Ask any group of RC racers who they pick for the best driver ever, and chances are you’ll get some pretty passionate opinions and arguments. Like a Presidential campaign, emotions can get heated and facts exaggerated. That’s because these talented drivers often reflect something in ourselves- something we relate to or hold in a very high esteem. In essence, they are our heroes and become, well, personal. Is it someone who has the best stats, or someone who overcame the biggest obstacle at a certain moment that brought them to the top in our minds? There’s no correct answer, but it does make for some fun chatter. By the way, I’m right and you are wrong. Read on.
Top 10 of All Time
Coming up with the best driver ever isn’t an easy task, and part of the process is narrowing it down to a list of drivers to pick from. Regardless of the era they drove in, these drivers were on top of their game and dominated their competition to stamp their mark on the record books. While it can be argued that some of these could be swapped out for others, there’s no denying that each one of these drivers had a major impact on racing (in no particular order).
Ryan Cavalieri- Known for his unshakeable consistency and cool composure in the face of overwhelming pressure, this young American ace has become the face of modern off-road racing by winning National and World Championship Titles and recently backed up his talents and legendary status with a National Championship in on-road. He’s still winning and smashing records and shows no signs of slowing down.
Joel Johnson- Joel “Magic” Johnson was predominantly known for his wins on the on-road track, but won World Championships in both on and off-road making him a force anytime he picked up a transmitter. His list of big event wins include 1/12 and 1/10-scale electric pan cars, touring car and 1/8-scale nitro on-road and backed them up with World Championships in 1987 and 1992.
Brian Kinwald- The “Dirtinator” rewrote drivers’ approach to racing and was known for his custom tuning items and aggressive driving style. He paved the way for professional drivers of today and was the face of American off-road racing for years. He’s won World Titles on dirt, but was also an accomplished driver on carpet and asphalt tracks.
Atsushi Hara- The Japanese driver has been a sensation in his long career spanning decades and continues to shock his doubters by winning in just about every class imaginable including nitro, electric, on and off-road and has World Championships to back it up. He’s still a threat at any event he enters and was part of the legendary rivalry between him and Masami Hirosaka that showcased some of the best driving battles ever.
Marc Rheinard- The German star has been a face for Tamiya Racing for years and dominated the on-road scene in the mid to late 2000’s. He’s set records for wins at the Reedy Touring Car Race of Champions and World Championships for 1/10 touring car and 1/12 pan car. He continues to take the podium at the highest level and competes in both on and off-road.
Matt Francis- Having won two World Championships in 2WD electric buggy, the driver from USA was also an ambassador for RC racing and was known for being approachable with a smile on at all times.
Jared Tebo- After transitioning to RC from motocross in 1999, Jared showed his talents and immediately made a big impact in racing and turned professional in 2000. With fourteen US National Championships and two World Championships to his name, Jared is one to watch at any major event. He recently TQ’d the 2015 IFMAR EP World Championships in 2WD held on astroturf showing his ability to adapt and improvise as a top level driver.
Masami Hirosaka- The Japanese legend holds 14 IFMAR titles in various disciplines to give him the most World Championships of any driver. It’s rare that a driver can excel in both on and off-road, and this Yokomo driver was meticulous with his tire preparation and shocked many by retiring near the pinnacle of his racing career.
The Best: Ryan Cavalieri
I’m going with Team Associated’s Ryan Cavalieri. While some may say he hasn’t surpassed some of the records in multiple disciplines set by Masami Hirosaka, his wins combined with an approach to driving continues to shape modern racing and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. He’s literally changing the record books at every major event he attends. His presence on the driver’s stand can never be discounted and he’s shown he can threaten the top of the podium in electric or nitro and has proven he can adapt to on-road as well.