By Aaron Waldron
Last weekend, the fourth annual Red Bull Straight Rhythm was held at the Pomona Fairplex - challenging some of the fastest motocross racers in the world to tackle a sequence of jumps in head-to-head, best-of-three battles. It’s an exciting, fast-paced spectacle of the coolest parts of dirt bike racing that works well for live broadcasting and short attention spans, much like a real-life version of the incredibly popular mobile game Mad Skills Motocross. Here’s the full replay of this year’s event:
As I watched Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin win for a second year in a row, I couldn’t help but think that an RC version would be a lot of fun — to both race and watch. I know that a similar event was supposed to be part of the Pro-Line Monster Truck-A-Palooza earlier this month, but I haven’t seen any photos or videos of how well it worked — and I’m talking about doing this with 1/10-scale and 1/8-scale buggies that are built to go fast and jump high and far. After all, the Supercross world has been using our “triple A-Main” format for the Monster Energy Cup for years and recently announced a “Triple Crown” of similar races will be used as part of this year’s Supercross series — so why not borrow one of their ideas?
The Straight Rhythm track is a half-mile long, with a gate start preceding a combination of jumps, plateaus, whoops and steep tabletops intended to scrub speed so that the riders have to slow down rather than going way, way too big by the end of the track. The fastest finishing times last weekend were around 40 seconds long - equaling an average of about 45 mph.
Of course, a half-mile straightaway isn’t feasible for RC; luckily, sustaining 45 mph isn’t realistic either.
Some of the world’s largest off- and on-road tracks measure about 150 x 200 feet, which equals a corner-to-corner distance of 270 feet. That’s important not only to suggest that such an event could be held at an existing facility but that drivers would easily be able to see their cars for a 300-foot-long track. At this year’s European Championships in Sweden (the most recent off-road race for which I could find the length of one lap on the track), the fastest lap times equalled an average of about 26 mph.
At 26 mph, a 300 ft. track would take 9 seconds — not exactly long enough to be exciting.
Sure, you could slow the cars down by including a few steep jumps that would require the drivers hit the brakes in order to land on the downside, but even at 15 mph the races would be done in 14 seconds. Going back to an estimated average speed of 25 mph, it would take a track that’s 1/4 mile (or 1320 feet) in length to reach a race duration of 35 seconds. At that point, you’re looking at building tracks in wide-open spaces, or perhaps at existing venues like parking lots using temporary jumps, then putting the racers in golf carts so that they can driven alongside the lanes in order to maintain view of their vehicles. That might make trackside viewing a bit tough, but would sure make it easy to pop a LiveRC camera on the same cart for an up-close view.
Since there’s no risk of bodily harm in the event of a collision, it may not be necessary to separate the course into separate lanes — or even limit each race to just two drivers at a time, which help involve more drivers in the program without a tournament-style ladder taking an entire day. You wouldn't likely need to involve turn marshals, since those that crashed wouldn't win anyway, and in the case that both vehicles crashed you could give the win to the vehicle that made it further or just restart the heat.
It sounds like a logistical nightmare, for sure, but wouldn’t it be fun?