For this week’s „ETS Family Interview“ we welcome Yokomo driver Martin Hofer on stage. Martin is racing RC cars since many, many years and he has a very interesting view on RC racing due to his huge amount of experience from the good old days of racing! Check out the interview and enjoy Martin`s view onto our amazing sport!
Hi Martin! We hope you are doing well in these times. How has it been for you?
Up to this point I’m holding up fine I think. I’m in the lucky situation that I can continue working from home, so weekdays at least remain really rather busy.
And you know that people say ‘if you own the place you live it it’ll never be fully finished’? Mine is finished now. Like done done. I’ve even gone through the hassle of changing light switches and sockets and stuff. They are all modern now and colour coordinated to their respective wall.
It appears that with enough spare time and limited (read: none) going out options and RC not happening, I can refocus my perfectionist energy onto almost anything.
So yeah, keeping busy to get through this.
Also: Disney + helps on bad days.
So, as we know that there are all sorts of different situations around the world, can you explain how things are for your area?
Well, here in Bavaria we started to experience first signs of a lock down on Friday the 13th of March (fun date right?) with night clubs being urged to not open. I know that date by heart because I met friends for a private dinner party that night and then went dancing. And it was at that dinner party when I caught COVID-19.
The next two weeks made this entire weird black mirror episode we live in right now feel a lot more real.
Got through it ok though.
But Bavaria has been shut down ever since with a shelter in place order established and quite some limitations.
You may take a walk with your family / significant other but not any other person whatsoever – I’m single so DUH – cannot. You may also not have visitors – again DUH. Or get closer than 1.5m to anybody else. And since last week you are ordered to wear a face mask in public transport, stores, or whenever a 1,5m perimeter cannot be established. And you are fined 150€ if you are not wearing one.
Having 3 friends over for a little drinks evening in your flat? 5000€ fine.
Sharing a ride with 3 other people? 5000€ fine.
So, it is all really rather serious here. Other parts of Germany decided for less strict rules and are already lifting restrictions again. But with Munich having been the epicentre of the infection in Germany and its proximity to Austrian and Swiss borders there really wasn’t any other good way.
But on a more positive note, I think that the societal deceleration we experience right now has some very fundamental positive effects, not only on my flat :P but the public in general.
Before we were caught in an overstimulated upward surge that needed to terminate in one way or another. With this perspective in mind, I think we got let down easy once the economy has recovered.
The only think we need to remember then is the positive things we experience now.
Like having time to actually talk to people. Find new hobbies. Learn new things and be creative.
And Tiger King of course!
Thinking now of happier times for us all – you live in Munich, one of the most exciting cities in Europe. How do you find it living there?
Paris has the most amazing light, London the highest intercultural diversity and Madrid has ham and Spaniards. In comparison, Munich manages to retain a very small and cozy vibe despite being a large city with the most stock listed companies in Germany. It’s busy but you never quite feel it.
You can experience amazing art, interesting culture and amazing food. Or you go and watch bottle blonde plastic surgery babes hunt their next husband on Maximilianstraße, which is basically a life action interpretation of the best and worst reality TV you’ve ever seen.
Munich is just a very nice city to live in. It’s different to anything else you’ll find in Germany which leads to people either loving or hating it. But I happily call it home.
Have you always lived in Munich?
I grew up in a super small village in a dark part of Bavaria. Internet was scarce, public transport non-existent, and social contacts nearly null due to the lack of other children my age. It was an OK but very protected childhood which resulted in amazing grades and very bad social skills.
So, I left for the next big city to go and study when I was 19 and never turned back.
Of course you’re not a full-time RC racer, what is it you do for a job?
I’m a business process consultant at BMW responsible for the prime vehicle development process. It’s a lot more fun than it reads in the description and my team is amazing. Luckily my boss allows me the freedom to pursue multifaceted side projects that challenge me creatively. It’s fair to say I’m not getting bored. And once I’ve managed to finish the last correction loop of my PhD thesis that is still pending, that’s done as well. So all in all I’m in a happy place.
You’ve been involved in RC racing for a long time, in fact pretty much since the start of the ETS. Back in previous years, you had some amazing results, including an overall ETS championship. What are your best memories of that time?
I’ve actually almost done every single ETS race there ever was including the Orion Speed Weekends and stuff that predated it. So many experiences it’s hard to pick which were best. I enjoyed the year I made my mark in modified racing. In 2008 I lost the German National title in Modified to Marc Fischer on a tie break, but I managed to overtake Ronald round the outside and that memory almost makes up for it. Then I had a really good year in 2009 with the then new Yokomo BD5 qualifying 4th in Apeldoorn and having a few other A-Main appearances. Back then my life only consisted of studying, racing and literally nothing else at all.
5cell Modified will forever be the best racing ever. The cars never handled better afterwards. The power never felt as good. And with me having been an integral part of the GM Racing team, we were always at the forefront of power and runtime which helped a lot.
