WHERE'S WALDO: Smash the clocks and throw out the throwouts
Wednesday, Jan 28, 2015 05:21pm
By Aaron Waldron
By Aaron Waldron
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the current format of RC racing, particularly the fact that over 50% of the time that racers hit the track at any given event is practice - without results or lap times counting for absolutely anything. Having just returned from the Reedy Race of Champions, easily the most exciting and spectator friendly event in RC racing, I think there’s a lot more that we could do help freshen up the way RC races are organized and make them not only easier to follow, but more fun to compete in as well.
The biggest change would be getting rid of throw-outs. RC racers love drawing parallels between what we do and some form of full-size racing (most of which are a complete crock), but yet RC racing is the only form of competitive motorsport I know that has built-in mulligans. It’s as though the schedule for the common RC race was written by a six-year-old getting frustrated by a certain level of a video game and yelling “do over!” while lunging for the reset button.
Take, for instance, the typical club race. Most tracks run two qualifying rounds, and only count one of them. Swept and manicured indoor clay has largely reduced the “rocket round” phenomenon, but each driver still gets two chances to record their best time in a run that’s typically as long as the main event will be. That’s dedicating a lot of time toward giving each driver a “fair shot” when it will still likely boil down to the first couple laps of the main event anyway. Besides, how many club races ever have more than 2-3 heats of the same class?
Big races make even less sense. Drivers are sorted by practice times into heats with drivers of roughly their same speed. They score points in each of four rounds, sometimes with a second re-sort, and then their two best scores are added up with a complicated and oft-changed system of tiebreakers to sort the drivers for a third time. Then, when it’s time for the best racers to compete for the overall championship, they run three more times with only two counting.
Compare and contrast that with AMA Supercross, which many racers at the Reedy Race watched on TV from the pit area on Saturday night. In Supercross, all entrants qualify with a single best lap time completed during a timed session in order to make it to the night program, and then the clock stops mattering. You get two (or three, if you’re a 450 rider) chances to race your way into the main event, and then the winner of that main event gets the trophy.
(By the way - not only does the Invitational format of the Reedy Race absolutely rock, but the Open classes compete in double A-Mains like motocross - where both races count, and finishing position in the second race is the tiebreaker. It’s awesome.)
There have been multiple rule changes and all sorts of math put in place to make everything in RC racing “fair,” and they’ve all ventured further from good, old-fashioned, pass-the-car-in-front-of-you racing. And yet while Tyler Bowers can knock Cooper Webb into the cheap seats without a slap on the wrist (please, don’t start with Chad Reed’s cowardly sucker punch retaliation at the second Anaheim race), RC racers who stand absolutely no chance of injury will protest and raise up in protest over incidental contact despite no actual written bullet point frowning upon it (and a history of non-calls from the few races that actually arrange for a referee). We’ve managed to sanitize competition into a complicated form of time trials.
Unfortunately, operating every race like the Invitational class at the Reedy Race isn’t reasonable. Here’s what I propose:
First of all - knock it off with requiring a mile-long straightaway and a big, sweeping first turn. It only gives drivers time to build speed and form an aggressive bowl-and-run strategy. Everyone panicked about the 3/4 straightaway into a 180 at the Reedy Race and not only did it present an incredible passing opportunity, but the starts to the main events were no worse than any other track. If we spend less time qualifying and more time racing, drivers will learn to drive through turn one like civilized human beings and then race for position. The fewer starting rows the better; two cars per row is good, three or four is better. If you have to restart because one person tried to be a hero, send that person to the back.
Making this change to club races would be easy.
If there’s one heat per class:
- Random draw determines starting positions for heat #1. Second round, the grid is set by the finishing position in round one, and race for position - with the finishing order determine starting order for the main event. Race the main event.
If there’s more than one heat per class:
- Random draw determines starting positions for heat #1. Race heads up. Take the winners from each heat straight to the main. Race the second round, and take the top new drivers (that aren’t already in the main) by finishing position and time to fill the remaining spots on the grid (leaving two bump-up spots open). Run lower mains with bump-ups.
Everyone is guaranteed the same amount of track time they already do, and everyone gets a chance to race their way into the final - and then win.
Yes, the format for larger races would be complicated - but what we use already isn’t simple, either, and a scoring system (like LiveTime) is required to run everything automatically. If the heads-up format works for club racing, it could be adapted to the races as large as the Dirt Nitro Challenge and IFMAR Worlds with little difficulty.
What do you think?