Every Fall in Springwater, NY, HPI Baja enthusiasts converge on the Hostile Racing Products compound for an RC festival second to none. When we say second to none, that’s because no single event for the HPI Baja generates as much buzz within the community, nor gathers near as many entrants. This BajaFest was no different. A total of 122 participants signed up, most showed up with friends, family and a few Bajas to have their fun. At one point during the weekend there were 153 HPI Bajas out on the track for a photo opportunity, with several left out on the grounds in various stages of repairs or modifications. The beauty of BajaFest is the nature of the event, catering to the serious racer all the way to the casual basher. No matter what direction you went with your Baja, there was a spot for you to play, and a group of people there to enjoy the show. The event is technically slated for 2 days, though a healthy portion of Baja fanatics turn up on Friday to get started early. The atmosphere is a lot like camping in the mountains with 200 plus of your closest friends. The action usually gets fired up around 8:30 in the morning, and you can hear 2 strokes singing until the cutoff at 11PM. About then everyone started to calm down for the evening, enjoying a late night dinner, huge bon fires, and stories from the days events. If you have a Baja, attending this event is an absolute must!
The Facility Hostile Racing Products is located on 40 acres in Springwater, NY. Smack dab in the middle of the property is a slightly slanted clearing in the trees where there is a virtual Disneyland for HPI Bajas. We are talking 6 plus acres of short grass only interrupted by beautifully laid out racing circuits. In all, there are 5 different arenas in which to wring your Baja’s neck. All tracks are easily viewed from 3 purpose built drivers stands. At the far end of the clearing lies the Short Course style track. This track features elevation changes, rolling jumps, and off camber turns. Picture an outdoor motocross track with a fairly rocky surface. Next to the SC track lies the Super-Cross track. This track has a simple layout but some potentially huge jumps to negotiate. Across the top of the SC and SX track sits the drag race track. Comprised of mostly loose dirt the drag strip is walled on both sides leaving 16’ of width to run in. The main track is a 600’ oval located right in the center of the pad. The oval is built on a slight angle, so turns 1 and 2 are down hill and 3 and 4 are uphill. In the center of the oval is the main off-road track. The technical layout of the track demands respect, and flows very well when approached accordingly. After 3 days of hard bashing and racing, boredom was still nowhere on the horizon!
The Events This year’s BajaFest featured at least 4 different organized events to participate in if you liked. If organized events were not on your to do list, then you had the option of running one of the other available tracks at any given moment. This basher friendly environment was great for the racers as well always offering a spot to do some set-up and testing. Sign ups started early Saturday morning for a full day of Off-Road racing. The organized off-road racing was slated for the main track inside and using the oval. Two classes were available to run “5B” and “5T”. A total of 90 battled all day for top honors. Here are the top five of each of the classes…
Baja 5T Offroad A-main 10 minutes 1. Rusty Mihelich 19 laps 2. John Schultz 19 laps 3. Dan Wyatt 18 laps 4. Greg Sneff 18 laps 5. Jack Hollister 18 laps
Baja 5B Off-road A-main 10 minutes 1. Rusty Mihelich 20 laps 2. Rodney Ketcham 19 laps 3. David Hoffman 19 laps 4. Dave Zettlemoyer 19 laps 5. Greg Snieff 19 laps
BajaFest 2009 also gave birth to a new class, East Coast Dirt Modified (EDM). The Sunday Oval racing has been on the schedule for a few years now, but the EDM class has taken Baja Oval racing to a whole new Level. Picture the most heavily modified Bajas with purpose built bodies screaming around the 600’ oval in 10 seconds flat. This was the show to watch, and the class which will grow the fastest over the coming year. Classes for the standard Baja 5B and 5T were also offered and made for almost a full day of racing. Here are the top five for each of the oval classes….
