This time in our ETS Family Interview, we speak to the multi-time ETS champ, Ronald Volker. He’s been part of ETS for many, many years already and still competing at the top for the wins – and is the most recent ETS winner after victory in Daun in February.
Hi Ronald, welcome to our interview. I guess we should start with the first question that everyone asks each other at the moment – how are you doing in these strange times, and how is your family keeping?
My family and myself we are alright, a new situation to everybody and we are all waiting to go back to a more „normal“ life again. Hopefully everybody is staying healthy and not too many will suffer from economic problems.
People might know you got married pretty recently, and your wife is a cabin crew on Lufthansa – how is it for her right now, we guess she’s not doing much flying?
She isn’t scheduled on a flight in April but they are having more restrictions on duty now unlike in March, with wearing a face mask and having passengers not sit next to each other anymore. It was more critical in March for her or others as proper social distancing wasn’t possible and the whole situation unclear.
And with pretty much no racing anywhere in the world right now, what are you doing to keep yourself busy and occupied?
I cleaned up a lot and got my cars ready for the outdoor season waiting to hit the track again.
Lately I find myself enjoying VRC again after not playing it for many years especially in Multiplayer sessions with my (team-)mates it’s more fun than I expected. Holding and using the radio is something I did miss lately.
So, you like in Mainz, Germany, which is just outside Frankfurt. Is that where you’ve always lived? And I guess it must be pretty convenient for you to live so close to a major airport, since you spend so much of your time traveling to races normally?
I grew up just north of Frankfurt in a smaller city, but that airport was never far away for me which is a very nice benefit in terms of traveling I cant deny.
Let’s go back a few years, how did you get started in R/C racing? What can you remember from the early days of your racing life? Did you have any ‘hero’ you looked up to then?
My father was doing a bit of RC and slot car racing in the 80´s so eventually I was hooked up early and I already participated at an Offroad race running a Yokomo dogfighter car in 1989 for the first time aged 4.
So theres a big thanks to my father/parents who let me do what I loved since I was young.
We had different kind of national and international RC magazines and obviously Masami was the one who was shown in all of them and of course I admired that.
And then, I guess most people really noticed you in 2008 at the Worlds in Thailand where you finished runner-up. Can you think back to that race and what do you remember from those times of racing on an international level?
Looking back to that race, my mother passed away some weeks before that event after a long disease so the focus wasn’t fully on the WC, but with Reto from LRP and Hara-tun from Hot Bodies I had great support there and came pretty close to the Top with „just driving“. It was a fantastic track and facility with many familiar faces being around already back then.
Beside of this, racing was always filled with tough competition even the cars were slower so that didn’t change.
And, shortly after that, you moved over to Yokomo, which has been your home ever since. Did you always (or even ever!) think that you’d be a full-time RC driver?
Of course it was a dream when I was young but never really thought it was possible until I did join Yokomo in 2009. Eventually becoming a Yokomo factory driver replacing Masami Hirosaka as he retired months before felt simply amazing. Even before that time LRP with Jürgen Lautenbach hooked me up with great support on and off the track from 2006 on which had big influence as I wasn’t too far off retiring from RC as my own budget was kind of limited.
Actually, what were you doing before you became a full-time driver?
I went to university studying Social Sciences with the focus I had on market research which eventually was kind of my plan to do. I wasn’t 100% sure if it was the right move back then as this is quite a commitment but there are no regrets whatsoever and I still do enjoy what Im doing.
So, back to Yokomo. Your ‘job’ with them has changed over the years. Can you explain what your role with the company has been over time – we know until only a few years ago you had Yukijiro Umino as your mechanic and pit man who did a lot of the work on the cars for you!
When I joined Yokomo I must admit I didn’t bring much knowledge with me. I wasn’t too interested in a serious car preparation or setups when I grew up, I was only interested in driving and enjoying being on the driverstand. LRP and especially Reto König already helped me immense to achieve great results while using Hot Bodies at that time which was a huge step for me.
With Umino, he was on another level in car preparation and together with him and his dedicated support we were able to have many successful years like ETS Series Championships and the World Champion title in 2016 which I will never ever forget.
Over those years, I picked up a lot of knowledge, got more experienced and learned a lot from many people also off the track, as nowadays everything is more professional so any details can make a difference.
And recently, Yokomo has been through some big changes, with new owners taking control. What is your role now, and do you enjoy those responsibilities you now have?
