Team Losi’s Gary Kyes is inducted into the 2012 RC Hall of Fame
WORDS ERICH REICHERT
PHOTO SEAN EARNEST
MANY RACERS COME UP THROUGH THIS HOBBY, but only a select few are fortunate to join the ranks of the pros. Their dreams often become focused on winning National and World titles and hoisting their respective trophies high above their head. Others focus their goal beyond that to car and product design and hope to someday work for a RC company and influence its course throughout the rest of their careers. With their goals realized and dreams satisfied, many fall into the landscape of this rapidly moving industry and eventually become but a mark in the history books of our hobby. For an exceptional few, there is a prize they did not consciously set their sights on achieving, but have nonetheless been rewarded: induction into the RC Hall of Fame. This year, the RC Hall of Fame is proud to welcome Gary Kyes of Team Losi to join its small group of RC founders and innovators who have left their mark on the course of RC history. As racer, engineer, president, racing organizer, inspiration and mentor, he has guided the course for this hobby in a way that few can say they have. It was our honor and privilege to tell you Gary’s story, the journey of a racer whose impact on the hobby will be felt forever.
THE EARLY DAYS
Throughout his 40-year career, Gary has worn many hats, starting off his career as a pro racer for Mike Morrissey with his Taurus Mk2 before becoming a team driver for Delta. He began his career in the RC industry working for MRP for five years and then joined his dear friend Gil Losi Sr. and begin what would become the rest of his career; helping build a small startup company into what we now know as Team Losi Racing where he served as the senior product manager. “Back in the early days of Losi and especially at the Ranch (Ranch Pit Shop, where Team Losi was born), we did everything. I’d be cleaning the bathrooms, unloading the trucks ... I oversaw purchasing, just about everything was done by the three of us.”
During his time as a racer, Gary was well known as one of the friendliest racers at the track. He was a huge help to anyone who needed it and even mentored a young 12-year-old racer who would go on to become a world champion himself, Joel Johnson. During his racing career, Gary Kyes won over 30 ROAR National Championships and was also the very first SCORE World Champion. Of his time at Losi, Gary considers himself exceptionally fortunate to have been there in the beginning and learn what he was taught by Losi Sr. and to witness the true engineering mind of Gil Losi Jr. His role would play to inspire and aid Losi Jr. to innovate designs that were considered by many to be unconventional. “If you’re always following what someone else is doing, you’ll never get ahead in the game” is something that Kyes believes is part of the driving force behind Losi characteristic of being innovative.
At the turn of the millennium, Losi found itself in negotiations to be purchased by Horizon Hobby. Kyes can be attributed with many innovations in the modern era of Losi; from the Mini-T which launched the 1/18 boom to the LST with the industries large volume shocks, the TEN-T and finally to his swan song, the 5IVE-T. Although Gary has had immense success through his time in the manufacturing side, his involvement in RC is by no means limited to that. He served on the Executive Committee of ROAR as vice president for over 10 years under Mike Reedy and others and saw ROAR through from its inception to being the single most important organization in the establishment of organized RC racing. He worked for ROAR also on the rules committee as a co-chair with Gene Hustings as well as site director for Nationals events. He continues to keep his membership of over 40 years (his member number is #612!)
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GARY KYES
After his induction into the Hall of Fame, we had the opportunity to sit down with Gary to share some of the stories of his amazing times in RC and ask him some questions about both his racing and working careers and get some insight into the life and times of a true innovator of our hobby.
Congratulations, Gary. So, what does it feel like to be inducted into the RC Hall of Fame?
It’s a huge honor; it’s been unfortunate because we as a sport don’t really have a history. Baseball has a history, basketball has a history but there are so many people that really deserve to be acknowledged. Most of the people are in the RC Hall of Fame are people who were involved in the business end and not necessarily the competition end. I am really very honored because I was the first one that not only had a relatively stellar racing career but was also very successful from the business standpoint; but there are a lot of guys from both sides that equally deserve to be acknowledged in the future.
What did you do before working in the industry and how did you get started in RC?
I’m one of the very few who was lucky enough to become part of the industry and working for Gil Sr. learning the manufacturing side. Prior to working for Losi and earlier for MRP I was a systems analyst for Caterpillar Tractor. I had made my hobby my business and really liked it. I was about to go back to work as a systems analyst for Hewlett Packard when Gil asked me to join him in distributing with Ranch Pit Shop and subsequently, Losi. Leading up to racing in RC, I’d been racing motorcycles professionally and had gotten hurt which was how I ended up at Caterpillar Tractor. I was still in college and a motorhead and one summer a bunch of guys were going to LA for a big race. I went along and met Mike Morrissey. He invited me to come out for club racing and as soon as I saw these things I was like “WOW! This is as close as you get without sitting in the car.” I ended up going back and racing and got hurt again and had also met my wife at the time so I stopped racing. I ended up getting myself an Associated RC1 and started club racing. Mike Morrissey starting making the Taurus cars and they were a huge leap and Mike started helping me and eventually sponsored me.
