To his supporters - and there are many - Kitchener's regional celebrity status and projected national success are the much deserved rewards for one of the few "genuine nice guys" in duelling. But to his detractors - and there are more than a few of them, too - Kitchener's rise is due to a slick PR campaign and has little to do with his duelling skills.
"It really doesn't matter what people think," Kitchener said in a recent interview at the Irsay Memorial Arena in Baltimore. "Out in the arena, it's me, my gunner, and the Impact. Oh yeah, and a bunch of other guys trying to kill me."
Kitchener has a serious side, but he doesn't let it show much. Sam Fuller, Kitchener's gunner, is more vocal. "Those guys that say Dave is all image, all hype... they just don't know what they're talking about. They don't see Dave practice 30 hours a week in the arena. They don't see him up 'til 2 every morning studying vidtapes. Dave's earned everything he's gotten with hard work and determination."
Kitchener is currently the defending AADA Eastern Region Division 25 Champion. An injury suffered in practise kept him from competing in last year's national championship, but Kitchener has already earned enough points to qualify for this year's Eastern Regional - even though the season's only half over. It's a record pace, and if he can keep it up in the second half of the season, Kitchener will be the front-runner for Eastern Duellist of the Year.
But while Kitchener's duelling record speaks for itself, it's his non-duelling activities that stir up the most controversy. Kitchener is currently honorary chairman for nine different charitable organisations, and has raised funds for countless others. He averages two personal appearances a week, even during the duelling season.
"I really don't see what the big deal is," Kitchener said. "There are a lot of things happening today that aren't very good for anybody - a lot of kids without enough to eat, a lot of sickness and crime and drug abuse - and because I'm famous, people tend to listen to what I have to say. So why shouldn't I try and make things better? A lot of fans support me and the sport of autoduelling. I can do more with that support than just endorse auto parts."
While that attitude seems admirable, many duellists find it annoying. One local duellist who asked not to be identified said, "That goody-goody stuff gets a lot of the drivers mad. He never goes anywhere without a flock of reporters, and he never does anything without a press release going out to make sure everyone knows about it. The guy's a ham, plain and simple."
Kitchener takes his "nice guy" image with him to the arena, but he combines it with precision driving, excellent tactics, and a good sense of timing. "He knows when the bold stroke will pay off, and he knows when to play it safe. And he can smell a trap a mile off," Fuller said. "Sam's what I call a 'clutch gunner.' There are a lot of gunners out there as good as Sam most of the time, but when the duel's on the line - when I have to have that tire shot, or when one more hit will the fight - he never misses. Its uncanny. It's also saved or necks more than once, Kitchener said.
The car Kitchener and Fuller rode to the 2033-34 Eastern Regional Championship in Division 25 is a custom design that Kitchener calls the "Impact." Kitchener explains how it came together: "I knew that I wanted it to do, but I;m no designer. So I took my ideas to Bennie Arnold - he's one of the best on the East Coast - and he came up with the Impact. Fortunately, my corporate sponsors were kind enough to come up with the development money necessary to get the project moving. I'm very pleased with the results."
The Impact has two versions, a standard arena version and a racetrack-arena version that features better handling at the expense of some armor. In either venue, Kitchener's favourite tactic is the ram, and the Impact is designed to take full advantage. Not only does the Impact sport tough front armor and a pair of rocket launchers linked to a bumper trigger. The spectacular results make Kitchener's rams a crowd favourite - and one of the most popular instant replays on television highlight shows. Many foes have been obliterated in a single attack by the Impact's one-two punch of ram and rockets.
But for all his effectiveness, Kitchener is not a ruthless or unprincipled duellist. He does not fire on fleeing pedestrians (although those that stand and fight are fair game) and will always accept a surrender from an opponent. As a result, Kitchener has one of the lowest Combatants Killed Averages in pro autoduelling - only .423. No one in AADA history before Kitchener had won a major regional title with a CKA below .780.
Even though Kitchener is enjoying more success than he's ever known before, he doesn't plan to change his lifestyle. "I imagine I'll always be the same as always... except more people will want me to help them out with this cause and that cause. I have a tough time telling anyone, 'no,' and I'm going to have to do it more and more now. That won't be much fun. I'll sure enjoy the rest of it, though."
Kitchener will be a tough for any duellist. He's a Driver-3, Gunner-1, Cyclist-1, Mech-1. He wears body armor and carries an SMG, a heavy pistol and 3 grenades. His gunner, Sam Fuller, is a Driver-1, Gunner-3. He also wears body armor and carries a heavy pistol and 5 grenades (3 regular and 3 tear gas).
The Impact comes in two version - a standard arena and a "Racetrack" version.
Standard Impact - Luxury, extra heavy chassis, heavy suspension, super power plant, 4 PR tires, driver and gunner, 2 linked RLs front, bumper trigger front, 2 linked Micromissile Launchers in Turret, targeting computer for driver, hi-res computer for gunner, improved fire extinguisher, ramplate. Armour: F60, L30, R30, B20, T25, U10. HC 3, Accel 5mph, 6,600lbs, $23,640.
Racetrack Impact - As above, but add spoiler and airdam. Armour F60, L25, R25, B15, T20, U10, 6,600lbs, $24,250.