By Aaron Waldron
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend RC races not only all over the U.S., but in Europe and Asia as well. My favorite part of traveling to these events is not just the opportunity to visit new places, but meeting people from all over the world - not to mention keeping up with racers I’ve known since I was in grade school. It’s always an eye-opening experience to see how fellow humans live so differently in other places, and the atmosphere of RC car racing on various parts of the globe is no different.
Particularly, it’s interesting to hear how those from a particular area compare their local scene to others, generalizing the idiosyncrasies of racing in a particular region in order to make a point. It’s not that most racers are quick to say that their home environment sucks, but they tend to focus on the quirks they find annoying - while ignoring what others find so appealing. It’s that whole “the grass is greener on the other side” concept, except that grass tracks are pretty much only found in Europe - because drivers in other areas of the world find grass racing absurd. And the actual color of the grass is irrelevant, because more tracks use artificial turf for their infields than the real stuff, at least stateside anyway - because US racers cannot possibly grasp the concept of a permanent track layout, a common occurrence in other parts of the world.
Americans have long maintained an elitist view of what off-road tracks are like in other places, preferring hardcore motocross-inspired layouts to the fast, sweeping, and often anything-but-flat courses of Europe. Yet, those same drivers are often the first to complain about the U.S. racing scene lacking the organization, pageantry, and importance placed on prestigious events. Europeans are quick to point out that even their largest races are nowhere near the Dirt Nitro Challenges, Snowbird Nationals, or Cactus Classics in terms of size and impact. Racers from North America and Europe alike comment on the laid-back atmosphere of racing in Asia, yet Asian racers overwhelmingly praise the timely direction and stricter schedule of races run by those from other parts of the globe.
Attitudes are different, too, especially when it comes to sportsmanship. In Europe, the mentality concerning rough driving often seems to be “ruin the other driver before he gets a chance to ruin you,” and it often gets swept under the rug, though it sounds like there was a bit of controversy about such tactics at last weekend’s Euro Touring Series race in Italy. In the U.S., racers will go so far as taking swings at each other on the drivers’ stand or pit area (or at least go on a social media tirade) over what may very well have been incidental contact - and they’ll hang onto the notion of particular overseas drivers driving “dirty” for years. At the AOC season opener in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago, my jaw hit the floor when 13.5 Boosted Touring Car Top Qualifier Daryl Thong shrugged off getting taken out at the beginning of A1. Daryl simply smiled and said, “That’s racing. I’ve got two more.” He won A2 and A3 to win the title. I’ve seen punches thrown at U.S. races for less than what happened to him.
It’s easy for a racer to gain perspective on other racing environments because they often travel to different tracks. However, track owners and race directors are often too busy keeping their own track going that they have little chance to get out to other events. Without being able to gauge what works and what could be improved, it’s difficult to decipher what’s often not-very-constructive feedback from racers who resort to just ragging on their local tracks and scene. Which means it’s up to the racers to channel their inner Ghandi - “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
If the race program is running slow, volunteer to help. Cover turn marshal spots. Help the track organize the flow onto the drivers’ stand and back out to the track to turn marshal afterward. Make sure you’re always ready for your race.
If you want to race at tracks with bigger turnouts, help organize a schedule of when drivers want to plan to attend certain local tracks. Social media provides a pretty simple communication tool. Get local facilities on board - would they rather get 50 entries twice a week, or 100 entries once?
And if you want the drivers at your local track to chill the heck out, lead by example. Next time you get taken out, don’t say anything - to either the competitor or the slow turn marshal. And when you inevitably run someone over, apologize as you wait for the car to regain its position. It’ll surprise you how infectious polite drivers’ stand behavior can be!