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.
Following Part One of the MWM: Operation R/C Series (CLICK HERE to read), we established through the viewer feedback received via email, site comments, and social media posts we have four general areas of R/C that need improvement to breath life back into local club racing:
1) Cost of Tires – Discussed in Part 2 (CLICK HERE to read)
2) The amount of time AT the track vs. the amount of time ON the track.
3) Overall cost of getting started and/or being competitive.
4) Number of “big” events and trophy races.
Last week we were able to gather some very valuable information, ideas, opinions on the first topic; the cost of tires. This week I want to move forward and discuss the next topic in line; the amount of time spent at the track vs. the amount of time spent on the track. In other words, another common “complaint” about the current format of R/C racing is the amount of time sitting around at the track waiting for your short time racing on the track. As an example, I have laid out a typical club racing day for your average racer who runs two classes on any given day.
The average club racing day starts with a local track opening at 10am, and racing finishing up 6pm = a total time of 8 hours at the track.
Practice two battery packs with each car (a total of 4 times at 10-minutes each) = 40 minutes of practice. Three rounds of 5-minute qualifying + 2-minute “warm-up” = 21 minutes of track time per class for a total of 42 minutes of total track time in qualifying. Most club races are single mains (as opposed to larger races with triple mains), therefore a single 6-minute main + 2 minute “warm-up” = 8 minutes of track time per class for a total of 16 minutes of total track time for the mains.
When you combine all of this, you have spent 8 hours at the track with 1 hour and 38 minutes of time on the track. This means that slightly more of 20% of the time at an R/C track is spent driving an R/C car on a race day. For larger events that provide the same amount of driving time, but are stretched out over the course of several days, obviously this percentage is much lower.
I will not disagree that the format of R/C (which is focuses an abundance of time on qualifying, but awards by the short time spent focused on the mains) is somewhat backwards, BUT I also don’t feel that the “flawed” format is to to blame entirely for the problem of time at the track vs. time on the track. I believe racers and race directors can also be at fault, and that there is considerable room for improvement without entirely changing the age old format of R/C racing.
One thing many people forget as R/C racers, is that with the privilege of racing your R/C car, there are certain responsibilities and teamwork necessary on your part:
#1 – When you get to the track everyone is anxious to get out and practice, but before going to practice, go sign up. This sounds silly, but the most experienced racers (me included) are the absolute worst about signing up late, which throws the entire race program into a tizzy as literally ONE SINGLE LATE ENTRY can mean the entire race program must be regenerated, sorted, organized, and posted. Don’t be that guy (or girl), and make it a habit to help your race director out by promptly signing up early. As a race director, it is much easier to remove you from a class at the last minute before racing starts than it is to add you into one, so remember that.
#2 – The race order is posted prior to the start of racing. For many tracks it can be viewed hanging on the wall printed on paper, as well as from the comfort of your pit area by simply logging onto your phone to the track’s LiveTime / LiveRC live scoring and event page. It should not be a surprise to anyone what race number they are in, therefore, have your car and radio ready, get in line with plenty of time before your race, don't wait until the last minute for tech inspection, and BE READY. If you make adjustments and changes to your car between races, either test it thoroughly in the parking lot or fully accept that the entire race program cannot come to a stop while you take “30 seconds” to put your loose wheel nuts back on after they fall off in warm-up.
#3 - When you are done racing, exit the drivers stand promptly, place your cars on the table, and return to the track to corner marshal. This entire process should take no more than 2-minutes (120 seconds) at MAX – especially if your local track has a designated table to set your cars and radio upon exiting the stand, which prevents you from having to travel all the way back to your pit before returning to turn marshal.
I personally spend almost as much time as a race director/announcer as I do a racer, and I believe race directors also have responsibilities in providing an time managed race day that are too often overlooked (by me included):
#1 – If racing is set to start at 11am, the tone for race #1 should start at 11am. In order to do this, that means entries must be in the computer, and heats must be set up at least 10-15 minutes prior to the race start time so that everyone is prepared and ready. In other words, make strict rules that sign-ups close at a certain time, and be prompt to ensure that racing begins on time. What may seem like “a few minutes late” to start the day, quickly adds ups and leads to a very long monotonous day ahead. As you expect your racers to be on time, you too need to be on time.
#2 – When preparing the heat races, consider the amount of turn marshals necessary, racers running back to back, etc. This can be tricky and time consuming, but taking the time to make sure each race will have an adequate number of turn marshals without having to beg for volunteers is crucial to a timely race day.
#3 – Racers aren’t always ready when its time for their race, aren’t always on the track when its their time to turn marshal, and/or need an extra “minute” to fix something before the start. Especially in qualifying, it is crucial that the race program stay on a strict time schedule – NO EXCEPTIONS. As hard as it may be, you can’t wait for your buddy to fix his car, or your dad to wake up from his pit table nap so he doesn’t miss his race (yes, my dad missed has his race that I was announcing because he was sleeping), or the local fast guy to be late (as always) to turn marshal. As the race director it is your responsibility to keep the show moving by enforcing a time schedule and rules. If drivers aren’t on the track, checked in, and turn marshals in place at the end of the 1-2 minute warm-up session, the show must go on. Turn marshals missing (without prior reasoning or permission) MUST be reprimanded no matter who they are, racer’s who aren’t ready or break in warm-up cannot be waited on for extended amounts of time, and so on. It’s very difficult, because racers will get mad at you when they aren’t ready, when they break, or when they “only need a sec”, and you don’t give them extra time. The fact is though, it is not your job to make sure they are paying attention, ready to race, not broken, or out to turn marshal when they should be - your job is to run the races as efficiently as possible to ensure everyone enjoys themselves in a timely manner.
#4 – As the race director, it is your duty to make sure everyone is informed as to what is happening. I am not saying every race needs a Superbowl play-by-play of on track action, I am saying that the basic facts need to be constantly stated to the drivers on the track and more importantly to those in the pits. Make sure everyone knows what race number is on the track, what race number should be in line next, the amount of time remaining in the race, and other valuable information to make sure everyone that is paying attention can be ready on time. It doesn’t hurt to read out the next race number, the class name, and even the driver’s names that should be getting ready. In other words, take away any reasoning or excuses for racers to say “they didn’t know it was time for their race already”.
#5 – If there is extra time, don’t waste it! Just because round one of qualifying went 30-minutes faster than you had anticipated, keep the show moving. Inevitablely in any race day there will be a hiccup, extra track prep, computer malfunction, or some oddball thing that will add time. “Worst case scenario” if you keep the show moving anticipating a problem, and absolutely nothing goes wrong, and the racers get their full 1 hour and 38 minutes of track time in less than 8 hours.
I could write an entire novel of what I feel are racer and race director responsibilities and duties, however, these are just a very few of my major key responsibilities that I feel are relevant to today’s topic of time spent at the track.
After all of that has been said, am I opposed to a new format of racing? Absolutely not. I just haven’t thought of one yet that will work equally better for track owners, racers, and major events as “well” as our current format does. So, while I am still trying to find the magic race format, I figure we can at least focus on taking responsibility towards fixing our own flaws as racers and race directors to enhance the experience on raceday using the format we are currently given.
What other responsibilities can racers and/or race directors focus on to ensure an enjoyable and time-managed day at the track? Do you have ideas for a new format that will work equally better for track owners, racers, and major events?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS, OPINIONS, IDEAS, AND COMMENTS BELOW!