By Aaron Waldron
Washington D.C. is famous around the world for being the capital of the United States. To RC racers in the D.C. area, though, Mimi Wong is the community leader and matriarch.
Here's a look at her RC racing facility and the history behind one of the East Coast RC scene's oldest tracks.
Wong opened Toy World, a toy and hobby shop, in Rockville, MD in 1984. A few years later, a young man that worked as an intern at the store introduced Wong to hobby-grade RC cars because he wanted her to order him one; she began selling Kyosho and Tamiya kits, even assembling some herself to offer as pre-built rollers.
She still repairs customers’ vehicles, and will take them for a quick spin to make sure they work - but that’s the extent of her wheel time. “The drivers that compete here are very skilled,” she said, “and there’s no way I could keep up.”
In 1992, Wong opened the current location as Mimi’s RC Track as a banked carpet oval, and operated both businesses until 1997 when she decided to close down Toy World. Mimi’s RC track has undergone several changes since, going first to a carpet road course, then paved asphalt (where the pit area is set up this weekend). Mimi’s RC Track was renamed “The Track” in 2005, and in 2012 the clay off-road course was built. The Track is located in a busy warehouse complex in Gaithersburg, MD, a suburb north of the nation’s capital.
Slot car racing is also a common activity at The Track, which hosted national championships in 2003 and 2007, though the course was disassembled to make more room for pit space to accommodate up to 150 racers this weekend.
On a day-to-day basis, Mimi is the only one in charge of running “The Track” - though racers help her build the layouts and organize club races. Mimi’s sister and some friends are selling food at the Nationals, though.
Mimi’s dog, Guitar, is also a regular fixture of the hobby shop.
Bringing in young kids from around DC has always been a part of the business; Wong has coordinated with several school and after-school programs to teach young would-be racers the ropes. Among the graduates: former factory star Andrew Gray, who returned to help mentor future classes, and multi-time ROAR national champion Sam Isaacs. “We have the kids start with stuff that’s not too difficult,” said Wong, “and I like them to remember to have good sportsmanship too.”
At 100 ft. x 50 ft. the off-road track fits snugly into the 110 ft. x 100 ft. building. The drivers’ stand lifts racers six feet above the ground to provide visibility, and at nearly 40 feet long there’s plenty of room for ten drivers and the announcer’s platform.
I spoke to defending 2WD and Stadium Truck champion Dakotah Phend to get his thoughts about the layout. Here’s what he said about each section:
1 - “I think it’s a lot of fun as far as having a 180 at the end of the straightaway. It works out pretty well, too — people haven’t been hitting each other, and it flows nicely. It’s a pretty night corner, so you have to use a lot of brakes.”
2 - “This section is okay. You can’t really do too much through here, you just kind of have to drive through it.”
3 - “In 4WD, some people are quad-ing. You have to go a lot slower than you would think to double-double. The spacing between them is very narrow.”
4 - “The right side of the track in general seems to have more traction, but the back right corner is the most slippery spot. It’s not too hard to hit the triple, though; all the jumps are easy to make, power-wise.
5 - “You can roll over this double, or jump way over it. Either way, you have land right to set up for the moguls.”
6 - “This is the hardest part of the track, because you have to hit the same spot every lap. If you miss, you crash.” Frank Root added, “The take-off and landing spots are about the width of one car, and you have to hit it almost full throttle to make it.”
7 - “If you don’t hit the moguls right, then this section sucks because you’ll probably do a donut. Otherwise, it’s easy — but you have to land on the inside so you don’t get into the dust.”
8 - “This part is actually a lot of fun. If you get it right, it’s kind of like an on-road section; you go up, then flow right through the turn and accelerate down the hill.”
9 - “The last turn isn’t too crazy; just don’t do a donut. There’s good traction here, but like the rest of the track if you get out into the dust, you’re still on slicks.”