TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Josh Cyrul
Tuesday, Nov 18, 2014 04:11pm
By Aaron Waldron
By Aaron Waldron
Aside from attending a handful of parking lot races my first couple of years in RC, I’ve never raced much on-road - but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t hang onto every word of a race report I found in a magazine or online for the biggest asphalt and carpet races in the country. I loved reading about the names I recognized - Tony Neisinger, Chris Doseck, Shawn Ireland, Kent Clausen, and more - and marveled at how my off-road heroes like Brian Kinwald and Mark Pavidis fared when they tried their hand at the occasional ROAR Nationals, Reedy Touring Car Race of Champions, or Cleveland Indoor Champs. In 1996, my father took me to Revelation Raceway in Montclair, CA to watch the IFMAR World Championships for 1/12-scale and PRO 10, where we saw Masami Hirosaka win his eighth IFMAR title, and Mike Swauger grab his first (and only). Though I had met Tony, Chris, Shawn, Kent, and many others at various other races around Southern California, the ’96 Worlds was the first time I met another of the names I saw in nearly every race report, someone who many off-roaders probably best recognize for jumping his 1/8-scale buggy over his house in the XXX Main video - Josh Cyrul. We’ve seen each other a few times in the nearly two decades since, but after talking to him for hours at the International Indoor Champs a few weeks ago I wanted to interview him for Talk It Up Tuesday to help share his stories, and his views on the current state of on-road racing, with the LiveRC audience.
AW: How did you get started in radio control?
Josh Cyrul: Both my father and uncle raced in their younger years and as I became old enough I started. Racing RC cars was always a huge part of my family's life for as long as I could remember! It all started with a Tamiya Holiday Buggy and evolved from there.
AW: When did you decide to take racing more seriously?
JC: I don't think I ever made a choice to race so competitively; again, it was just something we did. We just enjoyed racing. We had a few really good local tracks and racers that we had a lot of fun with. As we all improved we just pushed each other to go faster and to attend larger events where we enjoyed success that just made us want to attend the next one.
AW: How long did it take you to start attracting sponsors? Who were the first companies that offered you a ride?
JC: I was around 12 or 13 years old when I started to pick up some sponsorships, mainly due to a lot of the oval racing I did back then. Companies like TM Tires, Andy's (bodies), Woods Racing (cars) and Twister (motors) were some of my first sponsors. When I was 14, Mike Blackstock introduced me to Mike Reedy and I became a full Associated and Reedy driver, which led to Novak, Jaco and others.
AW: What was your first big win?
JC: My first ROAR Paved Nationals was in Grand Rapids, Michigan back in 1994. It was in the 6-cell Modified 1/12-Scale class and due to its timing, the win sort of catapulted me onto the Associated travel team as they decided to bring me to the IFMAR World Championships in Paris, France (for 1/12) and Sonnenburg, Germany (for 1/10). It was huge for me to be a part of that team and enjoy my first international racing experience.
AW: Which championships are you most proud of?
JC: I'm proud of a lot of them to be honest. Many for different reasons, but lately I appreciate the past races more, and the ones I've been lucky enough to win lately just knowing that family, life, and the full-time job occupy most of my time yet I still have to compete against some full-time RC drivers. Of course, earning the TQ at the 2003 IFMAR 1/8 On-Road WC has to be the highlight. Even though I didn't win the final, to be as fast as some of the best 1/8 racers on the planet was a huge honor.
AW: Why have you chosen to race on-road exclusively? Have you raced off-road much at all in your career?
JC: I used to always use December/January as a break to race off-road and attend the CRCRC Midwest Winter Championships in Columbus, OH. A lot of my local friends attended the race and I had a blast taking a break from on-road to go race with them. I also did some other 1/8 nitro off-road events and did ‘okay’ from time to time. In the past few years, it's just too hard to try and keep pace with the on-road world, let alone race off-road. I never dedicated enough time to have the speed to compete with the top level off-road racers but I enjoyed the times I was able to go race and try to keep up. The choice to race on-road was just more based on what I grew up with, had more success with, and eventually something I was taught by my dad. He always told me I needed to focus or end up being a "jack of all trades and master of none.” A lot of times, I still feel that way today; I race so many classes that it doesn't allow me the best chance to compete at a high enough level with the top racers who only run 1-2 classes and also have full time mechanics by their side. I also look at it, though, as I don't get to race much so I need the track time to knock the rust off. LOL.
AW: So RC racing isn’t your full-time gig anymore?
JC: Nope. I was formerly a CAD designer at Navistar Defense on several different military truck platforms. I just changed jobs, though, and now I’m at General Motors working in advanced vehicle design. It's been a huge transition from the RC world but I think a lot of my OCD traits from racing have helped me learn and progress at a quick rate into a solid position for the future now.
AW: What’s the best part of traveling to so many big races? What’s the worst?
JC: The best is easily all the fun racing as well as crazy other goings-on. The experiences, friendships, and stories that years and years of travel create are priceless. The worst is just packing and dragging all the gear around from track to track, fighting jet lag, and up until a few years ago when I was still racing a lot - not recognizing your kids because they had a growth spurt while you were gone. That made a huge difference in my choice to back down from racing so much, trying to find a better balance with life and ultimately step away from RC being my main source of employment.
AW: Do you prefer racing on asphalt or carpet?
