By Aaron Waldron
As a volunteer organization created to protect racers and maintain the integrity of our hobby, ROAR has helped shape the evolution of RC racing for over 40 years. From providing liability insurance for tracks, to developing rules to ensure a level playing field across different classifications, and serving as the North American bloc within IFMAR, ROAR’s influence is ingrained within RC racing from local tracks to the IFMAR World Championships.
ROAR also sanctions and organizes the National Championships for all its recognized disciplines, crowning the fastest racers in North America each year.
The 2015 ROAR Electric Off-Road Nationals hosted by SRS Raceway in Phoenix, AZ, will determine champions in seven different racing classes. As they do for six events per year, the organization has provided a four-person Race Management Team charged with enforcing applicable rules: race director Jeff Parker, announcer Ruben Benitez, Steve McLaughlin in technical inspection, and Tim Caporal to maintain the scoring system.
Along with the RMT, ROAR provided nearly $7,000 in precision equipment built specifically to enforce dimensional rules like minimum and maximum width, length, wheelbase, weight, tire size, and more.
On top of dimensional rules, electronics are submitted to intense scrutiny. Starting Wednesday evening, all racers must provide their batteries to the inspectors to prove they’re on the approval list - and they each received a sticker. Modified motors must also be approved (though because cheating with different modified motors is not common, nor a particular advantage, they will be systematically checked in post-race inspection).
The entrants in the three 17.5-spec classes have even more rules to follow. Stock-class drivers can submit up to three motors per vehicle to be torn down and inspected, then sealed for the duration of the event. Sealed motors may only be opened for maintenance or repair under the supervision of a ROAR official - and if you replace the rotor, that counts toward the three-motor limit. The goal is to prevent racers from pushing their motors to the point of blowing them up every run, which helps to control costs.
Stock racers must also purchase Pro-Line MC-compound Primes at the host track, which are then branded with a specific mark for easy identification, while racers in the modified classes can choose whichever tire they’d like. While tires may not have been much of a concern this week with everyone choosing slicks, what they’re allowed to coat them with was a topic of debate earlier in the week.
According to rule 7.3.8, ROAR will uphold a facility’s rules regarding traction additive as long as the rule is posted in the facility and on the race flyer. While SRS Raceway discourages traction additive, their in-house rule was not published in the official sign-up information and does not appear on signage throughout the pit area, so ROAR defaults to its regulation of banning toxic chemicals (such as kerosene and diesel fuel) as well as personally-developed mixtures that are not commercially available.
Like the tire sauce rule, many of ROAR’s regulations are simply to protect racers on the track and in the pit area - especially when it comes to the potential dangers of pushing LiPo batteries to the limit.
“Safety is our biggest concern,” said Parker as he described the different ways batteries will be inspected throughout the weekend. One of the rules that generated the most buzz leading up to this week was rule 18.104.22.168.3 - which mandated all batteries be charged at a rate equal to its capacity. Not only was the rule nearly impossible to police, but LiPo battery chemistry had continued to develop after it was originally put in place - and ROAR dropped the rule. “Now,” said Parker, “our stance is that a battery should be charged according to its manufacturers instructions.”
Though racers can charge their batteries faster, intentionally heating the packs will not be allowed - and before the race, all batteries must be within five degrees Fahrenheit of the ambient temperature. “Temperature can be hard to enforce,” said McLaughlin, “but we’ll monitor the temperature of packs at rest throughout the pit area to come up with a range - and that can help curb the advantage of overcharging.” While racers can check their batteries out of the car to calibrate their equipment and ensure they’re not charging past 8.400 volts, any driver who brings a race-ready car to pre-tech with a battery that is charged too high or warmed past the allowable temperature range will be disqualified.
Batteries must also be charged in a flame-resistant safety bag. “It’s in the host’s best interests to help with enforcing safety rules, like ensuring racers are using LiPo sacks,” said Parker, “and we’ll be walking through the pits and do spot checks. Ideally, we’d have one person whose job is just to patrol the pit area for such violations, but we’re not at that point yet.”
With over 100 racers from California to Florida and everywhere in between, the ROAR Race Management Team’s goal is to put together a race weekend that’s fair, fun, and safe.