This article was originally published in RC Driver’s May 2015 issue.
By Charlie Suangka
In many areas, there’s no such thing as a specific racing season. Between backyard tracks, indoor RC facilities and various club-operated racing scenes across the country, you can usually find someplace to go racing. So this month, let’s take a look at a few of the most important items to have with you the first time you go to the track, be it the backyard track, park track or your local full blow pro shop with race track.
The first item is not really a single thing; spare parts. You might get nervous and make a driving mistake, perhaps get taken out by a fellow racer in the heat of the battle and break a part. It is great to have a few crucial spare parts in your box along with various screws, clips, pins, body clips, double side tape and extra wheel nuts. Anything related to your vehicle, from the manual to the spare parts tree it came with should be along for the ride to the track. Most hobby shopstyle race tracks have a parts wall or pro shop and fellow racers can be very helpful as well, but being prepared with the basics can make your first day at the track a lot easier. It’s not to say that everyone breaks their car the first time at the track, in fact it’s very much the opposite. Often folks are amazed at the abuse their rigs take on the track. But if you happen to have an unlucky, fluke, break, you’ll be very relieved to have the ability to get back on the track.
Up next would be basic hand tools. Go beyond the simple tools that come with the vehicle and pick up a set of decent quality hand tools for wrenching. Any repairs on the vehicle will be easier and go much faster if needed. Less time in the pits means more time on the track running laps and getting faster. If you want to get the most out of your track time, picking up some tuning tools can be very helpful. Setting ride height and camber can make a huge difference. At a minimum, don’t be scared to ask someone to take a look over your vehicle and give the camber and ride height a “check-up”. Most racers are glad to help a newbie with the basics. Once you learn the ropes, having your own tuning tools will allow you to test and tune on your own simply and easily. GET THE POWER A LiPo charging bag is for sure a necessity. Most tracks require them and if they don’t, they should. You should use one at all times. Racing can be very hard on equipment and can cause funky things to happen both in the pits and to the equipment. A LiPo charging bag or ammo box will do wonders to turn a disaster into a slightly smaller problem. Another good thing is a quality balance charger. Part of racing safety is taking care of your battery and regardless of what some folks will tell you, balance charging is a big part of that. While you do not have to balance charge every single charge, it doesn’t hurt anything to do so, so be safe. You can also get external battery pack balance devices and cell voltage checkers to add to your arsenal of race know-how.
Bring a towel to set up your pits on. If a track has pit tables or you have to bring your own, you’ll want to bring a pit towel to set up on. If you want to be fancy, you can find pit mats from various racing brands at the hobby shops and tracks. Another option is to pick up your favorite color yoga mat and cut to size. GET GRIP Racing is often about the tires. Don’t be afraid to pick up the hot tire setup from the track’s pro shop. Usually there is a very good reason they are the favorite tire choice of the local racers. Some tracks have a tire additive that is popular and can make a huge difference in the grip level. Keep an eye out for what folks are doing to their tires and don’t be afraid to ask a few questions. Most racers are happy to share what they feel works well.
REMEMBER TO MEMBER
You will want to find out about the scoring the track uses and be prepared to purchase, rent or borrow a scoring transponder. Most tracks offer an option here, either to borrow or rent a house transponder, and they are available for purchase. Most run from one of the open slots in the vehicle’s receiver, so you’ll need to have access to the receiver to install. Some tracks require membership to ROAR and if you’re planning on racing often you may come across this. Some tracks offer monthly packages for practice sessions or club race benefits. Don’t be afraid to ask the shop pro’s questions. Most, when treated respectfully and attentively, will be extremely helpful and glad to point you in the right direction.
With some basic equipment and a little time, you can have an awesome first day at the track. Take your time getting around the track for the first few packs, get a rhythm and flow before you really try to go for it. It doesn’t hurt to let one of the faster drivers give your vehicle a lap or two to point you in the right direction for basic driving tactics. Remember, racing isn’t easy and getting around the track will take some time to get good at. Be patient and open minded to input from your fellow racers and you’ll have a great time learning the ropes. Happy Hot Laps folks!