Back in the day, I used to race alot using the HPI touring cars. This is the race report for the 1999 HPI Challenge. It was an all-HPI event, meaning only HPI cars could be used. It took place at the Marine Corp Air Station in Tustin, right there where the two HUGE blimp hangars are. I was able to retrieve the race report and some of the photos from the event (in stunning high quality – NOT). Enjoy!
Saturday – Two Rounds of Qualifying
After the first day of racing, you had to have a pretty good run just to be in the top 10 of the Electric class! The pole position changed between Tony Phalen and Bill Martinez at least three times during the day, so Sunday morning’s practice and 3rd qualifying round will be important! Trying to give Bill and Tony a run for the top spot were racers Wayne Beebe, Frank Killam, Mike Mayberry (representing Hitec RCD), fellow racer Ken Prue, Michall Parker and Xtreme R/C’s Steve Wang!
In Nitro, Wayne Beebe had the TQ spot and held on to it through the 2nd round of qualifying. Mario Caba (running one of his three classes), Mike Mayberry, Thad Garner, Ian Bonnardel, Ron Horrocks and many other racers are trying to give Wayne a run for his money, though!
The Super Nitro racing was also heated, with Mario Caba of TPR (Team Pinoy Racing) setting the early TQ in a race all by himself (no one else was able to make it to the track!). He hung onto it through the second round, even though Tony Phalen won the first heat with Akira Kogawa hot on his tail. That’s right, HPI’s head engineer is racing Super Nitro! Graphics guy Manny Hidalgo is taking part in his first organized racing event ever and is holding his own with a pretty much box-stock Super Nitro RS4.
Dan Moynahan and JR Sitman did a great job of announcing and running the races as well as explaining what the cars are and how to get into the R/C hobby to interested spectators. Pegasus Hobbies, a Southern California hobby shop with locations in Montclair and Whittier, arrived with a pegboard full of HPI parts that helped out a few racers who needed some quick repairs. Even a local news station, Orange County Network, was on hand to tape a few of the races and even interviewed some of the racers in the pits!
Oh, and let’s not forget the full-size car racing that was going on! Vintage NASCAR, Indy car and Can-Am racing were racing all day, at times drowning out the nitro car racing on our track! Shelby America had a much larger display than last year’s event, bringing a 1965 Mustang GT350, new and old Cobra cars and even the exclusive new Shelby Series 1 car! Yokohama Tire Corporation had a display of tires next to the HPI show booth, with the new AVS Sport Radial tires and full-size versions of the A032R Road Race Rires – our X-Patterns in 315 width (about 18 inches)!
Sunday’s Qualifying – One Round
Qualifying for the main events continued early Sunday morning and Wayne Beebe quickly amazed the other fast Electric racers, blowing away the TQ time by over a full lap! It was finally determined that all the faster racers were able to run times in the morning that enabled them to get around a full extra lap! Apparently the softer tires that most racers ran (Pro Compound X-Pattern and V-Groove tires) worked better in the morning. Saturday qualifiers were all in the afternoon, when the track surface was hot and the Pro compound tires didn’t stick to the asphalt as much.
When the Electric qualifiers were over, Tony Phalen was able to regain the TQ spot, with SoCal driver Kevin Smith right behind him. Wayne Beebe was qualified third and the rest of the A-Main field sorted out like this: Frank Killam, Thad Garner, Mike Mayberry, Steve Wang, Michael Parker and Bill Martinez. The Electric RS4 qualifiying was over and the racers fell into one of four final main events, from A (the fastest drivers) to the D-Main.
The Super Nitro RS4 class was run before the Nitro RS4 cars and easily the best driver on the track was Dan Discenza of Pegasus Hobbies, running a stock Super Nitro RS4! Akira Kogawa tried to give him a run in each heat but couldn’t quite keep up with Dan. Manny Hidalgo also ran a box-stock Super Nitro car and was able to finish each qualifier he started. Mario Caba’s TQ time was eventually beaten by Dan, but he kept running. Craig Wood, Frank McKinney and Tony Phalen also were able to make the A-Main, which is good because there were only seven Super Nitro RS4 racers!
In the Nitro RS4 qualifying, the field was already set except for racer Charlie Suangka, representing Ultimate Hobbies, who showed up to race only on Sunday. Charlie had to borrow a couple of parts (you’re welcome, Charlie!) and rebuilt his car in time to make his qualifying race. He ended up in 8th position in the Nitro A-Main! Wayne Beebe held onto a strong TQ position easily with many racers trying to chase him down. Thad Garner drove a blindingly orange car to a good qualifying spot with Mike Mayberry and Ken Prue (of Hitec RCD) both qualifing well for the A-Main race. Mario Caba, running all three classes, also qualified for the A! Other drivers in the top 10 were Ron Horrocks, Sam So, Pat, Hugh Woods and Pat Mundell. The rest of the Nitro RS4 races were sorted into four heats, with 10 drivers in every heat but the D-Main, which had 8 racers.