JC: Carpet is what I grew up on so I really prefer that since it is in my comfort zone. I enjoy asphalt, but generally it's buried in snow a good amount of the year here in Detroit, so I don't get to run outdoors as much as I would like.
AW: What do you think are the reasons on-road racing struggled in the U.S. for the last several years?
JC: Everyone points the fingers at a lot of different reasons so it's really hard to say. I think the cost, speed, and lack of “plug and play” ease of entry that everyone in the U.S. seems to want has created a major shift to off-road. When Ready-To-Runs took off, the off-road side of RC enjoyed a huge surge, yet on-road racing never caught onto it and our side of the market was never able to capitalize. When you can buy 2-3 RTR off-road short course trucks for the price of one touring car, I think there is a huge disconnect between what we are doing and the right way to grow our market. You can add in the fact that off-road is really limited by the traction from the tires, while on-road has a much higher ceiling for performance because there’s so much grip. That high ceiling creates the need for better batteries, motors and any other part in between that can gain you corner speed and control. Of course, that speed is not easy for seasoned racers to control (or we would see more people racing Modified), let alone newcomers to the on-road scene. People say it works in Europe and Asia but they also have tracks that are easily one and a half to three times the size as we do here, and their corner dots, curbs, and grass infields are much more forgiving than the typical U.S. track defined by boards. There are so many different reasons you can't just pinpoint doing even just one or two even to improve it. It's not that simple.
AW: Why is on-road racing stronger in Europe and Asia than it is here?
JC: Like I said above, the track sizes and how much easier those tracks are on the cars. Add to that it seems that the magazines and media coverage over there promote on-road where in the U.S. it's looked at as a "red headed step child" when compared to off-road. If you look at the race results from podiums even from European and Asian events or U.S. off-road races versus U.S. on-road races, you can see a drastic difference in presentation and prestige held between the two. Only the IIC and Snowbirds do a really good job showcasing the on-road community in the U.S.
AW: What did you think of the IFMAR decision to move the 1/12-scale race to a different venue so that it could be raced on carpet?
JC: At the time, I personally wanted to race on carpet so I was cool with it. I also thought the move to carpet might increase attendance which would help the overall prestige of the event. I think the distance between venues and lack of a day off completely killed it, though. Sure, the WC will be won by top level factory or full pro-level drivers but the majority of the attendance comes from paying customer racers. In my opinion, IFMAR and the sanctioning bodies have lost sight of that. The event has to be fun and well planned to generate the interest and desire for people to spend thousands of dollars as well as their vacation time to come race. The poor attendance for both events, as even touring car was under 100 drivers, I believe really shows that people would rather save their money for other events they enjoy attending. The lure of attending a World Championship has lost its luster.
AW: How do races like IIC compare with official championships like the ROAR Nationals and IFMAR Worlds?
JC: I think that's pretty simple, the IIC does it right and the attendance proves it! For one, it's in a prime location where everyone wants to go anyway. It's not put in some remote venue hours away from civilization at the worst time of year for weather in that given region. You have a banquet that functions as a huge drivers’ meeting, and there’s a sponsor meet-and-greet with food and drinks. You have rules to keep racing fair, but nothing crazy that requires standing in line for hours to get bodies, wings, batteries, tires, motors, chassis and all the other hoopla tech'd. You have race promoters Scotty and Charlie on the microphones keeping the event rolling and everyone entertained. If there is a problem - like the carpet coming up, bumps forming, or anything at all - it doesn't take an international jury meeting to fix it. They do what needs to be done to put on the best race and show possible for pro and amateur racers alike. Most importantly, they care about making sure everyone has fun and enjoys themselves. It's why racers look forward to the next IIC the day after the current one finishes!
Also, I'll be totally honest - I think it's a complete joke that IFMAR rushes through a 1/12-scale World Championship in 3 days, and a touring car event in 4 days, yet their nitro on-road events run for nearly two weeks. Sorry, but we run local trophy races in the same time as a 1/12-Scale Worlds… I mean it is a World Championship, right? The Electric On-Road Worlds should be combined. Yup, I said it and I'm sure there will be grumbling about this one. They should be run together as we do at every other event with 1/12 and TC running together on the same track. That way there is more chance for attendance in both classes, a better chance for a good track to race on, and it will be easier and cheaper for an organizer to set-up one track and venue. You actually could have 6 days of more relaxed racing rather than rushing for three and being done, then rushing for four and being done. Enjoyment, fun, prestige, and cost effectiveness all generate attendance. These days, I’d rather win an IIC or Snowbirds over a Worlds because you know everyone has good practice on the track and the possibility to give it their all for the best result, not whoever spent the most money flying to the Worlds track 2-4 times to test for a week each so that they are prepared for that 3-4 days of hell.
AW: Can you name one change that would help on-road racing start to regain its place in the RC world?
JC: I can't think of one in particular because it would take so many people agreeing to take steps backwards in order to take huge steps forward. I just can't see happening because of personal and company agendas. Regardless, I'm just a hobby racer these days and really happy to still be able to make it to some events! I'm just going to go race and choose the events where my time and money is worth going! Changes are going to have to come from people smarter and much more patient than myself to fight for what they feel will ultimately improve the state of on-road racing in the U.S. I just hope they make the right choices that will give our future racers the ability to compete at any event around the globe with the best racers on the planet.
AW: Thanks for the interview!
JC: Thank you!
Oh, and here's the video of Josh jumping the house: