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?