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.
Something I have been VERY guilty of lately is skipping out on weekly club racing. As my conscious was weighing heavy on me last week, and I missed my local pals, I headed to Fastlane Raceway for some weeknight club racing. As racing got under way I couldn’t help but notice one of the biggest classes of the night – Traxxas Spec Bandit 2wd Buggy. This is a class that Fastlane offers which is essentially a box stock spec class for racing Traxxas 2wd RTR buggies. It’s affordable, it’s easy to get started, there is no hassle with tires, setup, etc., and most of all it is FUN.
While this class is open to anyone, the drivers stand was full, from one side to the other, with new racers. During the races the drivers were laughing, taunting one another, calling out there passes, and having an absolute great time racing their R/C cars. Chuck Kleinhagen, owner of Fastlane, told me they have sold over 40+ Traxxas Bandit 2wd buggies and have seen them in attendance for practice nights, off-road race nights, and dirt oval race nights as well. Several local racers who started in the Traxxas Bandit class have since stuck around, purchased new kits, and are now racing the 17.5 and 13.5 buggy classes.
(The Fastlane Bandit A-Main lineup. Take note of the smiles, friendly smack talk, and fun the drivers are having on the stand before the race even gets started.)
What people don’t seem to understand and remember about R/C racing is the importance of gathering new racers, giving them an outlet to enjoy R/C racing, and supporting those new racers to keep them involved.
Which makes more sense - To run completely out of gas on the highway and call someone in a panic hoping they will bring you more gas, or to pay a little more attention to your gas gauge and fill up when things are getting low?
The same goes for R/C racing. As old racers move out, we need new racers to step-in. Rather than wait and panic when there is no one left to race, take time to pay attention to ways you can do your part to bring in new racers, support those racers, and keep them having fun and involved.
As experienced racers we tend to skip out on club racing and save ourselves for “big races” instead (myself included). We also are always seeking ways to go faster, get an edge on the competition, and be better than the next guy by doing things like insane tire prep rituals, charging batteries at ridiculous charge rates, using motor analyzing tools to find the fastest stock motor, etc. This is all fine for those already "hooked" on the hobby, but it can be very overwhelming and a big turn-off for new racers. In order to keep the hobby growing, we need to make sure we take time to remember to support local club racing, encourage new racers, and offer ways that aren’t as complicated, overwhelming, and frustrating to become involved in R/C racing (such as the Traxxas Bandit Spec class mentioned above). Once they are involved its important that fellow racers and track owners support those new racers as they work their way into the more technical and advanced classes.
If you are a track or hobby shop owner, consider offering a class that is affordable, easy to get started in, and doesn’t require the frustration and attention to detail that the traditional racing classes do. A good example of this is Fastlane's Traxxas Bandit Spec Buggy class which allows a LiPo battery, Anaconda Traxxas tires, and MINIMUM "upgrades" allowed out of the box.
If you are an experienced racer, consider where you started and encourage new racers to find a vehicle and class that won’t be overwhelming and drive them out of R/C faster than they came in. In other words, just because YOU may be ready for a Mod 2wd Buggy or Nitro 1/8 Buggy, that doesn't mean that is the best choice for your new racer buddies. Encourage them to find a class that is fun for them, easy to get involved, and will be a good stepping stone to learn, advance, and keep their interest in R/C for years to come.