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.
Every once in a while, I decide to write something that I know I am going to get lashed out about, but sometimes I can’t help myself. This is one of those days, as I am here today to say off-road R/C racing has become too hard. Before you start throwing tissues my way to wipe up my whiny tears, I’m not talking about the physical ability to drive an R/C car, or the fact I haven’t won a trophy in I can’t remember how long. What I am talking about is off-road R/C racing has become too hard for the weekend warriors (the lifeblood of our sport) to stay active, keep their equipment competitive, and enjoy themselves.
Over the past few years I have had a number of good friends step away from off-road R/C car racing (primarily 1/10-scale), and quite frankly it bums me out. This past weekend I ran into one and asked him when he was going to start R/C racing again, and his answer surprised me and got me thinking.
He said, “I will start [off-road] R/C racing again when I’m racing the other drivers’ abilities again like it used to be, not racing how many tires I can afford to burn up, or how many ballstud washers I have under my rear camber link. R/C racing used to be skills vs. skills with a little bit of setup, now since everything is high grip and smooth like butter it’s just setup vs. setup with a little bit of skill. It’s too much work for very little fun if you want to be a casual racer.”
After returning home I was scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feeds, and all I saw was stacks of brand new tires being roasted to almost nothing, ads saying “buy this kit for high grip tracks, this kit for medium grip, and this kit for low grip”, and last but not least a receipt for $320 in parts, wheels, and tires with a caption saying, “Ready for this weekend’s race!”
When I began to put together all that my buddy had said, and all that I was seeing on social media, I began to think maybe he’s right? Are the high grip track surfaces many of us thought we wanted (me included) killing our sport?
The superstars of R/C racing are the top paid professionals, but the true lifeblood of R/C racing are the weekend warriors who do it as a “hobby”. Let’s be real, it’s not fun to go racing if you aren’t somewhat competitive, and there was a time that to be competitive with your buddies meant you had to practice once or twice per week more than they did. Nowadays, you can practice 7 days a week and be the fastest of them all, but if you aren’t willing to spend the money to sand down your brand-new tires, buy the correct version of your car kit for the various tracks, and own a stash pile of misc. option parts to make sure your setup 110% on-point it can be very difficult and frustrating to be competitive – let alone go racing for “fun”.
I see all sides to it, as the fact is R/C (primarily 1/10-scale off-road) has changed a LOT over the past few years, and much of this is due to the high grip tracks we now race on. Are all these changes bad? No, but I do believe when a casual weekend racer who wants to be competitive with the local racers has to have a parts box with as many different shock pistons, sway bars, shock springs, and setup options as only a factory team driver 5 years ago would have, or a stack of tires worth as much as their entire car kit for one single weekend of racing – we have a problem.
We’ve established there is a problem, but now it’s time to focus less on the problem and more on a solution for it...
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