By Mike Garrison
A Moment with Mike is a weekly opinion column where LiveRC’s Mike Garrison gives his take on hot-button issues, general topics, and conversations within the RC industry. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LiveRC.
R/C racers are known for their shenanigans and having more fun than the everyday person. In fact, in the early 2000’s there was an entire VHS/DVD series based solely around R/C shenanigans and fun with some of the best drivers in the world at the time. Like many forms of racing, R/C has taken a more serious atmosphere among all skill levels over the past decade.
Yes, racers still play a few pranks here and there and have a good time off the track, but it has been awhile since I’ve seen shenanigans and fun like racers launching their 1/8-scale buggies over and into hotel swimming pools, race prepped truggies doing double backflips at the skate park next to the track, or full-length arena wall-rides in the middle of the Pro Class A-Main.
This past weekend I attended the 7th Annual Jake’s RC Pro-Am Showdown in Topeka, Kansas. Each year this event has several special events such as a foot race, dash for cash, big whip contest, etc. This year featured all of the usual, and then some. It even included a surprise that took me back to the “good ol’ days” of R/C fun and shenanigans at the race track.
The Jake’s RC facility features three levels of pits; the basement, the main track level, and an upstairs level which overlooks the track. As the big whip contest concluded, there was a bit of a ruckus from the upstairs pit area. The next thing I know a giant sheet of plywood is propped up on the second story spectator railing, and from the darkness high above comes a Traxxas Slash flying out onto the race track. The entire place burst into cheers and laughs. Being a Traxxas Slash, the truck suffered absolutely no damage, was thrown back upstairs, and was launched again and again. After 5-10 minutes of launches, the crowd cheering, and people laughing until their stomach hurt, the second story Slash called it a day after successfully completing multiple maniac jumps, nearly being caught in a turn marshalling bucket, and removing a smoke detector from the ceiling of the building.
The level of competition in R/C racing has become more serious, and R/C racers tend to be more serious at the racetrack now than they once were. So serious that they can burn themselves out of R/C faster than they got into it. It was a breath of fresh air this weekend to see so many people having fun at the track laughing, cheering, jamming out to the latest beats over the pit speakers, and having good old-fashioned fun with R/C cars between the seriousness of actual racing by throwing big whips, ripping huge 4wd buggy backflips, attempting finish line wall rides, and setting sail from the second story of the building.
With such a fun and upbeat atmosphere off the track and in between the races, what I observed and gathered from other racers is that the actual racing itself proved to be more fun, less frustrating, and was even a bit cleaner and closer for most people.
I’m not saying every event should include crazy stunts and foot races, but what I am saying is that I believe the overall atmosphere of many tracks and events has become so serious and pressured, that racers are already on edge off the track…let alone if the slightest thing goes wrong on the track.
An average 1/10-scale electric off-road trophy race weekend is three days long (practice day, qualifying day, and main day). At larger events we spent upwards of 30+ hours at the track over the weekend, and we are on the track racing for a total of 35 minutes (four 5-minute qualifiers, and three 5-minute A-Mains). If we do the math; 30 total hours at the track - 35 minutes of serious racing = 1,765 minutes off the track in which our attitude is going to directly reflect the atmosphere around us.
I am a huge advocate for keeping R/C fun, but I’m not just referring to the short time spent on the track. It’s important that track owners, race promoters, and racers remember to have fun and create a fun atmosphere off the track as well.
Let me tell you from experience this past weekend, it is awfully hard to leave a race (regardless of your results) without a big smile after you get done watching two grown adults with their shoe laces tied together trying to race around an R/C track on foot…
Bottom Line - Having fun on the track starts by having fun at the track.