the mistakes I made there and it made me a better person and racer in the end.
LiveRC: What is your most embarrassing moment as a professional R/C car racer?
Truhe: I would like to think I haven’t had to many embarrassing moments, and if I did I for sure wanted to forget about them [laughs].
LiveRC: Greatest R/C car racing class of all-time?
Truhe: 1/8-scale off-road.
LiveRC: Dumbest R/C car racing class of all-time?
Truhe: For the top-level guys I would have to go with short course trucks. This is kind of a double-edged sword as it was an awesome class for the entry level or even local racing scene, but to trying and race them at the pace we were trying to race them at it was kind of a nightmare for me [laughs].
LiveRC: What is one thing that most people don’t know about Mike Truhe?
Truhe: I got my pilots license when I was 18.
LiveRC: Mike, it has been a pleasure getting to chat with you today, hear your opinions, and have a good laugh or two. Is there anything you would like to add before we let you go?
Truhe: I would really like to thank you for reaching out to me for this interview. I would also like to thank all my sponsors for giving me the opportunities that I have racing and enjoying R/C racing. Huge thanks to Mugen Seiki, Futaba, Pro-Line, O.S. Engines, MKS servos, Flashpoint, Stick It 1, Tekin, Max Amps batteries, MIP, Avid, Lunsford and Hobby Action Raceway.