By Aaron Waldron
Among the local tracks I frequented during my childhood, one of them would occasionally organize a bonus heat after the Saturday afternoon club race that created excitement and left smiles on the faces of competitors and spectators alike. The concept was simple enough: each race had a particular theme, each entry pitched in a dollar or two, and the winner took home the jackpot.
Because they didn’t happen very often, the crowd found the dollar races to be a real treat - and because each theme instituted such a handicap on what would otherwise be a normal competition, it provided a new challenge that no one really had time to prepare for. Everyone interested in racing lined up in a randomly chosen grid, and the tone went off.
Here are some of the races we did:
The simplest of ideas was just racing the track layout backward - which of course means that most jumps were not able to be cleared, and every track feature had to be tackled in a totally different manner. Because cars would sometimes dig into the back of jump faces and cause damage to the surface, the backwards races were usually only done on the final weekend before a layout change, but the drastically altered perspective on a course design that’s been ingrained into memory after weeks of practice put most drivers on an even playing field.
Sometimes - but not always - the backwards race was performed with all vehicles running in reverse. With brushed motors, flipping the positive and negative power leads was all that was required to make any vehicle fully operational. The same can be done with brushless motors by swapping the A and C wires, but many speed controls have a reverse rotation option included in the tuning software. Turning a 2WD buggy or truck into a front-wheel-drive, rear-steering forklift will test the patience and skill of even the most seasoned vet.
Blind man driving
Each driver would take to the drivers’ stand facing backward - away from the course - and do his or her best to navigate the track based solely on the directions provided by a spotter. Shortening a five-minute heat to just a few laps is usually a good idea for this one!
Another event requiring two-person teams, the two-man race requires one to operate the throttle trigger and another to control the steering wheel. Some of the best two-man teams I’ve seen could turn laps on pace with many solo drivers! The two-man race can also be combined with the blind-man driving concept, with either the throttle or steering controller facing backward (but not both, of course).
This is another good idea to save for a layout’s last weekend before a rebuild. Before the grid takes off into turn one, the track is littered with additional items, Mariokart style - only instead of banana peels and turtle shells, you can use chairs, track brooms and pit bags (nothing that would destroy cars, of course). My particular favorite is a trash can placed on the landing ramp of a jump such that the mouth can swallow the car that gets too close - oops! The obstacle course race is usually performed without turn marshals, and is often the last car standing that completes the most laps and takes home the cash.
Are these silly ideas? Definitely. Will some too-serious racers scoff at the idea? Probably. Will those that participate or watch enjoy a laugh? Absolutely.
If your track tries one of these challenge races - or one with a different theme - send pictures and a quick write-up to email@example.com and it might get posted on our home page!