How to bring more juniors back into racing?

I eluded to this post earlier today when I was reading an interesting piece titled Do Juniors Matter? in the latest Racing Lines magazine.

The simple answer to that question is, of course they do, they are the future of our sport.  However I am sure you knew that already! How to bring more of them back into racing is the much harder question to answer.  Certainly the steps taken by AARCMCC recently to create a Junior class with 2wd buggies and 17.5 turn motors is a step in the right direction.  What I am unsure of is if it is a large enough step, and if it is in the wrong direction?

In March 2014 I wrote a piece titled Do we need to modernise how we race?  where I lamented the lack of realism, and above all else, Fun! And I think that three letter word is part of the key in this instance, and not only for children.  Racers at all levels from club to 1:1 F1 driver tend to be intensely competitive, but if you aren’t having fun, to my mind it’s a waste of time.

Again in June 2014 I wrote about fun being an important factor for juniors in Why so serious? Now that post was a mix of my frustration at another too serious driver as well as the joy of 3 very young drivers having fun on the track.  These thoughts came into my mind recently as I hope that my son will race at the club a little this year in the novice class, and in the Junior class at our major event for the year, the Launceston R/C Cup.   While AARCMCC has very specific regulations for Junior, much the same as Stock 2wd Buggy in fact, our normal novice class is open to any 10th vehicle.  For the Launceston R/C Cup we are a little more specific, and I will paste them below:

  • This is an open 10th scale off-road class for drivers 13 years of age and younger
  • It is intended to provide an enjoyable class for younger children to race
  • The class is open to 2wd Short Course Trucks (following the normal rules for that class), Stadium Trucks and 10th Off-road buggies to minimum 17.5 turn brushless motors or RTR brushed.
  • No turbo/dynamic timing to be used on ESCs
  • 8th buggies/truggies are not permitted in this class.

So pretty much any reasonable 1:10 vehicle can race with either a 17.5 system, or a RTR system.  This opens things up to a very broad range of vehicles with Monster Trucks being pretty much the only thing that we try and avoid because of the significant scale difference.  Short Course Trucks are popular due to strength and availability, many have 2wd buggies and occasionally a brushed 4wd buggy and on the odd occasion, a rally car.  The point is that kids can race with THEIR car against kids of roughly their age, and have fun.  Most don’t care about how many laps they do, how fast their lap times are or what setup changes they need to do, they come along, race, and have fun.  This more open, FUN focused class is I think where the Junior class needs to be. Yes, it does not offer a level paying field, but if a junior driver is that competitive, it is time to race with the adults anyway as some of our U13 drivers do and have done in the past. Less serious regulations, more FUN!

Ok, so this is a very off road oriented answer, but for an on road answer I ask you to cast your eyes to, of all places, Italy.  You see Italy is the home of one of my favourite RC companies, Rally Legends (big rally fan here remember).  Rally legends make uncomplicated, great looking, RC Rally cars (and a dakar truck).  Basic, affordable, and, well, fun.  The company themselves run a race series called Back2Fun. For full details you can visit the information page at http://www.rallylegendseries.com/#!back2fun-eng/ctno  and http://www.rallylegendseries.com/. To quote Rally Legends, it is about “a return to the origins, to low cost fun and realism.” Sounds like a big tick to me.  Any Rally Legends car is eligible to race, but as they only make one chassis, really it is just different bodies. A full list of the rules are available and I do like rule 4 about behavior being in the class rules so to speak.  No modifications and minimal hop ups (upgrades) are allowed ad the stock 540 brushed motor is the only one allowed and there are limits to which pinion you can run with which tyres, a very level playing field all in all where the fun is the focus of the race.

I know, this is not the answer for every club or group everywhere in the country, but it allowes for less money to be spent, and more of the focus to be on fun that anything else.  In Off Road you could have cars like the Traxxas Bandit and Helion Criterion racing against a HPI Blitz, ARRMA Fury and ECX Circuit 2wd stadium truck, all with different motors and shapes and styles, but all having FUN!

I think I have had my 10c worth, so I will leave you with some footage from one of the Back2Fun rounds in Italy.

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