By Aaron Waldron
When the RC world was in China for the IFMAR Worlds last month, it was impossible to escape traditional Chinese superstitions. For example, the number “4” is feared in Chinese culture, because the Mandarin word for “four” sounds a lot like the language’s word for “death.” Accordingly, our hotel did not have a 4th, 13th or 14th floors.
My family doesn’t have strong religious ties, nor do I believe in tenets like karma, reincarnation, or fate, so I found it remarkable that such beliefs were so widespread that it would change how a hotel numbers its floors and rooms. I thought about the stories I’ve heard about various sports-related superstitions, like motorcycle racers who intentionally drop their new helmets (a really bad idea, by the way), or basketball players who bounce the ball in the same pattern before each free throw, or athletes who wear the same undergarments when they’re on a hot streak.
At first, I thought about how I didn’t have anything like that at all during the height of my racing career — but then I remembered that my paint colors didn’t change for 15 years despite a few different schemes and painters, so that went out the window. I don’t think I ever ran white wheels in anything other than practice, either. The more I thought about it, the more patterns I could recall.
Anytime I was given car #6, my dad would stick a fourth 6 to the inside of the windshield so that my body didn’t have “666” on it. I was always particular about standing in the same spot on any drivers’ stand, stretched my legs the same way before the start tone, and wished the drivers on each side of me “good luck” before the start of a main event. If I got new team t-shirts at the beginning of the season, I subconsciously chose which one I’d wear on main event day of major races — and for a while, I’d also go with a particular pair of smiley-faced boxer shorts. At nitro races, my dad nearly always made the same gestures right before the start tone - pointing at his head, to remind me to drive smart; making a “settle down” motion with whichever hand he wasn’t holding the car with, suggesting that I take it easy; and giving me a blank stare with his mouth agape, which is often what I looked like when I was totally focused. The last part usually made me laugh, which put me in a good mood before it was time to get serious. Even at club races, I often pitted in the same spot, ate the same food from trackside eateries, and went through the same pre-race checklist on my cars in the same order.
For someone who didn’t think he was superstitious, it sure seems like I had a lot of quirky pre-race rituals.
What about you? Do you have any RC racing superstitions or pre-race rituals?