By Aaron Waldron
If you’ve raced an RC car more than twice, you probably have your favorite brand of chassis, electronics, tires, and maybe even radio. Chances are it’s the manufacturer of your own equipment, unless you’re aspiring to someday purchase the equipment of your favorite pro driver. Brand identity is as American as a Marie Callender’s apple pie (but not Sara Lee - GTFOH).
After all, you’re confident that you purchased the best products money could buy. And no one, ever, will be able to convince you otherwise - without making concessions for budget or availability, few publicly own up to buyers’ remorse.
Browse any RC forum or social media discussion and you’re likely to see passionate partisanship on both sides of any argument, whether it’s rooting for one’s favorite brand to win an upcoming race or detractors insisting the previous weekend’s winner “could’ve driven a shoebox/brick/trash can/a Tyco car” to the win.
(Is that actually supposed to make it better, not worse, that your favorite got beat? “That driver could’ve beaten my guy with a bag of dog poop!” doesn’t seem like the best Monday morning defense, but I digress.)
Above all else, RC racing is a mental activity. If you think your car sucks, you’re not likely going to perform at your best - and that’s at the root of every RC racer’s brand preference. Very rarely will you hear any racer - from the sportsman to the seasoned pro - admit their car wasn’t the best it could be…and if they do, they almost certainly didn’t win.
That boost in confidence also explains why every racer goes faster when they switch brands to something new - be it the latest and greatest, or whatever fringe manufacturer offered them a discount. There’s actually a psychological explanation behind why every driver that switches from Brand X to Brand Y suddenly goes faster; because it’s a new feeling, and for most mortal humans that requires taking a fresh approach and unlearning bad driving habits. Of course, if someone’s old car/motor/radio was clapped out and not working properly, of course they’d go faster with new equipment regardless of what brand it is.
That level of fanatical fandom is what makes any industry, whether it’s cola, full-size pickup trucks or RC cars go ‘round - and manufacturers have capitalized on it, from filling up rosters of 50% team drivers to creating catchy social media hashtags. Whereas most people tend to support their nearest pro or college sports franchises, the accessibility of RC racing gives savvy RC industry brands incredible leverage to create a sense of community. It’s healthy and good for the industry - to a point.
As Tekno RC team manager Ilias Arkoudaris explained in his Talk It Up Tuesday interview a couple of weeks ago, brand preference can fracture what’s otherwise a closely-knit group of like-minded hobbyists. The “team” atmosphere can sometimes function as trendy cliques in high school, making the pit areas at club races or national events seem uninviting. Drivers are applauded for helping those who own products made by someone other than their sponsors, when that kind of helpful behavior should be the norm rather than the exception. Friendly smack-talk can be fun, and even healthy, but when that division devolves into derision there’s more harm to be done to our hobby than good.
It’s totally okay to think your car is the best; in fact, it’s even productive. What matters, of course, is how you treat your purchase decision - and that of the racers around you.