Club Racing Reinvented

Ready for analogy that is funny because it’s true and yet also not really all that funny because it’s too true? Here ya go: You’re more likely to find standing water on the moon than an RC racer that embraces change. When it comes to how we do things in RC racing, we do them that way because we’ve always done them that way and will continue to do them that way because, well, that’s the way we do them. What’s worse–and this is the hallmark of a true RC racer–any suggestion of change will be challenged with zeal that would make a member of the Taliban say, “Whoa, dude, settle down.” I am talking about how we do club racing, and yes, this isn’t the first time I’ve hopped on the soapbox about club racing. I am on a one-man crusade to put an end to qualifying.

I’ve made the joke in the past about how crazy the typical race day sounds if you explained it in detail to a non-rc’er. From getting up early to setting up a mini camp to a little bit of practice to sitting around to qualify to determine how the ten guys and your class will line just to throw all out the door in the first turn to the inevitable delays to the fact that the races are usually around or less than ten minutes long.

The whole mess revolves around the fact that the typical RC format is an adaptation a full-size dirt oval race program. The system of qualifying heats and tiered mains made sense when 50 or so racers showed up to race in two classes. Times have changed, typical race attendance fluctuates week to week and two classes–2WD buggy and 4WD buggy–have been supplemented by dozens of possible classes to run. These days, instead of needing to sort a few dozen or so racers in a class, there are usually ten or less drivers in each of the five or more classes. When there aren’t enough drivers for multiple mains, qualifying is absolutely pointless. And, I always get a kick when the race announcer does his job and reminds us that we’re racing against the clock and not each other. Boo that! I’ll take this one big step further and state that qualifying is pointless even if there are enough drivers to require A-, B- and C-mains.

What’s the fix? Less qualifying and more racing. With my proposal–that I have put out there before and don’t pretend to take credit for–is to have weekly club racing be essentially run like a one-day point series. Think about it. Instead of being told you’re “racing against the clock” all day, you get to go for it every time you’re on the track. No qualifying–none, nada, zip, zero, zilch. Well, maybe one round, but we’re talking a short, short qualifier. Let me explain. Instead of three rounds of qualifying and one round of racing, a race day would consist of five rounds with a resort between each round. Some racers can run every round, other racers can leave early as needed or show up late as needed. At the end of the day, points are awarded with one round dropped and a bonus for racing every round.

Hypothetically, say there are 25 racers in 2WD 17.5 Short Course and the race director splits the drivers up in groups of 10, 8 and 7. If the racer who qualified in the bottom of the top group don’t put down a solid run, they–or the guys who qualified up top for that matter–will get bumped to the slower group and get less points in the next round. It’s important to note that there will still essentially be A, B, C and so on groups. Finishing first in the B should be the same points value as finishing last in the A group. If a racer shows up after round one, he gets put in group C. If he puts in a solid, fast run, after the resort, he’ll be in the fast Group A guys for round three.

I firmly believe this would make a typical club race a lot more exciting and meaningful, and yet, truth be told, I don’t believe any tracks will break tradition and try this. What do you think? Are you ready for a change?

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Matt Higgins About the Author: Matt has over 25 years of experience in RC and has worked professionally in media for over a decade. Matt enjoys everything from racing to rock crawling to bashing, and he believes RC should be all about having fun. Matt is as at home covering a world championship in an exotic country as he is showing a new hobbyist how to set gear mesh. His desire to share the hobby with as many people as possible inspired him to create RC Truck Stop and RCTruckStop.com.

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  1. Matt,

    I’ve been thinking the same type of thing about club racing. It is truly boring for spectators to show up and watch racing while having no idea who is in “the lead”. Back when we started at RC Excitement it was all heads up starts and we just went at it and had a blast! I also believe it’s time for a change and with the influx of all the new racers we’ve had as of late I believe the timing is great. Once things settle down after the holidays, we’ll switch over and put the fun back into club racing.

    Todd
    President
    RC Excitement

  2. Justin robinson says:

    I think I might start doing something like this at my track. Maybes just treat it as if it was multiple mins and give points for your finishes. It would be a little more on the edge of your seat when your dealing with small groups. I like the normal qualifier setup where I race now over the winter as 50 guys in one class can make it kinda tough. But this is a great idea and truely would put a little more fun back into the hobby/sport.

    Justin robinson
    Mad Joes Raceway
    Upstate NY 12957

  3. James Mikoliczyk says:

    Intresting take on a format change,

    I would agree with the first paragraph 100%. Racers (and people in general) don’t like change. Even more so if it’s a change just for the sake of change.