After the last qualifying round was over, there was a one and a half hour lunch break so racers could walk around and see the other attractions that were present as well as get something to eat. During this time, HPI personnel Shawn Ireland, Kent Clausen, David Potter, Matsuda, Akira Kogawa and Steve Baker ran RTR Nitro RS4 demonstration cars and Dan Moynihan invited spectators from the crowd watching the races to try running the cars around the oval portion of the track.
There was a long lunch/prep break between the last qualifier and first Main event race. This allowed racers to double-check their cars to make sure they will finish their race, the biggest of the weekend. It also gave the race director and his helpers extra time to repair the track and secure the corner dots and PVC pipes that made up the track.
Electric RS4 D Main
This was the first Main race to get ready. Probably the featured racer of this Main Event was Cheri Parker. Cheri was running her first race event ever and, in fact, had never driven an R/C car before this weekend! During the practice time on Saturday her husband Michael was actually helping her drive the car and as the day went on she was able to get faster by herself. While she didn’t win the D Main, she still had lots of fun driving the car. The rest of the D Main consisted mainly of other racers who were running their first race or were just learning how to run and set up their cars. The top three racers received plaques that showed what Main they qualified in, and in what place they finished.
Electric RS4 C Main
Qualified just a little bit higher than the D Main drivers, the C Main featured Christopher Jocson, last year’s B Main winner and nine other contenders, including Brenda Sims. She drove all the way from Stockton, CA (at least a five hour drive!) with her husband to race both days! Brenda and Randy raced one car between them both and changed motors and batteries between their qualifying heats and Main Events. The top three racers received plaques that showed what Main they qualified in, and in what place they finished. You can tell from the laps and times that the racing was getting more competitive in the C Main, 2nd and 3rd were separated by only 3 seconds with 4th and 5th by less than one second! 7th, 8th and 9th places were separated by less than 2 seconds – this was some tight racing!
Electric RS4 B Main
Finishing the qualifying with slightly better lap times than the C Main drivers, the B Main was made up of drivers who just barely couldn’t make the hotly contested A Main. Many of these guys are local racers to the SoCal area, and all had fun in their final race of the weekend! Last year’s Electric RS4 A Main 2nd place Mark Rebeck was locked in battle with drivers Ken Prue from Hitec RCD and Richard J, and Hugh Woods was just waiting for them to tangle so he could make up some time! From 1st place to 3rd place, less than 2 seconds separated them, showing that the racing was very tight at the front of the field! 5th place to 7th was also tight, with just one and a half seconds between them.
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Electric RS4 A Main
The big guys with the fastest cars! With Tony Phalen in the TQ spot and Kevin Smith and Wayne Beebe right behind him, the racing promised to be fast and furious. The rest of the field spread out behind them, and because Bill Martinez had a not-so-good 3rd qualifying run (when everyone else was going faster than the 1st and 2nd round times), he started from the last position.
When the tone sounded, Tony took advantage of his starting pole position and started a bunch of clean, smooth laps while the rest of the field sorted themselves out. This built up a comfy lead for him while Kevin and Wayne battled the entire race. They were very very close at the end of the race, as you can see from the final times. Less than half a second separated Kevin (2nd) and Wayne (3rd) as they crossed the finish line for the last time!
Meanwhile, Bill Martinez and Mike Mayberry of Hitec RCD had a great battle on their own (they finished only two tenths of a second apart!) while David Potter was just behind them, waiting for a major crash from either or both so he could move up two spots. Thad Garner and Michael Parker battled for a bit and eventually crossed the line in a ‘photo finish’, with only four hundredths of a second separating them! Steve Wang from Xtreme R/C Cars magazine rounded out the Electric RS4 A Main, making a great showing with the best of the HPI racers!
All the finishers in the Electric RS4 A Main received plaques to let them show off their hard-won finish and Tony Phalen went home with ANOTHER large trophy cup! This year he also won an RS4 Rally kit!
Super Nitro RS4
Super Nitro RS4 A Main
While ten drivers signed up for the Super Nitro RS4 class, only 8 could make it to the races this weekend. However, we had a good spread of racers with different degrees of experience, from raw beginners – HPI Graphics Guy Manny Hidalgo, to experienced Nitro racers – Pegasus Hobbies representative Dan Discenza and HPI Engineer Akira Kogawa. While Mario Caba set the early TQ pace, it was eventually beaten by Dan’s run with his stock Super Nitro RS4.
