Matt Stacey sat down with Bill Sutton of Sutton Aviation Raceways to discuss his new rolls with Schumacher:
Matt: Hi Billy, firstly, I wanted to congratulate you on your new Multi Year contract with Schumacher Racing as the Schumacher Canadian Team Rep for Canada.
Billy: Thank you, I am both very excited and extremely grateful to Mark Musgrove and Robin Schumacher for the opportunity to both represent the company as well as play a larger role with the team in the upcoming seasons.
Matt: I understand you have been racing RC for numerous years. I was hoping you could tell us a bit about your RC race history.
Billy: Well that all depends on how much time you have … Goes waaaay back to 87 🙂 Started RC at a track called Quintrax with a Tyco rc that lasted 2 races. Shortly after that my Father returned home from a flight from Germany with a box from Schumacher, I was hooked. My dad dragged me to races all over Southern Ontario. We eventually started running for Twister Motors that was my first sponsor at the age of 14. I continued to race right up until 1992 at which point I took what I thought would be a summer off of racing, that summer turned out to be 17 years off. Now that the kids are a little older I was able to get back into RC and pretty much jumped right back into the Schumacher rides and have been full time since 2010. Reflexes are not quite as good as they used to be but I try to make up for it with set up LOL.
Matt: As the new Schumacher Canadian Team Rep, what kind of work will this entail for you during this Multi Year contract?
Billy: Should be a lot of fun, my racing schedule has definitely increased for sure. Outside of that I will be doing a lot more work with local hobby shops to promote and provide tech support for the brand here in Canada. One of the key areas I will be focused on will be assisting Mark Musgrove to obtain key drivers for the team here in North America, Schumacher has been working very hard on developing the cars to work on North America style tracks, in particular clay tracks so it will be a vital part of my responsibilities moving forward. In short … I am going to be very busy. 🙂
Matt: What type of drivers do you look for? I understand there are both National level driver sponsorships and local club level sponsorships. I’d be interested to hear your take on what it takes for both local and nationally ranked drivers to become a Schumacher team driver?
Billy: Honestly it’s attitude first and foremost … Regardless if it’s at a club level or national. The attitude has to be positive through the ups and downs. We all have bad days and good days but when you’re representing you must always be upbeat and positive. On a Club level … Good race etiquette, friendly, strong knowledge of set up and the ability to work with local hobby shops are all key factors.
National level same as club level but in addition … You have to have the ability to compete for making the show at any given National event. Also another key factor will be your ability to openly communicate both positive and negative input on designs and ideas for the products.
The thing people have to realize is that being sponsored (at any level) is a lot of work and you must be prepared to put the time in, so choose a brand or products that you truly believe in and remember you represent a company that someone has put years of hard work into … represent it well.
Some of the best representatives I have met throughout the industry that are true examples of how someone should interact with the public both on and off the track would be guys like Matt Olson, Tom Cockerill, Scott Brown, Dave Henry and so many more but those are the guys that really stand out to me as people who everyone can learn something from.
Matt: That is very interesting. I’m curious if you could expand on some of your success in regards to signing drivers to date both locally and internationally?
Billy: In the beginning I was solo everywhere I went here in Canada and the US … Gets a little lonely for sure! I built a strong local team of some great talent with Matt Stacey and Jake Solt. Between the 3 of us we were able to bring Schumacher a very long way, in fact today Schumacher is the number 1 brand found in Eastern Ontario. I adapted the same principles while racing in the US and was able to get good local talents to run the products. In York Maine I have 2 great guys in Chris Fisher and Rob Jones who are doing a fantastic job down there see them on Facebook all the time promoting the brand and working with the local hobby shops as well. In Fitchburg I was able to find Keith Culley at RC Excitement (Thanks to the recommendation from Toddie Anderson). That was a couple years ago and this year when I went back I was shocked to see just how many Schumacher rides are running in the North Eastern parts of the US. Last year I used the same format and brought on Leonard JB Catricala in Southern Ontario and he has been doing great work down there for us as well, it gives a great sense of accomplishment for sure.
On an International level I was heavily involved in getting both Matt Olson and Carson Wernimont signed with us for last season. Getting MIP and Schumacher together in all honesty is one of my biggest accomplishments to date. Those 2 signings led to one of our biggest seasons here in North America with wins and Podiums right across the US at large events.
Matt: What is your preference between racing 2wd buggy vs. 4wd buggy?
Billy: Ahh the infamous question LOL … For me it’s all about 4wd “Rockets” … Anyone can drive a 4wd buggy but only a few can do it right. In order to be fast in 4wd you have to be 100% full noodle every opportunity that the track will allow while maintaining precise control … You really got to “man up” to win 4wd. 2wd “Top Fuel” … It’s a finesse class. Although I will say I am enjoying 2wd a little more the past couple months 🙂
Matt: What is your opinion on the 2015 IFMAR Worlds taking place at Yatabe Arena in Japan? And more specifically on astro-turf?
Billy: I think Yatabe Arena is a world class facility and it should be an awesome venue for sure. As far as the turf goes I think it will be ok. I have driven on a few turf tracks now and as long as the proper material is chosen it provides some very good consistent traction. Schumacher has the right car for it .. The KF is super dialed on the green 🙂 Having said, that I am a traditional off road guy … I like clay and I don’t believe in sugar tracks at all.
Matt: So you are not a fan of sugar tracks. I’d like to discuss this further as this is a hot topic in this industry as many international events are now starting to heavily run these “high grip” sugar and treated tracks. Why don’t you believe in these types of tracks?
