Hobby Action RC Raceway, Chandler, AZ — September 20, 2023
Racing radio-controlled model cars is a fast-growing activity for young people and adults. We have reported on the sport previously. In Fenton, Limitless RC is the local site for everything in the radio-controlled universe.
And it’s a big universe! Meet Michael (Tater) Sontag, the 16-year-old RC racer who is a rising star in the worldwide sphere of The International Federation of Model Auto Racing ( IFMAR), the sports governing body. Tater is from Grand Blanc, and the teenager is already listed as a professional with a long list of accomplishments in major races.
Last week at Hobby Action RC in Chandler, Arizona, Tater won the IFMAR World Championship for the 1/10 scale Electric Off-Road Division. That is a big deal. Rather than trying to explain the details, we are going to let the experts at RedRC.net talk about Tater’s accomplishments.
A new 2WD Offroad World Champion has been crowned in Arizona, with 16-year-old Tater Sontag becoming the 14th different winner of the sport’s most prestigious Title with a flawless win in A2 ahead of outgoing Champion Spencer Rivkin. Showing moments of promise in 4WD but just missing the cut with P11 in qualifying, when the event switched to 2WD, the Team Losi Racing driver found a form that put the American right in the mix with the World’s RC establishment.
Two TQ runs in qualifying en route to becoming the overall Top Qualifier was an indication of what was to come. Winning A1, the nerves of the big occasion highlighted by some mistakes he would survive, that result just sent his confidence even higher. Despite the pressure of Rivkin and newly crowned 4WD Champion Davide Ongaro taking turns at chasing him down, Tater drove a near-perfect race to secure the World Title on his Championship debut. A3 would decide who joined him on the podium at Hobby Action RC Raceway, second-place qualifier Rivkin dominating from the front to lock in 2nd overall. Holding off Schumacher team-mate Ryan Cavalieri for second in A3, Broc Champlin completed the all-American podium line-up.
With the realization of what he had just achieved, not yet fully set in, summing up the event, Sontag said, “My goal coming here was just to make the Main. I just wanted to dip my toe in the sand. We got close in 4WD, so I was super bummed to qualify 11th. Then, from the start of 2WD, everything clicked for me. I never expected this this year”.
Explaining 1:8 Offroad has been his main focus the last 2-years, he said he has only raced 1:10 four or five times in the last year. Asked about the A2 win that gave him the Title, he said, “I had a pretty clean start with myself and Spencer getting a gap. He then made a mistake at the triple, which gave me some breathing space, but then Ongaro started closing me down until he made a mistake at the same place.” He continued, “Spencer was coming very fast at the end, but I knew if I could just keep in on four wheels and between the pipes, I would be good”.
A Title TLR has been chasing for 20 years, Sontag said, “My car was phenomenal and super easy to drive around.” Starting with the iconic race brand when beginning in the hobby at the age of ‘6-ish’, he said they are the only chassis sponsor he has ever had, and he acknowledged the contribution team-mate Dakotah Phend has made to today’s success.
Asked to sum up his 2WD campaign, Rivkin said, “Congrats to Tater, he drove an awesome race. I gave everything I had but came up a little short.” A driver who was widely tipped to dominate at his home track due to its very unique dirt, finishing runner-up in both 4WD and 2WD, the Team Associated driver said, “I’m happy how it ended. It couldn’t have been any better. Sure, I could have TQ’d, but all you need to do is give yourself a chance, and that’s what I did. I put it all out there so I can be happy with that.”
Having missed the A-Mains four years ago at the last World Championships in Slovakia, Champlin said, “I’m happy with the podium. We had the pace and car to be able to win. If I had qualified better, who knows.” Posting a TQ run in the final qualifier to line up fourth on the grid, the Las Vegas driver said A1 was a setback, his race coming undone on the opening lap. A driver who has really come to the fore, just missing the podium in 4WD behind team-mate Michal Orlowski, he concluded, It has been an awesome year, and we’ll try to keep it going.”
This story was originally published on RedRC.net