The 15-minute Main Event for the Super Nitro RS4 racers proved to be very interesting for the spectators, since it was the first Nitro car race of the afternoon (in case you’ve never run a Nitro car in your neighborhood, the sound attracts a lot of attention!). It also featured pit stops, since this race was much longer than the early qualifying runs!
Dan started in the pole position and after the early jumble and ‘sorting out’, it was Dan and Akira battling for the lead, and Tony and Matsuda (pronounced “MOTZ-da”) traded passes for third place. Frank, Craig and Mario were gunning for the 5th spot until Mario’s car stopped just a few minutes into the race. By the time he was able to get the car started again he was several laps down and eventually pulled the car off the track at the eight minute mark.
With Thad Garner doing pitman duties for Tony, his fuel stops were going as normal until something went wrong with his engine, which surrendered 3rd spot to Matsuda. Pit strategy came into play, since Matsuda only had to pit twice (he was running a stock engine) and Frank McKinney was forced to pit four times (because of the extra fuel consumption of the 15SS engine). About two thirds of the way through the race, Dan’s car flamed out, which gave the easy lead to Akira and he held on to it for the remainder of the race.
Nitro RS4 D Main
This Main Event was exciting to watch! Since the track was a little damaged from the Super Nitro RS4 race already and the nitro cars hit the barriers also, emergency repairs had to be made while the corner marshals had to jump over cars coming at them. This was a five minute race and even featured a husband and wife team (the Josephs) who weren’t able to make the races on Saturday. Both ran stock RTR Nitro RS4 cars and had a lot of fun!
Nitro RS4 C Main
This race was notable for the battle between Jamie Schoolcraft and Mike MacMillen, who finished side by side on the final lap! Less than two tenths of a second separated them. This means that these two were battling the entire race, which unfortunately let Nestor Rinonos get a comfortable 7 second lead ahead of them.
Nitro RS4 B Main
This Main Event was easily won by Dan Discenza by over a lap on the entire field, while father-son team Robert and Austin Sarnelle battled the entire race with their Nitro cars! They only brought one car between them, convinced that they wouldn’t end up in the same Main, so Robert Sarnelle asked Steve Baker (of HPI Customer Service) if he could borrow an RTR Nitro RS4 car just for the B Main, and he ended up coming in second, beating out his son for 2nd place! Dan must have had some trouble in his qualifying races, because his pace in the Nitro RS4 B Main would have put him near the top of the A Main finishers! The top three spots received plaques, though, so father and son went home happy.
Nitro RS4 A Main
As soon as the B Main started, the ten fastest Nitro RS4 racers started getting their cars ready, warming up their engines and making sure their pitmen understood their strategy for the racing. As the pitmen got ready along the pit area of the track, the racers readied themselves for their 15-minute Main Event.
At the start of the race, the first two corners were a bit brutal as the racers all tried to get around the turns in the same small space, which normally doesn’t work out. Thad Garner got the best of it, however, and shot out to a 20-foot lead over the rest of the pack. Quite soon, however, Wayne Beebe’s car was catching up to Thad and finally passed him at around the 3 minute mark. For a very long time it was Wayne, Thad and Ron Horrocks occupying the top three positions.
Two racers unfortunately had to retire their cars early in the race and couldn’t return. There was plenty of drama in the pits as Mario Caba’s pit crew and Mike Mayberry’s pitman had to scramble to get their cars running after unforeseen problems crept up and had to be solved very quickly in order to not get lapped too many times. Pitmen running across the track to retrieve dead cars is a common site in many Nitro races!
The biggest gasps from the crowd came at the two-thirds mark after Thad Garner’s cars came out of the pits for his final refueling. Thad’s pit crew put too much fuel in the tank, and fuel entered his receiver, shorting it out and sending the car across the track twice. Luckily no one was injured and no other cars were damaged, but this is a good example of why we had construction netting keeping the crowd of spectators back!
This accident surrendered the second position to Ron Horrocks as everyone moved up in position after passing Thad’s lap count. The final result was Wayne, Ron and Charlie Suangka, who had only run one qualifier!
The HPI Challenge Concours Cup!
The first award that we gave out was for our Concours competitors. At around noon on Saturday, Dan Moynahan called for all the racers to set up their cars on the back straight so the spectators could look at the cars close up and the racers could compare their paint jobs to all the other entries. A double line of cars stretched for at least 60 feet as the racers talked about the cars amongst themselves. HPI’s Graphics Manager Kent Clausen was the head judge and with Sales Manager David Kouche, he selected five cars as the finalists for the competition. Each one of the finalists won an additional HPI T-shirt, and the judges looked closely to decide on the winner of the large Trophy Cup and RS4 Mini kit!
