By Aaron Waldron
As the industry’s largest events continue to grow, using tools like social media and LiveRC Internet broadcasts to reach greater audiences than ever before, the world of RC racing is in a position unique to its history - there’s incredible growth potential. Still, whether you live in an area with a half-dozen racetracks that each draw a sizable crowd twice a week, or drive two hours to a volunteer-run club track that does everything they can to scrape by, here are five things you can do to make a positive impact on the hobby in your area.
1. Pay attention
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a day at the track, and lose track of time bench-racing with your buddies in the pit area, but you can do your part to help ensure a smooth racing program by keeping tabs on the track’s particular rules and being ready for your heat. Pre-event drivers’ meetings are often a drawn-out drag, but when you interrupt the race director to ask a question about a topic he explained just 90 minutes prior you’re doing everyone a disservice.
Jimmy Babcock just had to explain the qualifying process for the third time.
Likewise, having your vehicle ready to go and walking up onto the drivers’ stand at the conclusion of the prior heat will make your fellow drivers - and the race director - more forgiving if you run into an issue that needs 60 extra seconds to resolve before the sound of the tone. Once the race is over, make sure you’re not the one who routinely makes the next heat wait for you to hustle out to your turn marshal spot. Shoot for a higher bar than just not being the last one!
"Yeah, dude - you're in race #10. I'm looking at the sheet right now."
2. Volunteer to turn marshal
Speaking of turn marshaling - I’ve yet to attend an RC event in over 20 years that didn’t need to fill additional spots at least once. Whether it’s a driver with medical issues, heats half-full of drivers or the lazy racer who thinks he’s too important to uphold his end of the bargain, there’s nothing more frustrating to a race director and drivers’ stand full of anxious racers than begging for someone to give up five minutes of their time to help flip cars over.
There’s perhaps no better way to endear yourself to the track crew and racers than being happy to volunteer turn marshal. You can score a lot of favor - and even make up for past transgressions.
This little guy is counting the number of brownie points he's earned with the race director.
3. Be helpful
Volunteering to turn marshal is just one of the ways that you, as a racer, can lend a helping hand. Being aware of those who’d benefit from some assistance - such as the kid struggling to carry his equipment to the pit area from the parking lot, or the newbie looking lost as he tries to decipher the heat sheet - can give you the opportunity to steer someone in the right direction while at the same time relieving the race director to focus on keeping the program moving. If you’re racing at a track that requires regular maintenance to provide fair conditions, such as regular sweeping or use of leaf blowers, do your part when called upon and help pick up slack when others fall through. Your efforts will not go unnoticed - by both fellow racers as well as the track crew.
That kid will probably remember the help from Tekin's Randy Pike for the rest of his RC career.
4. Bring potential racers to a club race
Because 100% retention of existing racers is impossible, the success of any local racing scene depends on a constant flow of new participants. Invite a friend, neighbor, co-worker, classmate, or even a random acquaintance who notices you wrenching on your cars in the garage to come check out the next club race. Instead of seizing the opportunity to boast about how much time and money you sink into the hobby, explain how he or she can purchase a Slash and start competing in the Novice class for just a few hundred bucks. You may have to fix an A-arm or two after letting a first-timer take your car for a spin, but imagine the pride you’ll feel when that person beats you for a main event win a year or two down the road.
Everyone starts somewhere.
5. Use social media for good, not evil
You may have heard of the Pareto principle - more commonly known as the 80/20 rule - which states that roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. When it comes to negative feedback in today’s social media climate, the Pareto principle is typically used to describe how 80% of complaints will come from 20% of upset customers.
In the case of the RC industry, that means 80% of the drama caused on Facebook stems from 20% of racers. Don’t underestimate the potential harm that your post-race rant can have on your local track’s club racing program for the next six months. If you have a problem with a decision that the race director made, talk to that person face-to-face between rounds, consider both sides of your discussion, and move on. If you find it cathartic to scribble a childish note on a pad of paper at the host hotel of a national event, show it to a couple of friends and have a laugh over a bowl of Frosted Flakes at the continental breakfast and then throw it away - don’t snap a cell phone photo of it and “anonymously” disseminate it across social media.
Social media can be a powerful tool to help our industry grow, and you can do more good with less effort. Consider leaving a positive review on your local track’s business page, creating a group for local racers to discuss where to congregate next week and share setup info, or share exciting industry news to your non-RC circle of contacts in hopes they could be interested to join the fun (see #4).
Show everyone how much fun you're having!
BONUS: Know when to walk away
If you find that you’re always the one that “gets screwed,” you’ve been involved in crashes or arguments with more racers than everyone else combined, or you think your local track is run by inferior ignoramuses who can’t seem to do anything right, perhaps you’re the problem. You may think your weekly race entries are important in keeping the track’s doors open, but you probably don’t realize that your attitude has scared off at least a handful of people. Don’t wait for the race director to recognize and remove the malcontent that’s souring the atmosphere for everyone else - take a month off and see if you come back having more fun, or go race somewhere else instead. And if you find that you can’t have fun anywhere, perhaps RC racing - which is a hobby, after all - isn’t for you.
Peace out, party poopers!