Nobody Cares

Quick, who won the last 1/8-buggy IFMAR world championship? Globally, that’s the premier racing class–the one to win if you want to prove you’re the best of the best. Try this one: Who is the current ROAR 4WD short course national champion? That’s universally the biggest class across the U.S. right now. Not good with names? Okay. Last year, which vehicle manufacturer took home the most ROAR national championships? That is to say who was the winning-est company last year?

How did you do? Nail three out of three? Doubt it. Get two right? Slim chance. One? Maybe. None? You probably have plenty of company. Yup, you and just about everyone else got none right. But you race every weekend, how did you not know this? The reason is nobody cares. It’s not that the pro-level racers aren’t doing a great job of duking it out for all they’re worth or that races haven’t been exciting. And despite bandwagon thought and opinion, ROAR isn’t to blame. In fact, it isn’t any one thing.

Originally, ROAR (Remotely Operated Auto Racers), the premier U.S. RC racing sanctioning body, was created for ordinary enthusiasts to compete at the local level and up. That is to say its main mission isn’t to create a platform for manufacturers to win championships. It’s a sanctioning body for club-level racing with the structure to establish a national champion. I’ll take some liberty and say its main mission is to create rules that can work at the local level on up to the national level. ROAR, like its RC airplane counterpart the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics), also provides insurance that, for one thing, makes it possible for clubs to get the support on town and have access to town property for tracks. ROAR, however, is not a business like NASCAR or F1. It is also run entirely by volunteers. So, while it’s convenient to blame ROAR, they are essentially off the hook.

Let’s get back to the original question regarding why don’t people care about who wins what. While the answer is multifacited and, well, complex, the solution isn’t. The solution is: Give them something they will care about. For years we have ignored that we don’t have a meaningful pro-level national championship system. It’s really in the manufacturers’ best interests to have a platform that people care about. Presently, manufacturers invest thousands and thousands on racing efforts and it’s arguably highly unlikely that their efforts pay off–at all. Racing is marketing (yes, it’s also research), and if a marketing effort doesn’t show any real return on investment, maybe it’s not such a good marketing effort. Race wins used to sell kits. One of the biggest reasons race wins don’t necessarily mean more kits sold is that racing is massively diluted. Not only are there a whole slew of classes, but there are more “national” championships than you can imagine. Every time a class and race is added, the others lose meaning.

I propose that the manufacturers–partnering with ROAR–establish a true pro-level national championship. Hold three races during the year–one west coast, one midwest and one east coast. These three races essentially get treated like a point series. Yes, I am well aware of the RC Pro Series. I see something different being needed. No finals, no long point series, no adding to the mess of races. Each of the three races is equal, but the overall champion gets the big prize. Entries should be limited and the number of classes should be small (I suggest 1/8-scale nitro buggy and 4WD Modified short course). This seems pretty simply, so one might wonder why it hasn’t happened. It hasn’t happened because there’s more unity in the Middle East than there is in the RC industry. This simple idea would take companies coming together and actually working together on something that would be for everyone’s greater good and not just their immediate benefit.

What do you think? What would make you care?

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  1. Excellent article. I spent thousands of dollars to learn what your article covers. Unfortunately RC racing has never been anything close to full scale racing in regards to adding value to winning big races and name recognition yet there are literally thousands of people who do race RC cars and trucks.

    1. You hit upon an awesome idea–added value. I would love to see the manufacturers have to buy in and have the winner receive a substantial prize. Racers get paid now for wins, but it’s kept secret. It would be a whole lot more interesting if viewers knew $20,000 was on the line.

  2. I care. I’m one of those people who watches the 1/8th scale World Champs However in large part, I think Most people don’t care about the plethora of “World” championship races as they are not directly relevant to what most people are doing at their own track or in their own enjoyment of the hobby. I think people would care more if there were better coverage. Why can’t RC be televised? Look at the recent Worlds and you will see that there was nearly no spectators. Think about the size of a football field in relation to the side of the stands for that football field. Crowds and spectators are part of design phase of any stadium. Look at your local RC track, does it even have a place for people to watch? As it stands now, spectating and RC don’t really gel. If you are not behind the transmitter, chances are you’re not watching RC…which is too bad because it could make for a great spectator sport…

    1. While it’s a whole new can o’ worms, RC probably wouldn’t make for very cool TV. Because we (the drivers) are removed, the interest is removed. It makes for an interesting 15-second clip, but it’s not going to be on ESPN any time soon. No people equals no drama which equals no interest.

  3. You nailed a big part of it Matt – too many “championship” races, too many classes, and too many sanctioning bodies. I see now there is another sanctioning body starting up. You flip the pages of any RC mag and every 5 pages or so is an ad for some product that is used by some champion from some big race. Yawn.

    Another issue is these guys have no format like TV to promote themselves or a venue for the general population to get to know their personalities. NASCAR is great for this – when I first started paying attention to NASCAR I knew Tony Stewart was the hot head that wanted to fist fight everyone. Good enough for me! LOL As it stands in RC without having something memorable to think of when seeing a picture of a racer on a page in a magazine – then everything is very vanilla. I have no feel for who Cody King, Jared Tebo, or Ryan Cavalieri really is and that makes them less than memorable.

    I think the hobby would have potential for TV…I really do. Think of a half hour show – chronicle a driver for 10 minutes, show highlights from the qualifying heats, and extended highlights of the main. I think there is potential there. The problem is you can’t think prime time ESPN. Motocross started off by being aired on ESPN2 at 3am. It took a long time to get the TV coverage where it is today.

    It is rare I take an RC car somewhere or take a friend to a race without them being totally pumped up about it. Part of the problem is not many people know that RC cars are raced in an organized format. Case in point – last year my daughter was in a dance class. Over the course of the year you get to know the other parent’s in the waiting room. One night there were 12 or so parents sitting there, and another dad asked me, “What do you guys have going on this weekend?” I told him that my son and I were going RC car racing. The room went dead silent and 11 other parents looked at me like I was from another planet. Not a single person in that room realized there were organized races for RC cars. Most were completely dumbfounded that a select few people make a living racing RC cars! I literally spent the next 30 minutes explaining everything about RC racing. The questions were so elementary you could tell that these people had no idea about any of it, and we’re talking about a younger crowd too.

    If you could have one sanctioning body, condense the classes, expose the drivers and their personalities, get some manufacturer backing, get some mainstream exposure, and get it on TV (even if it is 3am on Fuel TV) I think we would care more. As it stands I can’t answer a single one of your questions, and the sad part is I don’t feel the least bit bad about that either. LOL

    1. One thing ROAR or whoever could do to help the interest level is have races video recorded, edited and posted on their site and have bios and stats on pros. I think that combined with a cash prize would add some excitement. More interest means a whole lot more benefit for the manufacturers.

      1. That is a great point Matt. With the internet and social media ROAR could do a lot more promotion wise.

  4. I you guys are right. Coverage of the race would not draw the size of crowds needed, to justify putting races on tv. The best we could hope for in this hobby, might be a weekly half hour show with a mix of racing clips and tech talk. Maybe some promo videos. I know these are a lot of things we see on websites, but maybe some good tv personality would draw out some new fans. It would certainly need to be packaged better. For right now, you have to basically do research, to get results on these races. That’s a lot more work than an average RC hobbyist, is willing to commit to. Definitely agree with the point that the manufacturers need to work together to put something together.

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