Ronald: When Yukijiro Umino and Robert Itoh (who supported us at Yokomo over many years) left Yokomo, I took partly care of the Touring Car Onroad Team and eventually became their International Onroad Team Manager now. When Mr Tom Yokobori retired, who I cant thank enough for giving me to opportunity to become who I am now, the responsibility increased with having more communication and decisions to make while the whole RC industry obviously is having difficulties not only because of the Virus. We need more young kids to enjoy the hobby without leaving soon again but its a difficult task as social media, smartphone and other technologies taking over. Not meant too negative, its just what it is now.
As we said, you used to work with Umino, but since he left Yokomo, you had a short time with Hayato Matsuzaki as your mechanic, but now you are by yourself. How important is it to work with the rest of the team, and do you enjoy having them around you at the races?
Hayato can be a genius and is a great, funny guy, already during the time I worked with him, I did prepare a lot by myself for testing and racing and now I basically do the work on my cars myself with the knowledge collected over many many years. It makes it easier to work in and with the team when your teammates are also your friends so I cant ask for more as we are having a great vibe there.
We’ve seen some drivers racing in more classes, often as their sponsors ask them to help them out in different markets. But you’ve remained almost totally focussed on Touring Cars. Have you thought about other classes, and maybe is there any other class you’d really like to get involved in?
I did participate on EOS races, 12th Scale and IC 1/10 events in the past. Its always fun to do RC no matter which class, partly I was successful too (at EOS only with limited jumps as I stopped doing Offroad for like 15 years).
Of course all those classes are still interesting, I follow them all but for the moment there isn’t a serious plan or commitment to do more or any other class rather than Touring Car.
With the big break in all the races, do you think that’s come at a tough time for you? It seemed like you had a lot of momentum through the winter time, winning almost everything you did since about November last year. When we get back underway with racing, how do you think the break will have affected you, and the other drivers you compete against?
I dont expect that there will be a big change or drop in performance by any of us. Indoor vs Outdoor requires different preparations and setups so I was curious about that but we are all in the same boat waiting and hopefully we are all healthy out of it as soon as possible at least for practice sessions.
Some more wider questions now. What was your favourite RC race you either saw, or were in?
Watching the 60min 2016 1/8 Offroad Worlds final in Las Vegas standing there around the track and just being there was an amazing feeling. Not sure why I picked this but it came first to my mind. About a race being in, the 2016 World Championship in Beijing was the best RC feeling I ever had with all the emotions and joy to become World Champion as this is was of course a lifelong dream.
Are there any of your race results you look back on and feel that was “the one that got away”? (I don’t know if this translates into German! It basically means a race where you feel you messed up, know you should have won or got a better result, or something like that!)
There are always races where it doesn’t go your way because of this or that or you misjudged situations on the track or picked wrong setup ideas, those happened and can always happen but I wouldn’t pick just one.
What’s your favourite RC track?
Ronald: Luxembourg, especially since it got a new surface last year. I do like tracks with elevations changes and that track got it all.
The sadly gone Tamiya Raceway USA I would name too as simple as that layout was, it was perfect to race on.
In the last section now, a few questions again outside of RC… what do you normally do away from the racetrack or on your days off?
One of my hobbies is playing Badminton almost every week, which I miss beside of RC too.
What’s your favourite food?
Ronald: Italian food is the best!
Do you follow any other sports or sports teams?
I do follow many many sports whenever I can, not only football or F1.
I’m a Borussia Dortmund fan by the way.
Do you have any heros outside of RC, maybe from full-size racing or other sports?
There are lot of heroes or idols out there in the Sports World where you admire what they are doing or what they have done, like Roger Federer in Tennis, Schumacher and Senna in F1 or Jürgen Klopp as a football coach.
And finally, we know that one of the best things about ETS, and in fact all racing, is the friends you have at the track. How much are you looking forward to getting back to a track, not just to race but to see all them again?
A big part of RC are the friends. You simply don’t go alone to a track, you always want to hangout with friends while enjoying the best „hobby“ out there.
Thank you very much for your time! We’ll give you a chance now to thank anyone else or give any other shout-outs you like, and look forward to getting back to the track with you soon!
Pleasure. Big thank you to my past and current sponsors and supporters, my wife, family and all the enthusiastic RC people around to see back on track!
|06.||Frederik B. Mikkelsen||592pts|
|03.||Martijn v. d. Heijden||569pts|
|04.||Steven M. Olsen||598pts|