Among the heros from this golden age, "Shakey" Roop is somekind of exception: he probably missed his career as he is far from being the most famous, but he is a very kind person who shares his testimony on a bygone age.
58061 Striker (1987)
Hello "Shakey", thanks for accepting this interview after so many years. Could you summarize your career in a few words?
"Shakey" Roop : Hi BaraToZ. My career started in the middle of the 80's. The Tamiya team was looking for drivers to help them design futur race models. At the time, I was living in Mexico and I was driving a Ford pickup in Baja races. I was also a single-seater car instructor at a local club for a living. This is when Tamiya's boss called me to join the Striker program. This was back in 1986: I was 26 years old.
Which aspects where specific to this program?
"Shakey" Roop : The specifications were basic: to transpose part of the technologies used in Formula 1 to an off-road Buggy. Tamiya got interested in my profile because I both had experience as a Baja driver and as a single-seater instructor. However, this program was not a high priority for Tamiya and the budget was quite limited. As the car decoration shows, we had specific tires developped by BF Goodrich (this brand used to provide tires to the Colombia Shuttle!), rims came from Jackman and Penzoils was our oil provider. The F1-type bathtub chassis was meant to provide better stiffness to the car and met the "Hyper Off Road Racer" system requirements. Even if the independant rear suspension borowed from "Frantic" Freddie Wilson's Falcon gave us some advantage over the Grasshoppers, the lack of time and budget didn't allow us either to develop specific front suspensions (we just borrowed the Grasshopper's) nor to integrate hydraulic dampers. They only came one year later on E. Whittle's Sonic Fighter.
Shakey, what could you tell us about your contacts with other drivers of that period?
"Shakey" Roop : Unlike what fans believe, contacts were tough. The market had a lot of competition and we were heroes for one season and loosers the next one. I remember a race at the Martin's lawn when I almost had a fight with Willy: as everyone knows, Willy is one of his kind, a seducer who always wants to catch the eye. Well, my ex-fiancee Vanessa had just left me for him, so this could be an explanation too.
There was also a limited amount of seats so drivers who got the privilege to drive several cars like Willy or the mysterious Barf’n Berry were exceptions. At a time, I was on the list to drive the extraordinary Avante, but despite my lap times were better, Paranoïd Perry got the seat. I'm still upset about this: you should talk about this with him too.
I promise, I'll get in touch with Paranoïd Perry for an interview. What's your opinion about your overall career? Because, even if you're part of Tamiya's "100 first" legend and you were considered by fans as the best driver of your generation, your career never reached heights like Willy's, Frank Evans' or Albert Attaboy's for example.
"Shakey" Roop : Well, you know, all this is pretty old now. Say that I both lacked chance and suffered from the Striker's flaws.
Tamiya never admitted the car flaws as this car that was both meant to be the Falcon's evolution and a revolution for its time. First, the bathtub chassis was so heavy that I was always short on power with my NiCd batteries. Next came the infamous front drivetrain reliability problem. All fans may remember the accident on the "Bowling across the street" car park when the front drivetrain broke on the impact. Many thought I was going too fast, but time told the car had a weakness.
I kept this crash in mind for a long time and it undoubtely killed my chances to make a great career.
Today, you are 51 years old: do you still drive? Do you plan to come back into races?
"Shakey" Roop : laughs... No, after all these years of stunt and races, you know, I don't have anything yet to prove! Moreover, among today's LiPo powered monsters, so crazy Brushless motors and these so easy and precise chassis, I would only reach the back of the starting lane. At the time, despite the power limited motors, keeping these vehicles on the track required high level skills!
For my last run in spring 1989, when launching form the jump ramp at Smith's lawn, I suffered a cervical fracted that still hurts when I move my head. My Simpson helmet protected me but my car had no hoop.
But here and there, I hear that there are races getting organized for oldies, races that would respect mechanics and drivers' age. If I were invited, you might see the Striker and that old Shakey burning some rubber.
Like in the old times!
Shakey, a faithful thank for your words and for sharing some of your secrets.