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.
This past weekend my wife and I hosted our annual 1/8-scale off-road event – the Tekno RC Off-Road Riot at Fastlane Raceway (full event report coming soon). Each year the event goes through little changes, but nothing too major. This year’s biggest changes were the additions of a Women’s Open class and a +40 Nitro Buggy class. While this event is by no means the first to offer a women’s class or a class for racers over the age of 40, the participation, excitement, and thrills I saw this weekend in those two classes began really making me think.
(Fastlane Raceway in Blue Springs, Missouri - host of the 2018 Tekno RC Off-Road RIOT)
Arguably these two classes had some of the best racing all weekend long, and the Women’s Open class by far had the most fun of anyone in attendance. We had seven entries, which doesn’t sound like much, but considering that all seven of them would not have raced (let alone even attend for many of them), I feel as though it was one of the biggest successes of the weekend. The class was open to 1/8 nitro buggy or truck, 1/8 electric buggy or truck, and 4wd short course. The class saw seven women ranging from daughters, sisters and girlfriends to moms and wives of the men racing. Some had never even been to an R/C race, others had never raced 1/8 scale, and one mom (Marge Fletcher) raced her first ever R/C car race after being at the track for over 10 years supporting her son's racing. The class was sponsored by Marge Fletcher of Fletcher Avon, which made it even better as each racer was given a free Avon goodie bag and gift certificates were awarded to the top 3 (in addition to event awards).
Just before the +40 nitro buggy racing started, a new racer came to the announcer tower, shook my hand, and said “Thank you for offering a +40 Nitro Buggy class. I’ve never raced nitro buggy before, and I was afraid to race this weekend until I heard I could race with guys my age.” The class consisted of first time racers all the way up to former RC Pro Series National Champions, but all over the age of 40. Despite the gap in skill level, I observed that everyone in the class seemed to have more fun and enjoy the +40 racing more than they did their other classes of racing.
In R/C car racing, our racing classes are primarily based around the fine details and specs of the vehicles involved in them. It has occurred to me that perhaps we are so worried about the cars that we are racing, that we don’t pay enough attention to the people that are racing them. Not every 9-year old new kid is afraid to race with a 40-year old veteran racer, and not every woman would suddenly be interested in R/C car racing if a women’s class existed everywhere, BUT if we paid more attention to making classes for the racers rather than the race cars – would we see more new racers and more fun for existing racers?
(Marge Fletcher, mother of Tekno RC team manager Eric Fletcher, racing R/C for the first time ever after spending over 10 years at the R/C track supporting her son's racing.)
As an announcer/race director, during every single women’s race I called for volunteer turn marshals and I instantly received more marshals than I had marshaling cones. All seven of our women’s class racers happily said they would be back to race again, and my wife (who has never raced 1/8-scale prior to the weekend) enjoyed it so much she stole the credit card this morning to order a buggy of her very own. I never once had to call anyone out for not turn marshaling in +40 nitro buggy, but several of those same drivers were no where to be found after their Sportsman Nitro Buggy or Expert Nitro Buggy heats – in which appeared to be more frustrating than fun for many of them. Is it coincidence that the races they seemed to enjoy more, they were more willing to return to the track and were ready to turn marshal?
1/8-scale racing is a little more concious of "driver specs" by offering different skill level divisions, but unfortunately too often your "skill level" is determined by how many sponsors you have - in which a driver worth sponsoring to represent your company isn't necessarily a pro level driver (that's an entire topic in itself that we'll discuss another day).
Would a 1/10-scale off-road race program that would normally offer 17.5 2wd buggy, 13.5 2wd buggy, and Mod 2wd buggy be more successful and enjoyable if drivers were grouped into 16 and Under 2wd Buggy, Open Age 2wd Buggy, +40 2wd Buggy, and classes instead? Or what about 16 and Under 1/8 Nitro Buggy, Open Age 1/8 Nitro Buggy, and +40 1/8 Nitro Buggy instead of Sportsman, Expert, and Pro classes that is often determined by the level of sponsorship you've been given?
This weekend has my gears turning, and my brain is on overtime processing and thinking about it all. I want to know YOUR opinions.
Would you rather race in a class based on the specs of your car (size and speed of the motor, etc.) or based on the specs of you as a racer (age, actual skill level, etc.)?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS, COMMENTS, AND OPINIONS BELOW!