Moment with Mike: Is nitro racing slowly dying?
Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012 07:02am
By Mike Garrison
Over the past several months I have attended multiple events which range from local club races, regional races, and even a few national series races that have come to the midwest. While each event has been very different in tracks, racers, and locations, there has been one major thing in common. Nitro racing has been steadily dropping off in popularity and quickly being replaced by electric classes.
On a local level, I have noticed that the sportsman and expert 1/8 buggy class turnout combined is almost equivelant to the entire electric 1/8 buggy class. On a regional level, the electric 1/8 buggy class was the biggest turnout at two seperate events over the three (sportsman, open, and pro) nitro buggy classes. At the few national level events, one being a nitro fuel sponsored event, the turnout of electric racers was nearly that of several nitro classes and many drivers attended with ONLY electric vehicles.
So the question is, why is this?
It wasn't that long ago and electric 1/8 was considered to be an "exhibition" type of class. Now major manufacturer's are developing electric specific buggies and fighting for race wins and national championships, as its importance has grown considerably. Electronics and motors were "primitive" and had a 50/50 shot at surviving the abuse, today almost all of the major esc/motor companies have invested huge amounts of money to offer high quality, race inspired systems that not only survive the abuse but offer the performance and tuning found in 1/10 scale systems. A 4S LiPo pack was something very few had heard of or wanted anything to do with, and like esc's and motors, almost all of the major battery companies have now invested huge amounts of money to offer high quality, race worthy batteries.
Is the nitro racing slowly dying because of the cost of racing? With nitro vehicles a standard setup costs roughly $1200.00 after you purchase the kit, engine, pipe, servos, wheels, tires, starter box, glow ignitor, and the re-occuring cost of fuel. A standard electric 1/8 setup costs roughly $1300.00 after you purchase a kit, motor, esc, servo, wheels, tires, charger, and two batteries. Although there is a re-occuring cost of fuel, the price is very close, which leads me to believe it is not the price of nitro racing that is killing it.
I believe that instead of the money spent, it is in fact the frustration and lack of versatility that is killing the nitro classes. Let's face it, there is no better sound or smell on the planet than nitro fuel, BUT along with that comes some nasty fumes, oil, goop, and mess everywhere. This eliminates the opportunity (in most cases) to run nitro vehicles year round indoors and outdoors. For entry level and experienced racers alike, tuning is almost always required on race day, sometimes even every time the car hits the track. I will be the first to admit that tuning a nitro engine is like basting and baking a Thanksgiving turkey. Some people know just the right amount of gentle preparation and patience to make it wonderful tasting, while others (like myself) get frustrated, want to throw the turkey in the microwave for a quick zap, and expect a gourmet dinner to pop out. With electric 1/8 there is no "turkey basting" and fine tuning necessary before each time on the track, instead it is plug in a battery and GO!
There are some driving characteristics that differ between the two, but for the most part electric 1/8 racers are given the handling and thrill of 1/8 scale, often times more power and speed, less grease and grime, and can lap the field of nitro racers while they are busy tuning engines in the pits (especially if they don't have a seperate pit guy to help out). With a couple of batteries a pit stop every 10 minutes to swap them out, and electric racers can run on and on like nitro racers.
With all of that being said, I really enjoy BOTH nitro and electric racing. So what will it take to keep nitro alive and bring the popularity back up while also keeping the electric racing going strong?
I want to know what YOU think! Am I crazy for thinking electric might be taking over? Why or why not?
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