    Totally do away with qualifying? That’s a big step, rather leap. There has to be some kind. Every type of racing has that. How it gets done differs from one type to another. There are many ways to do that, so I’m not sure which one, if any, would be the best option for RC racing. The one that I think might work best is taking a 3 or 5 lap consistant average. That heat could be shorter in duration. Remember that in a lot of full scale racing, it’s qualify or go home.

    Ture, trying to explain in detail to someone or someones what a typical RC race day/night consists of that isn’t versed in RC is a challenge. Many times they will look at the RC’er as though they are nuts for spending that kind of time. I’m thinking that is in part, because they don’t get it or aren’t in to Rc’ing/RC racing to begin with. It is likely that some will never get it, while others will to a point. It’s at that point, things such as this start to come up and the talk of change becomes a focus. Which tends to become a bit of a tense situation for the veteran racer vs. the new racers.

    Since the mention of time spent at the track vs. actual racing on that track was made. Allow me to point out a couple of full scale racing types that actually have very sinular situations. Keeping in mind that if a racer form either type was trying to give a full detail of a typical race day/night to a person that isn’t versed in that type of racing, would probably get the same “you guys are nuts look”.

    NASCAR:
    Those guys qualify a day or two before and then race. They show up to the track very early and spend most of the day waiting around just to race. Sure theres other things like Driver’s meetings and team neetings that they might have to do, but it’s still a huge amount of time waiting. Not so different than a RC race as fas as the amount of time spent not actually racing.

    Motorcross:
    These guys will do everything in one day. Practice, qualify, and race. This is very close to how we race RC’s. Still those racers will show up to a track very early, and then spend a large part of their day waiting around. Again there’s probably other things that those racers will do through out the day, but it’s still time spent not actually racing. Many people don’t get why anyone would want to do that.

    In both cases (there are other types of full scale racing that fall in line with them) a big part of their race day/night is spent not actually racing, yet are still at the track. Some don’t get why people would do that and other might get it, though would choose not to do that themselves. What is intresting is that you don’t hear too many racers complain about the time spent at the track (though I’m sure there are those that do complain). What’s a little more important is that not one of them is on a public campain to make drastic changes to their race program. I wonder why that is?

    I’m not saying that our RC race program(s)are perfect. In many cases it’s far from, still the current race day/night setup isn’t the worst either. Room for improvement, sure, but it’ll take a lot more than just changing how the race programs are run if one were going to go out and try to make a more perfect racing expeirance.

    The race program will take as long as it takes. Period. It can be as short or as long or anywhere in between as it takes. There’s very solid reasons and solutions out there on the net (and other places) as to why that is and what needs to be done to fix it. We have far too many classes trying to be raced at any given time. That to me makes for a much bigger issue. It seems that everyone now wants a class they can win in vs. a class or few classes that they can learn the most from. I’d rather see one class with 20 entires than 4 classes with 5 entires. Lets focus on fixing the people not the race.

    As far as spectaters go, RC racers are usualy their own spectaters. It is very rare to have a large group of spectaters at a RC race, though does happen (Worlds or another big event), just not so much on a local club level. If trying to make a change in racing and/or race program is sought simply for the benifit of spectaters being able to see a more exciting race, then we are failing ourselves. Once a change like that is made, that road leads to things being done solely for their benifit and not that of the racers. At that point, what would be the point of even racing? Remember that racing, or rather, competition in general was never started for the benifit of spectaters. It was always started by the idea that you could beat or do better than the next person doing the same thing. Spectaters were mearly a byproduct of that if people not involved in that race or competition deemed it to be intresting or exciting enough to come and see it.

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      I see what you’re saying, but keep in mind that there’s money on the line. NASCAR and Motocross are not hobbies. Plus, while NASCAR qualifying takes long, the run two laps of qualifying compared to 250 laps (generally) of racing. That isn’t even 1%. In RC, we can spend 75% of our on track time qualifying.

      I don’t want to come down too hard on racing as it is or seem to big too big of a critic, I’ll still race if nothing changes … but I sure would love to give change a shot.

  4. James Mikoliczyk says:

    Matt,
    I agree that both references I made do involve money and are as such not a “hobby”. Yet more and more people are simply focused on the time spent at the track not “racing”. Spending hours apon hours constantly trying to justify things in ways that makes little sence, yet to them are big issues. From the time and money spent, to the cost of entry fees for racing, to the time it takes to get through a race day/night. It is unforunetly more of those that are new to the RC hobby and/or racing side thereof. Perhaps more of a sign of the current secoiety in general. Give me convience or give me nothing mentality. Much of this is a fairly new issue for the hobby. I say in the last 5 years I have heard more complaints/ideas that I have ever heard in 20 years in the hobby.