Thinking about it I feel that this one key aspect is missing from modified racing now. You do not have to manage your resources anymore at all. Back then making 5 minutes was tough as hell. Push too hard and you’ll dump. Don’t push hard enough and you’ll not finish high enough. You could really concentrate on your racing lines and your rhythm because you would not and could not race flat out every single lap.
This also meant that racing was so much more interesting, because like in offroad racing, you could actually make up time by driving more spirited and thereby closing gaps, attacking, spending that little bit more energy for 2 or 3 laps to make it past and then conserving energy to make it to the finish.
With Lipo as we use it now, that’s all gone. And for me, so is the excitement. Racing has become less fun ever since it’s all out all the time.
I proposed the concept of limiting modified drivers to using 165g LCG shorty batteries only. Since the energy density of the cells we use has plateaued, a weight limit puts a easily checkable limit on the energy that is available to the driver. Voltage cut off my not be set to anything lower than 3V (easy to check by the tech if a car dumped) to prevent people from destroying their batteries on purpose.
Introduce that and all of a sudden you will have to manage resources again.
The last 30 seconds of a race will be that much more interesting!
And I’d expect results at big races to be very different again.
Formula E works the same way. Smart racing. A question of resources.
Since then, competition of course has got stronger, and whilst it has been a while since your last ETS win, you’ve still had great results including a German National title too. How do you reflect on the changing RC scene?
Everyone is so serious now. Practicing weeks ahead of an event. We have reached a level of professionalism that is close to saturation at ETS level racing. It can be perceived that there is no easy and fun way for anyone to enter anymore.
And also, back in the day people would use Stock racing to prepare for Modified and then graduate and move up.
I feel that the young guns don’t want that anymore. There is no aspiration anymore to become a modified hot shot.
And that’s sad.
At the last German Nationals we were there to have fun. The atmosphere was far more relaxed. The track suited me very well. It was the first time I was allowed to use a mid-motor car and it turned out amazing.
Those times I remember that I’ve not lost my talent, or my spark.
Other times however, I’m not sure I enjoy racing on the big stage as much as I used to. It is an experience alright, but a less fun one?
That said, I’d murder to be allowed to enter FWD! Boy that class is epic.
And also, throughout that time, you’ve raced in both Stock and Modified (and now back to Stock again) classes. How do you compare the two?
Back with Schumacher I stepped down to Stock because it made sense to have me compete there. That’s what the majority of customers is doing. Because it’s manageable. Modified has become hard to watch at times. Go on YouTube and revisit old RC videos. Modified then resembles stock racing now, which says a lot about the technological progress.
That said, ETS Stock is special. Due to the high amount of low end torque of the ETS combo we’ve been using there is less need for proper racing lines anymore. Acceleration for the first 5 meters is almost on par with modified which shows in peoples driving styles. It has become point and shoot so much that I have to use positive expo throttle curves to artificially make my modified driving style hard enough.
I think that we could easily rectify that by using a 12.0 x 5 or even 7.25 mm rotor in the handout motors. That would take away that crazy torque and return to a more natural feeling power curve. It would force people to care about their racing line again and would make for a lot more interesting racing.
Or, just write an artificial power curve in software and make it mandatory at the ETS. Would not require new motors. Can be done easily. Same effect.
And while you are at it, have the top 5 of each year are automatically banned from re-entering Stock for the following 3 years.
Go modified! Mix up those ranking list and end careerist stock racers.
One of the biggest changes is the whole advent of Social Media. I think it’s fair to say you’ve made a lot of people smile a lot with some of your brilliant blogs – combining racing facts with jokes and humour too. How do you see this part of RC racing?
I think the role of team drivers / supported drivers has changed dramatically. For companies it used to make sense to support hot shots in local clubs in order to promote the brand among the locals said driver was racing with. Because back then club racing was the only form of social media platform people had access too.
Team drivers were therefore more like a trusted friend.
But now everyone can be a star online. And everyone has an outlet for their voice. The issue with that is, how do customers pick the voice they trust and why.
Team drivers need to realise that they have to become micro influencers in our small RC world. Xray is doing a good job in pushing their drivers to do social media properly, but in doing so personality and relatability sometimes gets left behind.
And if you as a team driver don’t manage to elevate yourself or your voice to the level of micro influencer, you fall into one of two categories: Product prostitute, or contracted customer.
The difference being loyalty, or lack thereof.
I believe that there are some people in our industry that really understood that shift in customer interaction. MonacoRC for example did an amazing job at reporting from the ETS in Germany, because they covered what was happening on and off the track! Go use the internet to help people experience all of what makes those races great!
Now more than ever we find that physical distance does not mean you cannot be mentally present and I hope this will elevate RC coverage from here on out.
You’re not someone who is afraid to voice their opinions – so tell us, what are the best and worst things about RC racing right now (well, not right now, as there isn’t any racing, but you know what we mean!)
Right now – worst: no racing
Right now – best: for the first time in years the skin on my hands is amazing.