After a couple of hard minutes discussing the merits of the five finalists, Kent and David chose an HPI Dodge Stratus that was detailed like the full-size PPG Dodge Stratus Supertouring car. It even had wheels that were similar to the Supertouring cars with functional mirrors that were taken from another sedan kit! Many cheers went up as the racer who owned the car stepped forward to accept his prizes. Nestor Rinonos of Chula Vista, CA was our winner for the big Trophy Cup and RS4 Mini kit with the VW Golf body! Congratulations, Nestor!
Check out the detail that Nestor put into his car body. He made custom graphics to put on the body and told Dan Moynahan that he spent all day working on the paint job. For his efforts and time, Nestor is this year’s HPI Challenge Concours Cup Winner!
Our A-Main Winners!
Although we described their racers on our Main Events Page, the winners of each A Main deserve to be mentioned again here. The top three racers in each Main Event won cool plaques that announced the Main that they qualified in and what position they finished. The whole A Main of each class (Electric RS4, Super Nitro RS4 and Nitro RS4) received plaques with the winner of the A Mains winning a kit and a big Trophy Cup!
Electric RS4 A Main Top Three
At the end of qualifying, the top ten racers in the Electric RS4 class had to work pretty hard on the race track to get in the A Main and stay there! Tony Phalen, our Electric RS4 A Main winner, won the Trophy Cup and our cool RS4 Rally with the Toyota Corolla WRC body! Kevin Smith and Wayne Beebe could have given Tony a run for the win if only they weren’t battling each other for the entire race!
Super Nitro RS4 A Main Top Three
While we were hoping to get more Super Nitro RS4 racers, the racing was still fun to watch and follow around the track! The A Main racing was close for first place (Akira Kogawa and Dan Discenza) and third place (Tony Phalen and Yoichi Matsuda) but in the end, Akira Kogawa won the race. The Super Nitro RS4 racing was very beneficial to Akira’s testing program and we should be seeing more option parts come out that use the knowledge that he gained over the weekend! Even though the Super Nitro RS4 A Main winner was supposed to win a Nitro RS4 with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V body, Akira left it as a bonus raffle prize to one of the racers.
Nitro RS4 A Main Top Three
The Nitro RS4 A Main was a very good race for Wayne Beebe of San Marcos, CA. While Thad Garner was trying to run a clean race and catch up to Wayne, a mix-up in the pits forced him out of the race and bumped everyone up a spot. Ron Horrocks finished in second place and Charlie Suangka ended up in third after making only one of his qualifying heats! Wayne received the Trophy Cup and a Super Nitro RS4 kit with the hot Alfa Romeo 156 body!
Bonus Raffle Prizes!
Because Akira didn’t want to take the Nitro RS4 kit for winning the Super Nitro RS4 A Main, we decided to raffle it off to one of the racers who was present. This was simply a bonus raffle prize before we drew a name to win the Yokohama Tire set!
Racer Javier Anaya from Santa Fe Springs, CA stepped forward when his name was called to accept the Nitro RS4 with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V body and told us afterwards that he would be racing in the Nitro RS4 class at the next HPI Challenge race! Congratulations, Javier!
Yokohama Tire Corporation Raffle Prizes!
Mark Richter, the Performance Marketing Manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation, arrived to pull the names for more bonus raffle prizes. Yokohama Tire gave us a few caps to pass out and also gift certificate for custom fitted Yokohama Tire jackets! Racers who stuck around were in for a surprise as four names were called: Tim Price, Michael Parker, Pat Mundell and Wayne Vo, each winning a Yokohama Tire baseball cap and jacket! Congratulations, guys!
Finally, the time came for Mr. Richter to pull the name for the winner of our biggest raffle prize: a full set of Yokohama Tires! Mr. Richter pulled one name from a shuffled bunch of papers held by HPI General Manager Shawn Ireland, looked at it, and passed it to our announcer Dan Moynahan. Dan read the name off into his PA system once, then twice, and was then told that the person whose name was called had already gone home! Unfortunately, the rules for the raffle prizes required that the winner be present to win…so Mr. Richter pulled another name and the TPR pits went wild as one of their own stepped forward to claim his prize! Romeo Domingo came out off of his chair to take a cap from Mr. Richter and a gift certificate for his set of Yokohama Tires!
Romeo Domingo, the winner of a set of free Yokohama Tires with Mark Richter, the Performance Marketing Manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation, and HPI General Manager Shawn Ireland
Once again, HPI Racing would like to congratulate all of our winners and thank all the racers for an enjoyable weekend!