July 2, 2013

Real World Relevance?

Real World Relevance?

My column this time around was going to be about tires. But, following the events of this weekend’s British Formula 1 Grand Prix, it appears all the best headlines have been snatched up by the newspapers across the world. In thinking about why manufacturers are involved in full size motorsport, I am reminded of a conversation I had last week with one of my racing friends. We were discussing the results of one of the recent RC World Championships and thus who the current World Champion driver and manufacturers were. He then replied “well, it doesn’t really matter to me, because I’m never going to race on that track or with those tires”. That got me thinking – one of the big movements in full size motorsport at present is to enhance the “real world relevance” of the various categories and formulas. Essentially, what is learnt from building faster, more efficient or more aerodynamic race cars filters through into the road cars you and I can buy. Does that also apply to the RC world?

Looking ahead to the 2013 World Championships, I currently understand that the 1/10 Electric Off Road Worlds will use a sugar-treated track, as was run at the Warm-Up meeting last month. Hardly anyone runs week-to-week on a track which is treated the same. The 2012 Electric Touring Car Worlds utilised a strict no-additive formula. And in almost every other electric touring car race, additive is allowed and significantly affects the car. Other classes have unique rules or formats for the World Championship events. Does that mean that the Worlds are not relevant to you and I, racing in regional or national events utilising quite different rules?

Let’s take a step back. The Worlds roll around only once every 2 years for each class. Manufacturers and drivers see these as “must win” races. Regardless of your current opinion of IFMAR, the World Championship title still holds a lot of prestige and importance. Teams will spend a lot of time, effort and money in preparing for this one race. Time will be spent testing at the circuit and unique, prototype parts will likely be used for this one race. Even though the winning manufacturer will often release a “Worlds Edition” of their winning vehicle, it probably wont include every one-off part they produced for the track, conditions and tire used at the World Championship event. So, regardless of the rules, teams will be using special parts, setups or even complete cars at a World-level event.

Generally speaking, that’s also the case for other top-level race events. Even though it doesn’t have a World Championship title, manufacturers equally put the effort and development time into other major events, such as the ETS, Dirt Nitro Challenge, TITC, Reedy Race and so on.

However, this effort often does filter down into the kits and products we can buy. Whatever is learnt at the high level events will ultimately be used to improve the cars, motors, engines or batteries. No two tracks or events are the same, but any big event is an opportunity for teams to investigate how to make their complete package faster, easier to work on or more reliable. We may not be able to buy the unique parts which happened to work on that particular track at that particular day, but we are able to buy the parts that those experiences have helped the teams develop. So, in a slightly long winded way, we do benefit from the development work that is done – in just the same way that I can’t go out and buy Toyota’s Le Mans Prototype car, but I can buy their road cars which uses the the technology they’ve developed and the knowledge gained through their racing activities. What the factories learn from the big events does filter though into our local modelshop or showroom.

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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