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The Unprofessionals: 2019 Nitro Challenge Picks

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By Tyler Hooks

The Unprofessionals is sporadic column where we lend our interns, editors or otherwise opinionated people a platform for their voice on RC matters or racing events. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LiveRC. Got an opinion? Submit your story to and we might publish it!


Well again as it is every year, Nitro Challenge is the first major nitro event of the year in the states. In truly unprofessional fashion i will be posting this after practice. as class has been wreaking havoc on writing time. There were a lot of changes in the off-season so here is the first opportunity to see what everyone has been up to. This is also the first year at a new venue so no more home track advantage for the Phoenix crew.

The Favorites:
These guys are boring, not because of how they drive, but because they are expected to be at the top which doesn’t always make for stellar racing. It is consistent though which is why they all have jobs.

Ryan Maifield:
Maifield had a pretty quiet off-season after the worlds debacle. Late in silly season he picked up Maxima/MX so he is now running OS based engines with the popular company. He had a solid showing at Reedy with a 2nd place finish, but now it is time to go back outside and see what's up nitro racing wise.

Ty Tessmann:
Tessmann made no notable changes in the off-season. He has been in California for a bit practicing and plugging away with the Xray team. He was able to snag a solid second place finish at the worlds, but i think that was too long ago for confidence to matter.

Davide Ongaro:
The current World Champion has come across the pond to attend this year's Nitro Challenge event. He seems to win often or not finish. He rarely does something in the middle. Look for him to be extremely fast as always.

Ryan Cavalieri: 
He is the current nitro challenge truggy champion, but changed it up in the break by going from long time sponsor, Team Associated, to Sworkz and Yokomo. With limited time on the new cars it is questionable wether we will see him able to back up his title but anything is possible with Cavalieri.

Robert Batlle: 
Batlle finished on the buggy podium last year at DNC and finished just off the podium at this month's Montpellier GP. He made a change also like Maifield to Maxima/MX engines and fuel so it will be interesting to see if they both improve using similar equipment.

Ryan Lutz:
One of the major surprises of the off-season, Lutz left Tekno RC and Blok for Nemo Racing USA, Agama, and Bullitt Engines. He also changed fuel to the rumored new RCPro fuels. Lutz already had some success taking the win in truggy at the Southern Indoor Championship, but we will see how things go at the first major event of the year.

David Ronnefalk: 
Ronnefalk made the quiet change from Orion to Performa, but being under the same umbrella it is hard to argue that he really changed much of anything. He did not attend Montpellier opting to attend the EOS series around the same time period. Time will tell if the 2018 champion can back up his performance.

Jared Tebo: 
We said last year that Jared seemed more fired up than in the past and I think that was correct, but this year that statement is extremely true. The SIC and Reedy Race Champion made the change to Tekno RC and Maclan in the off season and is ready to get some wins.

Spencer Rivkin: 
Spencer has gradutated from the wildcard list for this year. He had a rocky main in buggy at DNC last year but was on the podium in truggy. He is always solid and will continue to be solid.

Joe Bornhorst: 
Joe has also graduated from the wild card list as he finished in the top 5 in buggy and on the podium in ebuggy at last year's event. Joe didn't make any extremely notable changes to his program but is fired up for nitro season.

Elliott Boots:
Boots maybe didn't quite have the year in 2018 that he was looking for, but the Kyosho driver started 2019 off with a bang by winning The Montpellier GP. He will be piloting the new MP10 at this year's event.

Juan Carlos Canas:
This is the first time in a while if ever that I have seen Canas' name pop up at DNC. The rising star made the recent change to Sworkz, Reds, and 6MiK for 2019. He already had great success at Montpellier finishing 2nd. Look for good things from the young Spaniard.

The Wild Cards:

This is where feelings will get hurt which sucks, but it’s my opinion and it wouldn’t be valid if it was fake. Can they win? Probably. Would it come as a major surprise to me? Yes. 

Dakotah Phend: 
Dakotah is still on my wild card list, 2018 like 2017 wasn't the most kind to Phend in nitro, but hopefully the change to OS Engines will help turn things around. He has much more time on the new X platform from TLR and seems excited to show what he has.

Riccardo Berton:
This is the first time in a while if ever that I have seen Berton at DNC but he has been extremely solid lately making the worlds main and doing very well at all the other events he attended.

Cole Ogden: 
Cole has had solid finishes in the off-season on the east coast. He made the change to Hot Race tires for 2019 and was the first major US aquisition for the company. Perhaps this is the year of "The Ogden."

Adam Drake: 
Drake has been putting in steady work at the track as he always does. He made no changes in the off-season but seems ready as always for nitro challenge.

Renaud Savoya: 
"The Shark" will make the main, he will also probably make fun of me at some point. Reno has a lot of time and knowledge with the new X platform. Look for him to make some moves if he feels comfortable.

Alex Zanchettin: 
Zanchettin finished top 5 in truggy last year at DNC. He is prepared, excited and has had some consistent finishes at the off-season European nitro races.

Marco Baruffolo: 
Baruffolo has over a year with the Xray cars and trucks now and seems very excited for the event. Look for him to be one of the standouts this year.

CJ Jelin:
Jelin made the off-season change to Kyosho but he had a fantastic 2018 making the ROAR nationals and IFMAR worlds main finals. Look for him to make waves.

Mike Truhe:
Truhe has always been pretty good at this event in the past, I think he has the opportunity to do very well but a win would be a stretch.

I've done this for two years now and I am still forgetting people, I apologize if I forgot someone you like or even you specifically.

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About the Author

Tyler Hooks is a recent college graduate with a BBA in management and a Minor in Communications from St. Edwards University as well as a ROAR Stock National Champion and was apart of the IFMAR World Championship USA team in 2016. Tyler is currently an Editor as well as in the Advertising department at Live Race Media and frequently is apart of the broadcast team at major events.

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