Hobby shop owners and race directors want happy customers who keep coming back. And, racers who feel like they stand a chance at winning often keep coming back. In obvious contrast, racers who don’t feel like they’ll ever win eventually don’t come back. It isn’t a hobby shop owner’s or race director’s job to make sure everyone wins, but they do want good competition. The same racer winning every week isn’t viewed as good competition. There’s nothing wrong with winning a lot. Winning is ultimately the point of racing, but just because the fast guy isn’t doing anything wrong doesn’t mean the other racers don’t think he or she is. And, that’s where claim rules come in. The most common claim rule is, by far, the motor claim rule, which means for a fee, the winner’s motor can be claimed by a competitor.
Claim rules satisfy the “I’m getting cheated” instinct. Claim rules, however, aren’t really about cheating. If a cheater motor wins the A-main, it needs to be taken out of circulation, not handed off to another racer. Claim rules level the playing field by making something others don’t have (in this case, race-winning motor) accessible to others. Again, claim rules aren’t typically about cheating. They may be a deterrent on some level, but they’re really about keeping competition fair and making sure everyone at the track has the same opportunities. Claim rules are about fairness, but do they level the playing field at the risk of bad blood?
Not all tracks use claim rules. In fact, most don’t, and in my experience, even when a claim rule exists, it’s rare to see the rule used. Racers are pretty divided on the subject. It can be a controversial topic, and it’s safe to say that, to many racers, claim rules feel like being punished for being fast. Winning takes talent, knowledge and effort. Those aren’t exactly things we want to see get punished. Some racers are just more talented than others. They have better hand-eye coordination, faster reflexes, better depth perception and better peripheral vision. Some racers have more knowledge than others. They know how to build cars better, setup cars better and tune motors better. Some racers put in more effort than others. They work hard on than cars in terms of setup and maintenance. They practice more. You can’t take any of those away from a winning racer, but you can take his or her motor . . . if there’s a claim rule. It might sound like I’m against claim rules, but that’s not really the case.
First, I believe claim rules are only appropriate in spec classes, where the equipment is supposed to be equal. I’ve never heard of claim rules being used in any other classes, but the idea of claiming a motor becomes a lot more palatable when you’re reminded that everyone is running the same motor.
Why have claim rules? I believe claim rules are good for the mental aspect. Most racers would never claim another racer’s motor, but they like the idea that they could. Say some racer has a magnet zapper, has a secret comm drop recipe and knows exactly how to break in a spec motor for maximum performance. Say he buys his motors in groups of ten and works his magic on each and only races the motors that really perform. If he’s lapping the entire field by five laps, his motor might be a good candidate for a claim.
What I believe most tracks get wrong with claim rules is the cost. If a new motor is $25, tracks will often set the claim cost at around $25. The racers loses his motor, but gets a new one. What about the value of his or her hard work? Isn’t knowledge worth something too? I’m all for claim rules, but the cost has to be higher. I recommend twice the cost of a new motor. So few people are claiming motors it’s not like it will kill the concept. I just don’t believe if a racer spent hours on a motor or even if he or she brought a pro-prepped motor (more about that topic here), he should lose his investment. My opinion isn’t shared by everyone. Talking with a race/class director, Brian Anderson, he stated he instituted a claim rule to keep the pro-prepped motors out of Vintage class. He settled on $35 to make it not worth potentially losing a $50+ motor. He’s seen pro-prepped motors ruin spec racing, further stating racers were spending well more than $100 on pro-prepped motors. Anderson also pointed me to a recent video of a racer dominating a field in a spec class. He gave the driver a lot of credit for his consistent driving and setup, but related how the other drivers were looking to pool their money to claim the motor. They didn’t want the motor and they were pooling their money to avoid one driver getting it; they wanted the suspect motor torn down.
Not everyone likes claim rules. Sponsored racer Josh Parrish states, “I am personally against a claim rule when it comes to a class using a stock Traxxas motor. Those motors are known for being inconsistent from the factory with some being good and some being duds. If someone were to claim my motor, I’d have to walk into the hobby shop and purchase a new one. That one could possibly be one of the “duds” and could result in spending more money than awarded during the claim. The other possible issue I see would be people filing a claim out of spite that is not based on performance. Some drivers are being beat at two points–the corners (handling) and driving ability (at the radio). In most cases, a race is not won down the straightaways. Also, I feel this penalizes the guys that know how to properly break in a motor.”
Did you know ROAR has a claim rule that started in 2019 with national events. It pertains to the spec wind classes and is a little different than a fellow racer claiming a motor. You can see the rule here.
Claim rules aren’t just an RC thing. Like much of RC racing, the idea is borrowed from full-size racing. You can find claim rules in everything from stock car racing to karting to even horse racing. What are your thoughts on claim rules? Does your track or any of the tracks you race at even have claim rules?