    I agree that we do spend a lot of time on the track qualifying vs. racing. Yet if a race program is currently using a heads up start system, it’s more like racing than qualifying. Yet for some it’s still not enough. It constantly seems as though it’s never enough. I always thought that 2 3 or 4 minute quals and double or triple A mains could be a solution, but with all the classes that get run now, it’d be almost impossible to get it all done in a timely manner. At the very least keep the complaints to a minium. I still think that fixing the mindset of people is far more important than just fixing something that isn’t exactly broken. It can be better, but exactly how? Alas thereinles the issue.

    I’m not against change when needed. There is little doubt that many race programs could be better in their efficiency, even when it pretty well run. There is always room to improve there I think. It’s more of the revamping of the race programs that tend to get my blood boiling. More to the point, the reasons people give for or try to give for it. I see people asking for changes that I would have never tried to ask for. Don’t see the need to, or at the very least, have yet to hear a good enough reason to make a drastic race program change. Simply because someone thinks they know how to build a better mouse trap. When many times those same people don’t know or understand things enough to begin with.

    FOr example, every year I go to one or two big events. Spend a ton of time and money for very little actual track time. I wouldn’t dare ask for any special consideration because of the time and money I spent to be there. You know, make sure I get the most bang for my buck. Most people will say, well that’s a big event and it’s different than just a club race. To a point it is, and yet somehow it’s not. To me there’s no difference. I wouldn’t ask for special treatment there and I wouldn’t at a local club race. More and more though there are those that will do both. That mindset to me is the issue.

    Call me a purist, a die hard, old school. Call me what you will. This hobby and racing is where my passion is. My heart’s in it full time. It just pains me to see people who have no heart or passion for this hobby, try and do things that aren’t always for the better no matter how hard you might try to show them otherwise. This is a very broad generalization and not directed at just you Matt. Some times this old dog just won’t let go of his bone.

  5. Ed Sahm says:

    Hi Matt,
    We ran heads up racing in all of our Short Course classes this past summer. Everyone seemed pretty happy with the results. As an announcer and racer it definitely kept me on my toes all day. I am willing to do anything that increases the fun and interest in our hobby.

    Ed Sahm
    Manager
    Gallimods Hobby Shop

  6. Newbie Racer says:

    From the perspective of a newbie who could see himself really getting into racing (as well as most of my friends who are newbies as well) with other hobbies and a family…

    I’d love to race more but the time commitment on race day is more than what someone new to the sport is willing to commit. To try to convince my own brain and recruit friends to commit to 6-8hrs is too much. I can see someone who is fully into the sport committing this much time to racing, but it does little for getting a new guy hooked.

    Has anyone ever tried to split the day in half…for example…run 2wd buggy, 4wd buggy, stock Slash in the morning then 2wd sc, stadium, 4wd sc in the afternoon? That way, a person can only stay for 1/2 day if they want or if they’ve want to race all day they can. I’m sure it’s been tried before and probably failed, but until something changes I’ll continue going to practice a couple times a week and race a couple times a year.

    In talking to most of my newbie friends they agree the biggest thing holding them back from racing is the huge time commitment on race day. If we could be in/out in 2-3hrs we’d race every week or every other week at the minimum. Maybe that would get us hooked, and then we’d buy more/different cars and race all day like the veterans. But the all in or none approach is keeping new people away.

    • James Mikoliczyk says:

      This may seen a little bit harsh, and to an extent it is, and it’s not just directed at you Newbie Racer. This is something that, for whatever reason, is far deeper than RC. It speaks to the current scociety standards in which we find ourselves in and it’s not always for the better.

      What we have is a trend in thinking, a mind set, that it’s all about the convience and nothing else. Give me convience or give me nothing. That approach has become to be more of a Cancer than an aid. I don’t know how or why that became the way of things in my life time, but it’s here and as much as I’d like to see it go away, it’s surely not. People can try and spin it anyway they may want, justify it to themselves, others, family, friends, or however they may choose, but the bottom line doesn’t change. Give me convience or give me nothing.

      So let’s pick a few things apart a bit,

      First and foremost, the Hobby can be for anyone, the Racing or Competitive side, is not for everyone. Those two parts are vastly different form each other. The time commitments for the two are equally different. The point where one would choose or consider the cross over from one side to the other has to be looked at on a person to person basis. Why? Because, no one thing will work for everyone. At what point or where do you draw the line? What you say you won’t do if it can’t be done in a few hours, someone else will come along as say the same thing, but now they’ll want it done in only one or two hours. Again where do you draw the line?

