By Scory Kroll
If you've been racing for any length of time, you are probably familiar with qualification points (or "qual points"). Safe, fair, and incredibly un-sexy, qualification points allow for plenty of mulligans to make sure the best drivers rise to the top. It also accounts for changing track conditions, and promotes plenty of "work together" chants from the race director between yawns and casual discussions about the schedule. What time is the dash for cash again?
Needless to say, this isn't very exciting or easy to comprehend for spectators.
I'd argue that it isn't even that exciting for the drivers. Fair, yes. But exciting? Save that for mains day.
I'd like to suggest an alternative format to try for your next event, called the Heat Race Qualifying Format (or HRQF). A format I first heard about and saw in action at Scotty Ernst's RC Chili Bowl, the format uses heads up racing instead of traditional staggered timing for qualifiers. The higher you finish in qualifying races, the higher you seed in the mains.
I'll give you a format that I've seen work, but the fun is always in tweaking it for your local track.
Start with a practice round, ranking by Top 3 Consecutive laps. This is purely to make sure that races are seeded fairly in qualifiers. This will be boring, but necessary unless you already have another way of knowing the skill level of your drivers. The race director gets to take a nap.
QUALIFYING ROUND 1
Create races, but instead of stacking all your best guys in the final race of each class, spread the drivers evenly across all races. This means that if you have 8 drivers, your first race will have drivers 2, 4, 6, and 8. The second race would have 1, 3, 5, and 7. This means each race has an even distribution of racing talent. Run the races in a heads-up format. Either grid everyone by how they ranked, or line them up for a gate start (Motocross style). Race to the line. Wake the race director up, because he has some racing to call!
Every race awards drivers points for how they finish. 1 point for first. 2 points for second. You get the idea. In our example above, after the first round of qualifying two drivers will have 1 point, two drivers get 2 points, two drivers get 3 points, and two drivers get 4 points. Drivers will freak out and nit pick the tie breakers. Calm the masses down, this is just the first round. Raffle prizes make for great distractions.
QUALIFYING ROUND 2
So we have a lot of ties, right? That's great! The pressure builds as you head into round 2. Unless races are severely unbalanced, run the same drivers in the same races. However, to spice things up, grid the drivers in reverse finishing order. Run the races and award points the same way. Dodge radios flying off the driver's stand due to an unsuccessful passing attempt. Why are we doing this again?
SPECTATORS AND MAINS PRACTICE
Have you noticed that every race is a real race, with a clear winner and (hopefully!) an exciting race to call? How about the fact that your drivers are getting a lot more heads-up race practice? When your drivers go to major races they will have a better idea of how mains day feels. Not only that, but you've created a much better event for spectators to watch. Hopefully this format is also creating some intense moments that will be talked about later. Some rivalries. Reality TV contracts are just around the corner.
QUALIFYING ROUND 3
At this point you may be itching for a resort. Great. You can resort by best overall laps/time, best point finish so far, etc. I've seen this done a lot of different ways. The trick during this resort (or any resort in HRQF) is to make sure you are trying to balance the races. If one race is consistently a blowout, and others are tight contests, you'll need to see if changing the amount of drivers per race or reseeding can help.
Once you've run enough rounds, HRQF seeds mains the same way that qualification points do. Lowest overall points get you in. You can even do a best 2 of 3 rounds. One thing I would suggest, if you'd got enough class variety, is to consider bump-ups. That way, drivers always have that one last chance to get a good race in a make it to the top.
So, to conclude, if you are up for trying something different during qualifying and are open to some variety, I'd say give the HRQF a try. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below, and let’s continue to exchange ideas to make RC racing as exciting as it can be.
HRQF IS ALREADY AVAILABLE IN LIVETIME
For those running LiveTime, this format is built right in. Just select the HRQF format when creating your event, and all the reporting and seeding options will become available to you. Here is a little video on how to get that going: Heat Race Qualifying Format: