As both a competitor and race official I’ve been to my fair share of RC tracks over the years. Indoors, outdoors, on-road, off-road, temporary and permanent. Each and every one is different in some way and in many respects that’s what makes the sport of RC racing so enthralling. I’ve got my most and least favourites as I’m sure you have too, and I’ve also come to learn that there are several factors in determining whether I ‘like’ a track or not. It could be a particular corner, a chicane complex or even just an individual race I’ve had on a track that makes it live long in my memory. It’s all of those things too that often make a track one that I’d like to forget, but sadly can’t!
The class in which I’m predominantly involved is 1/12 Electric On-Road. In Europe and for the most part globally, this class is raced on temporary carpet tracks which are usually located in sports halls or warehouses. In most cases, a band of willing volunteers roll out carpet and build a track which is raced on before being packed up and stored or taken away until next time. The time and effort that these volunteers commit to our hobby should not be underestimated; without them we’d simply have nowhere to race, so thank you if you’re one of them.
So what makes a ‘good’ 1/12 scale track? You could ask 10 people that question and get 10 different answers. In that sense it’s a very subjective topic, but I think there are a few things that the majority would agree on.
• Generally speaking where the racing surface is concerned, the flatter the better! This is a combination of floor and carpet; a well laid rug will always be let down by a bumpy floor, and a perfectly flat floor is worthless if the carpet laid on it is rippled and creased. The carpet should also be in good condition, of the correct type and not worn out.
• The place needs to be well lit. The speed at which the cars move these days means that a gloomy, dim hall will do nothing to enhance the racing spectacle as drivers will end up spending more time trying to actually see their car than they do racing it properly.
• Decent track markers are a must. Forget the physical layout of the circuit for a moment; I have raced on some stunning layouts that were ruined by track markings that can only be described as useless. There is no place on a 1/12 scale track for any kind of track or corner marker that can easily launch a car 1 metre into the air. Shallow dots and thin plastic ‘kerbing’ is fine, but triangular shaped guard rails, raised dots and the dreaded Road Rail really aren’t suitable for this class of racing. I appreciate the limitations that some clubs/venues have where storage is concerned, but there really is no substitute for square, white plastic tubing.
• The driver’s stand; it needs to be sufficiently tall to give a good view of the track, and preferably set back from the track edge by at least 1 metre. How many times have I been stood on a driver’s stand, only to find myself trying to look through the transmitter of the guy stood next to me in order to see the lower left and right hand corners? If you’ve never had that problem at a race event, consider yourself to be very lucky (or perhaps very tall?!)
The above is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you do the above bits well you’re most of the way there.
Where are the best tracks found then? I bet some of you are sat reading this and thinking “That’s easy, the best tracks are found at the biggest and most prestigious events…”
I’m afraid you couldn’t be more wrong! In recent years I’ve raced at some pretty big events that were completely let down by the state of the track being raced on. Hideous bumps, bad lighting, rubbish track markers, horrible grip, poor layout – in fact there have been very few international 1/12 scale races that I’ve come away from thinking “wow, what an awesome track that was”. It’s a shame really, as it’s these events which should set the standard by which all others are measured.
Perhaps I have high expectations though? I form part of a group of people who put together the BRCA 1/12 scale nationals each winter. We run 6 2-day events from October to March, and over the winter just gone we had over 100 competitors at every race meeting. It is the biggest and best 1/12 scale race series in the world and I would be happy to justify that to anybody. I am proud to be a part of it and extend an open invitation to any overseas competitors to come and sample it for themselves.
Why then, with such a healthy UK national series, could the UK only muster about 12 drivers to go and race at the EFRA Euros in Italy last month? There was a time not so long ago when there would be a 30-strong British team at the Euros and we’d have at least 3 drivers in every final. Despite my best efforts in generating interest, the majority now choose to stay away time after time.
I asked a few of the people who were once Euro’s regulars why they no longer attend, and I think the best answer I got which sums it up perfectly was; “It’s a lot of money and a long way to go to be disappointed”. It’s not the racing or their results that they are disappointed by, but rather the venues, tracks and often the general organisation.
Of the 10 or so 1/12 Euro’s meetings I’ve done over the years, around half of the tracks would not meet the required standard to even be considered for a UK national. Is it any wonder then that people are put off attending these events? 100 Euros entry fee and 50 Euros for an EFRA license – you could race at 3 UK nationals (half the season!) for less money. More racing and on better tracks; what’s not to like about that?!
So what can be done to improve things? Well that’s something that could be debated and discussed for hours. However, I do think that the money that competitors pay could be put to much better use in improving the standard of the tracks and facilities. The events need to be attractive to the average Joe, so that they come away feeling as though they’ve got their money’s worth. Where does all that money go at the moment? To me as an outsider, it’s not immediately obvious if I’m honest. A Euros should feel like a much higher standard of event that is more professional and feel more special than pretty much anything apart for the World Championships. Despite that, I’ve been to Sunday morning club races where the track and facilities were better than at some of the Euros I’ve done. How can that be acceptable?