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Main Photo: TALK IT UP TUESDAY: Teemu Leino

By Aaron Waldron 

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!
Shortly after I started racing in the mid-1990s, I had the chance to attend a couple of IFMAR races as a spectator: in 1996, Revelation Raceway hosted the Electric On-Road World Championships for the Pro 10 and 1/12-scale classes, and then in 1997 the Ranch Pit Stop (which was owned by Team Losi) held the Electric Off-Road World Championships for 2WD and 4WD buggies. Because the 2WD main events were held on a school night I had to wait for a phone call to get the results - but then my dad took me to the Ranch to watch the 4WD finals that weekend. Masami Hirosaka dominated the main events with his Team Yokomo MX-4 prototype, and he finished ahead of two Finnish Schumacher RC teammates: Jukka Steenari (who switched to Team Losi and won the next two 4WD titles) and Teemu Leino. Eleven-year-old me collected the plastic champagne corks that the podium finishers popped during the trophy presentation and asked the drivers to sign them - and that was the first time I met Leino.
Photo: RC Car Action
Twenty years later, as a member of the growing Infinity squad, Teemu Leino is still racing at the top levels of the RC industry in a variety of disciplines, electric and nitro, on-road and off. In addition to the Worlds podium, Leino is a former European Champion and one of the most successful Nordic racers of all time. I asked Leino about his RC career, his life and what lies ahead for this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday.
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
Teemu Leino: I’m 40 years old and I'm from Finland.
AW: How did you get into RC, and how long have you been racing?
TL: My friend had RC cars back in early 90's and I got hooked up at that time. My first race was in 1992 so I have been racing for 25 years. My first car was Kyosho Ultima so I did start my racing career in 1/10-scale off-road.
Photos: RC Car Action
AW: What do you do for work? Is it difficult to find time to practice and race?
TL: I have been a full-time racer and developer since the late-90s so I have been lucky to have sponsors around me so I could have done this.
AW: What made you decide to start attending big races and trying to attract sponsors?
TL: For me, it was fun to go to bigger and bigger races to see how I could compete. I have always practiced a lot. My first bigger goal was to make the A-final at the European Championships and that happened in 1995. After this, my next goal was to make the A-final at the World Championships and that happened in 1997 in Pomona, at the 1/10-scale Electric Off-Road Worlds where I finished 3rd.

I got my first sponsors after I made the Euros A-final in 1995. Schumacher helped me with cars and Oscar Jansen, who worked for Corally at that time, helped me out with motors and with Orion batteries. After that I worked for a long time for Schumacher with Phil Booth. We had many good races together over a 10-year period. The best moment was when I won the 2005 European Championships in 1/10-scale touring car. Also, I worked with Oscar for 15 years; first with Corally motors, and then in the late-90s I changed to Orion with him. 
After Schumacher I raced for XRAY for five years, as they make cars for multiple categories and I wanted to race nitro also. After that, I raced for HPI/HB for four years.
My current sponsor is Infinity and Creation Model. It’s a new company and they have plans to explore multiple categories, so I try to help them as much as I can with my experience. I owe a big thanks to Kenji Taira from this opportunity.
AW: Which companies have you raced for?
TL: Schumacher, Xray, HPI/HB, Infinity, Orion, Corally, LRP, Novarossi, O.S, Sanwa, AVID and others.
AW: What’s your favorite track? Favorite big event? What different classes have you raced - and which is your favorite?
TL: There are many good tracks around the world. My favourite event to attend is any world championship. I have raced 1/8-scale off-road, 1/8-scale on-road, 1/10-scale touring car, 1/10-scale nitro touring car, 1/10-scale off-road 2wd and 4wd, and 1/12-scale pan car.

My favorite is maybe 1/8-scale off-road, even though this is only category from the list I haven't made IFMAR WC A-final.
AW: Having traveled around the world to different events, how does the racing scene in Finland vary from other places you’ve visited?
TL: The racing scene in Finland is pretty good if you look at our population which is 5.5 Million.
AW: What are your proudest RC moments?
TL: Worlds TQ, Worlds podium and European Champion.
Photo: Schumacher
AW: Do you have any goals for your RC career?
TL: IFMAR WC title.
AW: When you’re not at the racetrack, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
TL: Spend time with family.
AW: What’s the best part of RC racing?
TL: RC is really great sport as this melts all kind of people to one family. It doesn't matter where you come from; I don't see many other sport like this in the world.
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
TL: Phil Booth from Schumacher and Robin Schumacher, Oscar Jansen from Orion, Juraj Hudy from Xray, Tatsuro Watanabe (former owner of HPI/HB), Takashi Miyashita, Masayuki Miura and of course my current sponsor Kenji Taira from Infinity / Creation Models.
Photo: Euro Nitro Series
AW: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add? 
TL: Not really. I just hope you have good pics from the different classes from the past.
I hope these old photos were good enough, Teemu!
Leino won the 2001 LRP Touring Car Masters in Germany ahead of Masami Hirosaka and Atsushi Hara
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