So, your short course race was ruined by a hack. It happens. As much as I try to tell other drivers (and myself) that the hacking is more frustration-fueled imagination than deliberate, malicious crashing, the fact remains that there are some clean racers and a whole lot more not-so-clean racers. So, how do you deal with the hacks? Read on and find out. You’ll lower your blood pressure and your lap times.
A LITTLE PSYCHOLOGY
I guess it doesn’t matter why you got hacked if the end result is the same, but hear me out anyways. The more you understand about why the vast majority of hacking takes place, the better you’ll be able to deal with it—both deal with it as in cope and deal with it as in employ countermeasures. Plus, with more understanding of the root cause of the problem the better you’ll be able to educate the guilty party (screaming “You F&*king Hack!” isn’t educating, by the way).
So, why do hacks hack? Well, there are a variety of interconnected reasons. The biggest is that there is no real risk. When you go too fast in a real car and fly off the road or into another car, people get hurt, cars get wrecked, you get sued, etc., etc. You have to be really bad at RC for any of that to happen. So, when Timmy is full throttle down the straight and comes up on a car or two in the corner, letting off the trigger never crosses his mind and he just goes for it. Why not, right? When everyone is piled up in the corner, Timmy just hops up and down waving and yelling for the corner marshal to fix the problem he doesn’t even realize was his fault.
Experienced drivers perform similar stunts, so don’t get too cocky. Many drivers attempt the “instant pass.” The instant pass is when you try to catch and pass all at once. When that works, there’s a lot of luck involved. Most of the time, this type of driving results in a wreck caused by a driver who thought he was going to make it or thought there was room. The experienced driver really isn’t all that different than Timmy. Both are driving RC cars like they’re RC cars. If they were inside the car, instead of 40 feet away on a drivers’ stand, they would drive a whole lot differently.
That 40 feet or so of distance brings up a related point. The above scenarios describe a lack of perspective. Well, many drivers not only figuratively lack perspective, but they quite literally lack perceptive. Sometimes drivers don’t hack you because they are trying to hit you, but because they lack depth perception. The bottom line is most drivers aren’t actually trying to crash into you. There is also the phenomenon of target fixation. This term comes from fighter pilots who so closely focus on an object to be avoided that they fixate and end up flying right into it. Forget airplanes, nowhere does this occur more than RC racing.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?
Most people start their RC “career” looking directly at the car. As your driving improves, your field of vision naturally widens. This will make you a better overall driver. Use your increased peripheral vision to your advantage. Look as far in front of your RC truck as possible. See wrecks before you get to them. Spot hacks before you get taken out. Increase your track awareness and you’ll avoid trouble and probably drive your truck a lot smoother by simply not narrowing your focus to the two feet of space it occupies at any given moment.
KNOW YOUR COMPETITION
If you race at the same track every weekend, in the same class with the same drivers, you have a huge advantage. Think a little. Know your competition. Believe me, the full-size short course racers know their competition. They know who they can race side by side with and who is guaranteed hit them and hit them hard. When you come up on a RC truck driven by a known aggressive driver, drive defensively. Wait until he goes wide—and he will. Aggressive drivers are extremely prone to making mistakes. Follow a known aggressive driver and he’ll take himself right out. What you don’t want to do is put yourself in a position where it’s easy for him to take both of you out. An attempted outside pass will likely result in him over driving and washing out wide right into you. Wait until he goes wide, and drive underneath. Be prepared that he may turn down into you thinking he’s blocking or cutting off the pass. So, be ready for that (you may need to let off the throttle and counter steer to recover from a hit). If you pass him, be prepared that he may drill you going into the next corner. Point is, you can’t trust everyone to race you clean. Know who you’re up against and use caution around the hacks.
You have probably heard the term defensive driving in reference to safe full-size car driving. All those principles apply to RC and are really fundamental to what is being discussed in this article. Below are some of the key elements to defensive driving:
- Stay focused, avoid distractions
- Be aware of other cars around you
- Give adequate space between you and other cars
- Don’t drive excessively fast
- Presume you’re the one who will have to avoid collisions
Who doesn’t appreciate a little personal space? RC trucks bouncing around a track definitely need space. The only time I like to get close to another race truck is to follow closely on flat straights. I do this only to pressure another driver, “get in their head” and hopefully cause them to make a mistake. You generally don’t want to follow too closely while racing, and running side by side down the straight almost always results in a wreck. Target fixation discussed above really comes into play when running side by side. And even if an opponent doesn’t drive into you, one bad bounce and you’re both wrecked. It is far better to follow close enough that they know you’re there. They’ll almost always drive into the next corner faster than they should and open a huge door.
Some races are hackfests. You leave the stand frustrated as all get out, but what you should really be frustrated about is the missed opportunity. If you had applied the tactics described above, you would have cruised to an easy victory. The uglier a race gets, the easier it is for a clean driver who uses his head to claim an easy win. Let everyone else get caught up in the messes. Focus on avoiding wrecks, not on going as fast as possible. Do this and the win will come right to you. Hackfests are opportunities, not disasters . . . if you have read this article!