      Once you start making execptions for a few, then you will have to make execptions for all. It’s a slippery slope to be sure. Like the bell that can’t be unrung. The only probelem is that most won’t see the problem until it’s too late. Then you find yourself being involved in or a part of something that is so far removed from where it started, it’s not even reccnognisable to what it was supposed to be. I don’t know if that’s what people are looking for, but it’s surely not for the betterment of the whole.

      So what is a hobby? A hobby is something, anything, that people do because it’s something they enjoy doing. Things that they can do when they have time for. Could be a lot of time spent doing that thing or those things, or a little time. The commitment is always a part of it, but not always a very high amount for most. Part of the how a Hobby can be for anyone. It has a convience.

      Competing or being competitive in anything is different, very different. So what does it mean? The time spent can be a huge amount and usually is. The commitment is very high. So much so, that when trying to be competitive in anything, it will quickly change from what may have started out as being a Hobby. It become almost all consuming and is the cause for a lot of sacrafices just to try and do. It has also been the cause for many, many, failed relationships, amongst other things. Why? Because, it’s requires that kind of high level comminment that many can’t or won’t do. Part of the how Racing or being Competitive isn’t for everyone.

      It comes down to how bad do you want to do it. There’s no other way if you’re even remotely trying to be competitive at something. You’ll either come to accecpt what it’s going to take, or you won’t. You’ll either make the sacrafices to be competitive, or you won’t. Can’t isn’t even in the picture, because if it’s something you want to do really bad enough, you’ll find a way to do it. All in or none approach as you stated. Not one single thing wrong with that. It’s not always going to be convient, never has, never will be. So the mind set of give me convience or give me nothing is very counter productive when looking at some form of competition. RC or otherwise.

      It is true that on any given race day/night in RC, we do tend to spend a pretty good amount of time doing so. Yet when that time is compared to any other type of racing, it’s actually not very much in comparaison. Might be hard to believe, but the truth is there. It’s something that people will choose to accecpt or not. Can it be different? Sure, but why? So some can have their convience first and foremost above all else. Change things to suit their own needs with little reguard to what that’ll do in the long term or how it affects the rest of the whole. Then we’ve come full circle and we’re back to where do you draw the iine?

      If you are one of the people that really enjoys the Hobby and doesn’t or can’t make or justify the things needed to try and enjoy the competitive side, then by all means please enjoy the Hobby. Just maybe consider leaving the competitive Racing side alone for those that equally enjoy that, and maybe even more than you would. The all or none approach isn’t the only thing keeping new people away. They just might be keeping themselves away and choose to blame things that have little to do with their choice, because in some cases, it’s clearly more of a personal issue than a RC issue.

  7. Newbie Racer says:

    From the perspective or a newbie (and several friends in a similar position) who has other hobbies and a family it really comes down to the massive time commitment racing requires.

    I would love to race more, but I can’t justify 6-8hrs on a Saturday to my own brain and my wife.

    If there was a way to split the sessions in two…for example…half classes in the morning and half in the afternoon…then someone who is new and has one car could be in/out in a couple hrs. The veteran who is fully into the sport can race both morning and afternoon sessions. I’m expect is has been tried and failed, but unless something changes I’ll stick with practicing a couple times a week and racing a couple times a year.

    I run around with about 5-6 other guys who love driving our rc cars, and we all agree it’s the time commitment on race day that keeps us from racing more. Surely we aren’t the only ones.

    • Matt Higgins Matt Higgins says:

      You hit upon the beauty of what I’m proposing. I’m in the same boat you are and, as you point out, we’re not alone. With my plan, guys like us can show up late or leave early and we’re there for actual racing. For example, we can show up early, race two rounds and leave. Traditionally, if we did that we would get two rounds of qualifying where we’re not supposed to race–boring. The same is true if guys like us show up late. The race director will throw us in the slowest group, but we can put down a good run (or not) and benefit from the reshuffle between each round.

  8. John Payer says:

    When I raced motocross there were tracks than ran a split program and tracks that ran a straight program. I hated racing at straight program tracks because it could be upwards of 4-5 hours between your races. Never thought of applying that to an RC track.

    I think there is a lot wrong with RC racing right now. From what I have been told by a few different track owners is that attendance is down across the board. Because of this a lot of promoters are trying to appeal to the bashers and casual racers along with the hardcore racers. You know what they say – when you try to please everyone you please no one.

    Personally I like the qualifying system because I can make set up changes and see how the truck reacts without hurting my overall results. I can’t make it to the practice nights so race night is my only time to test out new set ups.

    I guess that just under scores the point there is no perfect system to please everyone though.

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