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Short Course Racing Tips—5 Tips For Faster Laps

Anyone with any racing experience will tell you that jumping from class to class isn’t as easy as just selecting a new model on your transmitter and picking up a new truck. And, many people think that because the scale appeal of short course attracts so many newcomers to the hobby that the class is for beginners and thus easy. The point is that short course racing takes just as much skill as any other class and even experienced racers can have a hard time adapting and succeeding. If you want to run at the front of the pack, check out these five tips:


1. Momentum

Racing is all about going fast, right? Well, if you’re constantly flying into corners, spraying dirt everywhere and ripping down the straights, you’re doing it wrong. You might feel like you’re going really fast and that may work to some degree with an overpowered truggy, but it’s the slow way to get a short course truck around the track. This is especially true if you’re in the 17.5-turn class. You can get away with a little bit of a heavy-handed driving style with 4WD class short course truck, but it is essential that you drive smoothly.  You should drive like you have an egg strapped to your truck. Drive smoothly and try to keep your truck always rolling.


2. Stay Out of Trouble

I lot of people think short course is the class where it’s OK to beat and bash. Let them think that and let them smash into each other. Just keep your distance and let the action unfold—don’t be a part of it. You’ll lose far less time by slightly hanging back in comparison to getting involved in a wreck. Think about the time you lose when you crash and then have to wait for a corner marshal as compared to when you just ease back a bit and wait for the right time to make a move. We’re talking the difference between ten seconds and a tenth of a second or maybe the difference between first and third.


3. Passing vs. Catching

There’s a difference? There very much is a difference between catching someone and passing them, but you’d never know it watching the typical RC race. Most racers just race as fast as they can try to get around people as they catch them. It sounds good, but catching and passing are simply too different acts. When you catch someone think about whether you’re at a good place to pass. Some slow cars can be blown by down the straight, but keep in mind that a phenomenon called target fixation almost always occurs when you try to pass someone on the straight. They focus on your car and essentially subconsciously drive right into. It looks like they’re trying to squeeze you off the straight, but usually it’s just an unintended rookie type mistake. The point is it’s almost always better to pass in corners. Drivers of equal ability will take some work (that’s what makes racing fun), but there is usually a corner or two they go wide on and most newer drivers are usually easy to pass on the corner going into the main straight as the almost always fly in wide and get back on the gas too soon. Just slow to the inside and out accelerate the on exit.


4. Like a Sports Car

Short course trucks are just like sports cars. Makes perfectly good sense…if you have experience with the racing of full-size cars—either as a driver or an entrenched fan. You see, sports car or road course racers know that you brake in straight lines and accelerate in corners. This is the foundation of proper performance driving. You should be 100% done slowing down before you get to a corner and you should be accelerating through and out of the corner.


5. Practice Smart

There may be no such thing as bad practice, but some practice is definitely better than others. Most racers get their practice in by showing up early on race day. They’ll get there hours before they really need to and then spend most of that time shooting the bull with the other “diehards” that show up at the crack of dawn. When the early birds do hit the track it’s on a dry track that is nothing like the one they’ll race on. Experimenting with tires and setup at this stage is completely pointless as while that practice is valuable, the track is simply nowhere near race shape. It’s far better to stay late and drive on the track after racing has concluded. Check with the race director first, but most don’t mind and you’ll be running on a track in is much closer to race condition. This is the time to try every tire combo you can think of and mess with your shocks.

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  1. Great article and very good advice. I wish I’d found it before the summer started….

    I bashed and occasionally “raced” stadium truck class in the late 90’s for a couple summers then moved on.

    Later, my wife (and awesome engine tuning “pit-girl”) and I raced Truggy class religiously from ’07 to 2012, and I became a very good driver, but I didn’t realize I was driving probably the easiest driving RC vehicle class in history. I learned the fundamentals, developed strategies and got good at tuning the whole truck for different track conditions.

    After a five year hiatus from racing, a good friend and racing buddy got me back into RC this summer, and I decided I’d try 4wd short course this time. Although it’s a tough,race proven and nimble truck, my new Losi Ten scte 3.0 soon showed me just how spoiled by Truggy racing I really was!! This thing made me look like I’d never held an RC transmitter before.

    Your example of “having an egg strapped to the truck” is spot on. I spent the better part this summer on my lid and in the pipes while desperately trying to drive that truck like I drove my Truggies….the harder I drove….the worse I got. I tried aftermarket shocks, every tire pattern out there, hotter batterie/motor/esc combos, and endless setups before finally remembering what (eventually) made me good at Truggy racing; ONLY DRIVE AS HARD AS YOU CAN MAINTAIN CONSISTENT CONTROL!

    I’ve found that I can still get in and stay in that mysterious place called “the zone”, but it’s an entirely different zone. There’s still a feeling of riding that thin edge between fast and losing control….you just can’t be AS close to that edge with a short course truck, or it’ll burn you!

  2. Another BIG thank you for the sports car driving style comparison. After reading that I consciously started breaking in straight lines and powering out of corners. I still not quite as fast (or young) as or tracks best short course guy, but it was that very piece of advice that allowed me to start climbing in the ranks from dead last every race.

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  4. Thank you so much, all of you, for the info! I use to race buggy, and trucks, all the time. I even built a track in my yard, back in the 90’s. I got to the point to have been partly sponsored.
    That was back then!
    Now everything seems, so, so different and complicated! ESC’s, motors, shocks, Tires, sizes of tires and or what kind of motors, brushed or brushless, kV or turns, sensored or sensorless, lights or sounds, bash or race, on road or off-road, F1 GT sport drag buggy truggy truck. Which vehicle manufacturer has the best product or which aftermarket product maker will be in business in a month? Is the weight of aluminum worth the durability or is it the price of carbon-fiber?

    Today, there are so many options and variables. Back then, in the old days, there were not nearly as many decision to calculate or worry about.
    This site has cleared many questions but, opened many more.

    Keep up the great work and keep explaining things as if we are all brand new to the sport, because, it does continue to evolve!

    We all need to remember, it is all about having FUN!
    THX again!

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