June 18, 2013

Watered Down Racing?

Watered Down Racing?

I was fortunate to spend a day last week at another sporting event in the UK.  One which was interrupted throughout the day by rain showers.  During one of the numerous showers, during which the event was stopped, I thought about how the rain also affects our sport. Racing outdoors, which forms the majority of the important races in almost every R/C class, always has the potential to be affected by the weather.  Obviously, some classes, such as the offroad classes, can be less affected, but generally a change in weather means a change in set-up, a change in attitudes and often, a change in results.  Of course, we’d all love to have facilities like this weekend’s ETS venue in Austria, or the ROAR Nationals track in Texas – an “outdoor” track with a roof!

It seems every class, country and event has a different way of dealing with weather interruptions. Some will continue on regardless, some will switch to different rules to take account of rain affected heats, and some will stop completely until the circuit has dried.  From my point of view as a racer, I hate racing in the rain.  There’s a chance of destroying electronics, bearings and other parts of the car, not to mention my colourful hi-top trainers.  As an event organiser, I also hate racing in the rain.  The rain will of course never fall at the end of a completed round, it will dry mid-way through a round and people may get a ‘better’ track through the luck of being in a different heat to their competitor.  We saw at the 2012 Electric Touring Car Worlds how unclear the rules can be sometimes.

But then again, if you’ve gone to an event to race, many people want to just get on and race, regardless of the conditions.  Some of my own best results have come from meetings affected by rain…..

I was at the ETS race in Apeldoorn last month, one of the meetings affected by rain showers.  I will admit, I was skeptical at first at the decision made by the organising team to compact the schedule in order to complete an almost-full schedule but only racing in the dry.  However, as the event went on, I realised this was absolutely the right decision for that meeting.  We got a sensible number of practice, qualifying and final rounds in, always on a dry track.  It was fair for everyone – I know I was beaten (by many, many people!) not by them being lucky enough to be on the track at the right time, but by them getting the same track conditions as me and just being, well, better than me.

Of course, that approach may not work for every event – and in many off-road events the weather has little impact on the speed of the track in the first place – but I’d think it should be something race organisers should seriously consider.  Racing is expensive and yes, whilst I’m sure everyone would like to race as much as possible, I’m also sure people would rather have 1 or 2 less races in a meeting and know they will go home with their electronics intact, and not have to worry about spending another night at home drying themselves off, just to manage a 45th place score.  But we also need clear and consistent rules, so everyone knows where they stand before the rain starts!

I think I ought to probably end this with the same sentence as my previous column…. you can’t please all the people all the time.

Have an opinion on the topics discussed? Leave them in the comments below.

Oli Meggitt is a race organiser, announcer, RC racer and has also been known to stand and talk in front of a camera. Now a columnist for Red RC you can read his thoughts, insights and ramblings fortnightly.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.


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