Overall – worst:
I think the ETS indoor tires would be better with thinner inserts.
I do respect that automating the gluing process with an insert that provides a sufficient air gap is a lot harder due to carcass distortion. However, I believe that it can be done and would improve indoor racing massively. If people are traction rolling, there is no need for anyone to try to do anything “clever” with tyres, because too much grip is always better than not enough.
The ETS outdoor tire should also come in a 32 shore variant, because most of the outdoor races last year (maybe because of the pathetic weather we had?) showed the 36 to be too hard for some racing conditions. And with the ETS influencing almost all levels of racing, it would benefit smaller racing series as well.
I already spoke about why modified needs limited energy and why stock needs a different power band.
Overall – best:
Racing has become very approachable. You don’t need to be a team driver anymore to have access to competitive material. You simply walk into a store (well not now you don’t) or buy the stuff Ronald, Bruno and Marc are using online.
It might be different with the gas-racing guys, but that’s not my forte.
There is less rivalry amongst teams than is used to be. It seems we as racers realised that we are only few, and not going extinct is a lot more important than team grudges. But I wrote an entire blog article about RC racers being an endangered species if you want to read more about why. (https://hofaaa.wordpress.com/2020/02/21/endangered-species/)
You’ve been one of the lucky people who has got to travel the world with RC racing – what was the most enjoyable race you can remember and would love to re-live again?
The single most enjoyable race?
My first world championships in Bangkok, Thailand in 2008 I think. I was so young, so chubby, and so excited because it was the first time, I travelled intercontinental all on my own. I was with Yokomo back then and we had so much fun at the race.
Also, the RCS track was epic.
But I put a lot of effort into making every race an enjoyable experience and mostly succeed.
Looking ahead to getting back to racing – you tend to be someone who does the majority of their practice through race events rather than private test sessions. We guess you are looking forward to getting back to a track soon? Do you have any plans of venues nearby you will try to visit first?
Since I live in downtown Munich, there is no track anywhere nearby I could practice on unfortunately. Therefore, all my track time comes exclusively from races I attend. But as soon as we are allowed to I’ll go back to my old home track in Mettenheim and do some practice laps.
I also hope for some more events from things like the RC Kleinkram racing series, because the classes and the club racing atmosphere are giving me life!
But times are uncertain right now, so let’s just wait and see.
And thinking of bigger races, it seems it will take longer before we might be able to re-start those again, but do you have any thoughts on how the ‘big race’ RC scene is right now? The ETS was really the first series that created that ‘big race’ atmosphere and you’ve been part of it for many years, so you must have some interesting thoughts!
I believe that similar to our society in general the big racing series have also reached a point of overstimulation. They can feel too big, too serious and not always as much fun as they used to be. And since they are so big and all mightily important, club racing and smaller racing series are dying because if you need to allocate your resources, may it be time or money, or usually both, you rather spend it on 4 big races than 10 small ones, because ‘only the big races matter’. I don’t have a cure for that at hand, but I think restarting gives organisers the opportunity to reboot and rethink their event concepts. Finding the right balance between size and importance, and fun, is difficult though. I haven’t figured it out yet!
Maybe the overall deceleration of life we experience right now will have positive effects in the years to come.
I would love club racing to experience a comeback.
So, let’s make club racing great again!
We’ll finish off with some quicker questions. What’s been your favourite RC car you’ve built?
The Yokomo BD-3 prototype we used in 2008. It was based on a regular BD-Masami Special but nearly every single part was alternated, or hand made. Because of its fragile nature it felt very special and unique. Almost like a pet you really love because of its weird quirks.
What RC track is on your ‘bucket list’ that you’ve not yet visited?
Kakegawa, the old indoor tarmac Yatabe Arena that sadly isn’t anymore and Lostallo.
Who do you most look up to as an RC driver?
There are two, but can you guess?
Back when I started racing there was one driver that stood head and shoulders above everyone else, not because he was the fastest (which he was), but because he never took racing all that serious.
And then there was another driver I admired because of his absolute professionalism and dedication to the hobby.
Two very different characters that really inspired me.
The first is Alexander Stocker, who back in his Xray heydays used a flip flop coloured body with underfloor lighting and chrome wheels to still win the race but having fun doing so.
The second is Chris Grainger for whom I have nothing but respect both from an engineers’ point of view, but also from a teammates’ perspective.
And I am in the lucky situation to call my childhood heroes friends now which is one of the wonderful sides of our hobby.
And finally – if you could change one thing from your own RC history, what would it be?
Not having that stupid bowl hair cut when I won my ETS Stock Title. That was not a cute look …
Thank you for the time – now we give you a chance to thank anyone else you haven’t done so far!
It’s been a blast!
And thanks to anyone who actually managed to read the entire interview which turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would.
Lots of Love
Martin & Jack
|06.||Frederik B. Mikkelsen||592pts|
|05.||Martijn v. d. Heijden||303pts|
|04.||Steven M. Olsen||598pts|