The Key to Winning Races

Have you ever watched the fast guys race and wonder how they do it? Why are they so fast? If you race in the same class you may think as many others do–those guys must be cheating. Or, you go with option two and quickly come to the conclusion that many others also do–you need a faster motor. Odds are you’re–and everyone else is–wrong on both accounts. The key to winning races is–drum roll, please–momentum. Wait, keep reading! There’s more. Well, there’s more to it than just knowing momentum wins races. You can’t buy momentum. You can’t dial in momentum. You can’t really even just practice momentum. You have to understand momentum.

You want to drive around the track in a smooth, fluid manner. Basically, the opposite way about 80% of the way people racing RC trucks drive. Even if your truck is blazing fast and throws dirt like it’s its job, think of it as under powered. Drive like it’s under powered. Full-size racers get this. Especially the guys and gals running in any of the cost-controlled sports car series. Every time they drive a little too crazy and have to slow down, they know accelerating from a slow speed is just going to kill them. If you’re finding yourself constantly accelerating hard, you’re doing it wrong. That may look fast, but trust me, it’s slow.

I often feel like I’m living that movie Groundhog Day when I’m corner marshaling. The reason is there’s always one or two trucks that crash in the same spot lap after lap. This is a huge momentum killer. We all crash, but we have to learn from our mistakes. If you’ve rolled your truck in the same corner twice, odds are there’s something you can’t see. Slow down, change your line. Whatever time you fear you’ll lose by going wide or by–gasp–letting off the throttle, you’ll more than makeup by not crashing–lap after lap after lap. The same goes for jumps. If you’re not landing the monster triple after trying it 10 times, you’re not going to get it on the 11th try. The bottom line is slowing down a bit and maintaining momentum may cost you a few fractions of a second, but crashing can cost you a few laps.

Brake straight, accelerate in the corners. In the real world, that’s how you drive everything from an Indy car to a short course truck. It works the same in RC. Driving like this–forcing yourself to drive with this in mind–will help you maintain momentum. Driving should be very deliberate–at least at first. You have to think about what you’re doing and you should be 100% in control. At first, this will all seem somewhat more labor intensive compared to just slamming your truck around the track. Eventually, however, it will become second nature and you’ll able to concentrate on other aspects of the race such as your competition.

This tip is a two-for-one special. Part one you may have heard of, or noticed someone doing, and it’s to take a break from the oh-so-important task of bench racing to walk the track. This is done to give you a close look at what the track really looks like. You’ll spot all sorts of dips, divots, bad jump faces that you would never be able to see from the drivers’ stand. That will certainly help you go faster. Part two is more to the subject at hand–momentum. After you have walked the track and seen what spots needed to avoided, walk the track again and specifically walk the line you plan to drive. Pay special attention to picking a line that allows you to smoothly flow from one corner to the next. Keep in mind that tight to the pipe isn’t always the fastest way around absolutely every corner. Also, look for corners that be taken together. You’ll maintain much more momentum if you can take two corners in one large, smooth arc as opposed as two distinct corners.

Racing might seem like it’s all about the trucks, the track, the competition, going fast, making passes, landing jumps, etc, etc, but it isn’t. Racing is a mental game. You actually need to get all of that other stuff out of your head. That is getting in the zone. You’ll see someone get in the zone. They usually throw down a couple of clean, fast laps early and then just…put it in cruise control. When you follow the preceding four tips and get in the zone, you’ll be experiencing the closest thing to a Zen-like moment you can have in RC. You’ll also most likely check out from the competition have them wondering why you’re so fast.


Photo by Patricia M. Strickland

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  1. Makes very good sense. Consistent good speed throughout is better than SOME fast speed and SOME slow speed…cool

  2. understood. i went from 540 motor in my slash with 3s to 550 motor with 2s for better traction control in the turns. i dont have to drive as hard to stay up with the pack and i take passes if they come, no need to force it anyway it’s just rc!!!

  3. awesome article, very interesting. I am new to racing but this makes a lot of sense. Please keep keep on the good work.

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