Baja 5T Oval A-main 10 minutes 1. Rusty Mihelich 50 laps 2. Jack Hollister 48 laps 3. Henry Cross 48 laps 4. Dustin Brown 47 laps 5. Steve Joslin 42 laps
Baja 5B Oval A-main 10 minutes 1. Rusty Mihelich 52 laps 2. Marc Breer 50 laps 3. Brad Iles 49 laps 4. Henry Cross 45 laps 5. Dan Bright 40 laps
EDM Oval A-main 10 minutes 1. Mr Hostile 53 laps 2. Bob Reynolds 53 laps 3. Troy Paluchniak 51 laps 4. Chris Walters 49 laps 5. Dave Zettlemoyer 35 laps
Racing and bashing were not the only things to do over the two days of fun. This year a purpose build sled was brought out for a pull off to test the horsepower and traction of your buggy/truck. The sled pull happened on the drag race strip and gathered quite a crowd. In the end, Brian Fineran took home top honors with his high Horsepower 5B. If sled pulling wasn’t your thing, then you had the option of participating in the Baja Long Jump. A 45 degree lip standing 6 feet tall propelled Bajas to heights they were never intended to recover from. The long jump was definitely a crowd favorite. A line formed and each competitor took at least 3 attempts to better the evolving record distance. The long jump featured perfect viewing from the upper drivers stand and a landing roughly 30’ past the lip. Top competitors quickly surpassed the landing and tested their fate with a harsh flat landing. Surprisingly the carnage was minimal, and the man standing there when the dust settled, was Joe Oneill who managed a distance at least 3 feet further than the nearest competitor. This is nothing new for Joe Oneill, he is the King of Big Air!. Congrats to all the winners in all their respective classes.
Rob at Hostile Racing Products started BajaFest annually in effort to give the East Coast crowd a place to get together regularly and show off their latest and greatest creations. His passion for the Baja platform and the community as a whole runs very deep and is obvious to anyone who attends one of his events. A huge thanks goes out to Hostile Rob, his friends and family that spend months preparing a beautiful facility and offering a warm welcome to any and all that choose to participate. Perhaps its time for a name change…. How about Warm and Fuzzy Bajafest?
We caught up with Rusty Mihelich after he dominated the racing at the BajaFest event and asked him a few questions:
Rusty, tell us a little about yourself and how you found the RC hobby.... I raced motorcross when I was younger, RC racing provided me the same enjoyment without the risk of injury.
What sort of racing (RC) did you do before the Baja? I've been racing 1/8 scale off-road for about nine years. I also enjoy racing 1/10 electric cars?
What made you decide to get a Baja? I have a close friend, Donnie Padgett, who races RC gas powered boats, he's a really good motor guy and introduced me to the bajas. Once I drove one, I was amazed at how realistic that were. They are one step closer to the real thing.
Where do you normally race the Baja? I usually race the bajas at Seven Cities Raceways in Virginia Beach, VA
What did you expect when coming to the Hostile BajaFest? I expected to race and have a good time. I knew from the Monster Truck Worlds at Diggers Dungeon in May that my car and truck were both fast. I just needed more experience with them.
You pretty much dominated the racing events at BajaFest, was that the plan? Not really, we wanted to have a good showing, but we didn't expect to do as well as we did.
What are your future plans with the Baja? I picked up several sponsors from the BajaFest, so I want to race as much as possibly and promote my sponsors products.
Overall, what is your opinion of the Baja vs. other RCs? I like all RC cars, I can't say ones better than the other, just different. Baja's are realistic; they are big and powerful and require to be driven with respect.
Where do you see Baja racing going in the future? I think bajas are going to be the next big hit in the RC Community. Once people see these machines run on a track, I know the class will grow.
Do you have any sponsors you would like to thank? Yes, LargeScaleRC, Hostile Racing Products, Team Fast Eddys, Darksoul Racing and Donnie Padgett Racing Engines.
If you would like I can print an email address so people can reach you? It’s email@example.com
Thanks for your Time Rusty. We wish you the best of luck with your Baja racing in the future!
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Check out the awesome photos in the gallery below!