Billy: Oh man I am going to ruffle some feathers here!No not at all. It’s too hard on tires and drives up the cost for the average racer which to me is the worst possible thing to do. The average racer makes up 90% of the large events, driving their costs up will result in lower numbers over time.
In the end if you sugar a track or you don’t, the results will not change, the fast guys will still be the fast guys. The only difference is the average Joe won’t be spending 200 or 300 bucks on tires for 2 or 3 days at the track to run a total of 20 minutes.
Just to expand on that slightly I am also a HUGE advocate for spec tires at larger venues as well, just for the purpose of reducing racer’s costs. I see guys all the time show up here for the Canadian International Championships, year in and year out with boxes of tires to try … when the mains come around 95% of the cars are all on JC Barcodes and the 300.00 box of tires is sitting under their pit table collecting dust. That’s just not right.
Matt: Could your first IFMAR appearance be in 2015? If yes, do you plan on racing or supporting the team?
Billy: Yes I will be attending IFMAR this year. I will be racing but my main role will be team support… At my age competing against the up and coming young guns is a bit of a stretch. It will be a great experience to race at the World’s and I will be heading into it with attitude of just having fun and enjoying the show. It’s going to be awesome!
Matt: Up and coming drivers are always fun to look out for. It should be especially interesting with IFMAR on astro-turf this year. What younger drivers do you think will make a break this season?
Billy: Well we signed Michal Orlowski this year and I have been following his racing since coming on board and I can tell you this kid (13 years of age) is an absolute “phenom” on the track! The kid has mad skills for sure and recently put Jorn to the test at DHI overseas. Right now he is in Cali at the Reedy Race will be very interesting to see how he fairs out in his first major US race, not much time on clay tracks though so it will be a huge adjustment for the young lad. I think Michal will definitely be the one to watch in the upcoming years for sure.
Matt: I know you have been racing Schumacher in 1/10 scale electric for the past while. What do you feel has been their biggest improvement during this time?
Billy: IMO the biggest improvement was simplifying the chassis. Going from the SX3 to the K1 was an absolute game changer for sure. Keeping a platform simple to maintain and set up is key. I also think with Great Hobbies picking up the brand nationwide here in Canada, it will be huge for us as well.
Matt: In the past few seasons you’ve had some highs and lows at racing. The high times are easy to get through of course, but how do you deal with the less successful races?
Billy: Well first thing you do is smile through it, laugh with the guys and keep right on having fun. Secondly when I get home while it’s still fresh on my mind I start making notes about the event and start to pin point what went wrong so you don’t repeat the same mistake. Could be anything like travel conditions, lack of sleep, lack of track time, car set up, human factors there is so many things to go over after a not so stellar performance LOL. I remember I spent 2 days without sleep debriefing myself after a weak performance at this year’s North East US Champs, although I managed to put the cars into the A I had to bump in all classes. After going over everything I realized it was my track management where I failed. I didn’t recognize the track conditions in time for qualifiers … the track had been dry all through practice and my cars were on point and was managing fast consistent laps with guys trying to get down to my times. Unfortunately I didn’t check the schedule and didn’t realize they were going to water the track, my cars went from point to terrible and ended up in lower heats. It turned around as the resorts gave me a dry track again which allowed me to make my way up to the A and compete but I definitely took home a valuable lesson at the event … CHECK THE SCHEDULE FOR TRACK MAINTENANCE LOL.
A little off topic here but I did want to mention this event is one of my favorites to attend, great track and facility and run very well by the whole gang at Maximus RC.
Matt: As a racer that does both large scale events and club racing, can you tell us more about what you like and dislike about both? Do you have a preference?
Billy: Local racing … Much more relaxed you get to chill out and just have fun with the guys at the track, it’s also a great time for testing as other then bragging rights there isn’t much on the line. The only thing I say I dislike about club racing is the fact I call the races, so there isn’t as much time to devote to helping everyone at the track … Hoping this summer somebody else will be calling the club racing to free up my time 🙂
Larger events … Love the travel and meeting new people throughout the industry. The competition level goes way up and I always find that brings out the best in my driving for sure. Downsides … Gluing 20 sets of different tires only to throw them all in a box and slap an old set of bar codes on for the main LOL… As far as a preference … I don’t think I have one, they are both fun and both involve good times, good competition and a ton of laughs.
Matt: Your new contract sounds like a challenging yet exciting commitment. Can you tell me what influenced your decision to go in this direction?
Billy: Well there were quite a few things for me to consider this year for sure, although it was a pretty easy decision to make. As far as the cars go I am always at the track and assisting others so I get quite a bit of track time with other brands as well and I can honestly say that in my opinion we have extremely competitive cars for here in North America, the K1, KR, Mi5 Evo are all fantastic platforms. The KF is stellar on high grip clay and although it’s an old platform the SV2 is still very competitive as well. The 2wd program is really moving in the right direction and I am very excited about that.
Working with a smaller organization like Schumacher also allows me to have direct contact on a daily basis with anyone at the Factory, something which is highly unlikely to find at any other company. They are also extremely receptive to input, recommendations and changes. I would say Schumacher is the only RC manufacture to never sell out and have remained “mom and pop” for over 30 years obviously they have the correct approach to the industry.
Matt: Thank you very much for taking the time to sit down and talk with me about your new and exciting contract.
Billy: Your very welcome, it was a pleasure for sure and look forward to doing it all again soon.
Words by: Matt Stacey and Bill Sutton
Photo by: Petitrc.com