After the surprising result of the Pro Nitro Buggy final at The Dirt Nitro Challenge, where former world champion Robert Batlle came within 0.65 seconds of making history at one of the world’s biggest nitro off-road races, much of the talk across the industry was the rapid improvement of the European drivers on US-style tracks — as well the HotRace treads used by three of the Pro Nitro Buggy finalists, including Batlle. As it turns out, the story behind HotRace and its founder Nicola Marrone, who won a competition among fellow business-minded young adults in his native Italy to secure start-up cash needed to turn his lifelong hobby into a worldwide brand, is quite an interesting one. I asked Marrone more about his hobby, his company and his life for this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday.
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
NM: I'm 27 years old, and I come from Aversa, Italy.
AW: How did you get into RC, and how long have you been racing?
NM: I started RC from when I was born — one of my first photos was with a RC radio! My first race was when I was 7 years old; it was a regional race in a GT class and I finished second.
AW: Tell me more about Hotrace Tyres - how long has the company been around? What made you decide to start your own company?
NM: HotRace is my life! I started the company 9 years ago when I was only 18 years old. One Italian company wanted to sell its foam tire line and machinery, and I was immediately inspired by the opportunity. I talked about it with my father, and he immediately told me yes!
The main problem was the money. Thanks to a competition of young entrepreneurs made in Italy, in which only a few projects were chosen from almost 10000 projects submitted, and one of this few was mine, so with that financial help and of course my father’s help, Hot Race Tyres got its life.
AW: What were some of the biggest challenges of creating your own foam tires? And why did you decide to branch out into off-road?
NM: To make performance foam tires requires constant effort. To be honest, it was not so difficult find the right rims and right foams; the most difficult thing with on-road tires is to have always the same performance, because 70% of that consistency depends not on us, but from a foam producer. The production process of foam tires is very long and difficult, because there are many precise procedures to follow.
I decided to start with buggy tires almost four years ago. The first “light bulb in my head” snapped on when federations introduced control tires for nitro on-road races — I love my job, and you can imagine a guy like me that loves his job and races without competition! The second and most important point was when I was in Naxos for the 2014 IFMAR World Championship for 1/8-Scale Buggy; that was super cool, and when I went home I started to work on this new project!
November 2015 was the first official race of Hot Race buggy tires, with a TQ of Marco Baruffolo at World Indoor Buggy Cup at IBR in Padova!
AW: What are your proudest RC moments for yourself and your company?
NM: Maybe at the 1/8-Scale On-Road European Championships in Valencia; I was only 17 years old and made my first Euros A-Main, and I was in the top five in controlled practice as a privateer. To be honest I have a lot of moments that I’m proud of, but maybe the biggest is when I went to the GT races when I was super young, with my dad’s RC car. Me and my cousin (a 1/5-scale GT-class champion) were always in the top five, and to see my dad’s eyes happy — yes, this is my proudest RC moment!
About my company — wow that is not so easy. But there a lot of moments, like when we won our first European Championship in the 1/12-scale class. I made the tires with the help of Alexander Hagberg only two months before the race, and then we won. It was unbelievable.
Also, at the 2014 IFMAR World Championships for 200mm nitro touring in Bangkok, where I went to the track only with tires for my small team. Then, thanks to the help of Jilles Groskamp, a lot of people that were there wanted my tires, and my father sent more tires from the factory to the track! Yes, that was very satisfying for me!
As far as the buggy class, for sure the first race with Marco to debut the new tires: TQ and second place behind one guy - Robert Batlle!
Also, the win in Montpellier and the great show last week at DNC; yes very proud!
AW: Do you have any goals for your RC career, and for Hotrace?
NM: For me as driver, not so much. Unfortunately, I haven’t driven much for a few years as I’ve been busy with Hot Race. But I do have the dream of going into an IFMAR world championship main final; a lot of times I have been close, but I’ve never done it!
About HotRace? As you can imagine, I work night and day only for this!
To be honest, I want that me and HotRace grow up together, and that we will see what the future holds for us. I will work hard always for my company!
AW: When you’re not at the racetrack, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
NM: I’m at racetracks on 90% of my weekends. But when I’m not going to the races, I love to stay with my girlfriend and friends, to drink something and eat a good Italian (Napoletana) pizza. I really love it. I like soccer and volleyball, and when I have time I also like to go to visit cities around the Europe with my girlfriend!
AW: What’s the best part of RC racing? What about RC racing annoys or bothers you?
NM: The best part of RC racing is when you see that all your work that you did at home is good on the track; it’s when people ask you for advice on your products that you have made with your hands; it’s when people don’t believe in your product, and then later these people trust you and change their opinion!
I love all of RC racing. It is 100% of my life!
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
NM: A lot of people helped me and continue to help me, so I should list so many people — but i have to say these three for sure:
My dad; without him, HotRace would not be here!
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
NM: Many thanks for your interview, see you soon on the track!!
One more thing: I do the job of my dreams. Initially it seemed impossible, and even now there are always people who try to “put a stick in the wheels.” But you must go on, because sometimes the dream is to make a difference. Ciao ciao.