You’ve won more than 30 ROAR National titles and even a handful of various World Championships. What is your favorite class?
Unfortunately, there’s not much history. I raced and was very successful in a lot of classes that don’t exist anymore like 1/12 gas. I’ve raced everything from 1/4, 1/12 to 1/8 and 1/10 both on-road and off-road, but I’ve been semi retired for a while. I still race a little bit and really enjoy the 1/8 late models. To me, they look as realistic as it gets but unfortunately, there aren’t many dirt oval tracks in Southern California.
Some RC’ers may not know that you mentored Joel Johnson and gave him his first sponsorship while at MRP. Tell us a little about your early days or racing and how you ended up working with Joel.
I had always been known for how much I helped guys who were competitors, but one thing I learned racing motorcycles was that you’re only as fast as the guys you race with. So, if I was going to get any better, I needed to get the guys I raced with to go as fast as they could. Joel was a nice kid and I was friends with his father. Races were very social back in those days and it was just a lot of fun. I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished in his career but I take no credit for his innate talent. I will take credit for helping him and spending time with him and being a friend because he was such a nice kid and we had a lot of laughs and that’s what it was all about.
You’ve dedicated the better part of your life thus far to the development and growth of the RC hobby as both a racer and in the industry. Now that you’ve retired from Team Losi, what’s next for Gary Kyes?
I’ve been building street rods since I was a kid. When RC become less of my hobby and more my work, street rods became more of my hobby. I got Gil Sr. reintroduced to street rods and we’ve got a bucket list of things to do. I worked with him for years and he’s one of my best friends in life so there are a lot of things we have planned for the future. We’ve built some beautiful cars together and have plans to do some new ones in the future.
Where do you see the hobby going?
I like to think that we’ve learned at least a little, and I’m to blame as much as anybody, about taking classes that had great potential and turning our back on the realism and the fun factor for the sake of speed. The short course truck thing is kind of going that way and hopefully they figure out a way of controlling it. Otherwise it takes it out of the hands of the hobbyist who appreciates the scale realism and the fact that they’re not so hard to drive. I think that brushless has potential of helping the hobby. They give you great performance and last forever but we need to define the classes better by wind because the difference between stock and modified has closed up so very much and there isn’t that much difference. Also the faster we make the stock cars, the harder it makes it for the average guy. LiPos have been great in many respects. I’m very concerned with the volatility of them but I’m sure over the years to come that will be overcome. I think the average consumer gets more for his dollar than at any time in the history of RC cars and that will help build the future of our hobby.
WHAT IS THE RC HALL OF FAME?
The RC Hall of Fame is made up of the most elite group of RC industry insiders and racers. To be chosen is the culmination of a lifelong dedication to their work and to the sport of RC racing. The contributions of its inductees are unparalleled and they are considered to be the forefathers of our sport. Founded in 2006 with the induction of Team Losi’s Gil Losi Sr. and Team Associated’s Gene Hustings, recipients are chosen when it is felt that a person’s contributions to our hobby signifies innovation to the RC industry.
RC HALL OF FAMERS
As the newest person to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Gary joins the ranks of a very forward-thinking and important group of people in the history of our hobby. Here’s a quick look at the others in the Hall of Fame.
Mike Reedy is considered one of the true legends of RC and built motors that drove numerous pro racers to World Championships. Among them, Masami Hirosaka has said that he could not have one so many titles without Mike’s help. His vast contribution in technology to the RC hobby is immeasurable and he was responsible in helping establish ROAR and sanctioned RC racing as we know it.
Gene Hustings, partner in ownership of Team Associated until his retirement in 2000. Gene is said to be responsible for the transition of Associated from a slot car company into the RC hobby. His first official design for the company, the RC100, swept the first IFMAR worlds in 1975. Gene continued on aiding in designing cars for Team Associated that have won and extensive list of National and World titles.
Bob Novak, owner of Team Novak. Bob started Novak Electronics and produced servos for RC. His company is most commonly known for its line of electronic speed controls which have lead Novak to win 20 World Championships.
Gil Losi Sr., owner of Team Losi until it was sold to Horizon Hobby in 2000. Losi is most well known for its unique design and innovations in the RC hobby. Among his many accomplishments Gil Sr. is best known for building his small distributing company into an RC empire winning numerous World and National titles along the way.
Although he has been the man behind the scenes for much of his time, Gary’s contributions to this hobby as both a racer and manufacturer have directed and influenced what we know as RC. With a racing résumé that boasts wins and championships on par with people like Masami Hirosaka, to being the directing force behind one of the most innovative companies in RC history, Gary is an incredibly humble person who gives a lot of credit to the people surrounding him. His true love for this hobby, racing and the hobbyist are always the most important priority to him and he will be a dearly missed part of Team Losi Racing. All of us at RC Car Action wish Gary the best in the future and offer our congratulations on his induction into the RC Hall of Fame. In addition, Gary Kyes would like to take the time to thank his wife and family for all their support through the years.
Team Associated teamassociated.com