This past weekend at RCI V2 in Shanghai, China, running alongside the OneTen Series for touring cars, the all new SGP1 Formula One series kicked off its inaugural season. An ultra fun, team-based series, running realistically painted body-shells to some very unique and interesting rules, all those in attendance seemed genuinely excited to be taking part and while competitive everyone seemed to be having fun, with teams not only competing on the track but off the track too with light hearted banter in the pits. Bringing fun back into RC and getting people back racing F1 was the goal of Rick Wang and Ben Lai and it has been very well received with the limited team spots selling out and a full grid at the opening round. We talked with the man behind SGP1, Rick Wang, to get a clearer insight into the concept and future plans for SGP1.
Q. What was the genesis behind the SGP1 series?
RW. Someone had to do something about bringing RC F1 back to China, since there are no nitro tracks to fuel my passion, since I like Formula One, I decided to do something. But I needed help so my good friend Ben Lai who loves this hobby since childhood said he would help me out to get SGP1 started and so here we are.
7 years ago we started SGP1 and at our peak had 75 drivers on a weekend race, its been a while since and F1 has pretty much died for RC so I thought it was time to re-start SGP1 again and re-live that feeling we had years ago. Without Ben and many other friends, this could not happen.
Q. You run with a very special race format, can you give us more details?
RW. We try to replicate real F1 racing with some changes that would get more participation. So qualifying is 90 minutes long where any driver can go on and off track to make one single fast lap. All mains are 30 minutes long with a mandatory electronically controlled pit lane programmed for 15 seconds stop. But the pit lane is only opened during the middle ten minutes of the 30 minute race. Points are awarded to the top 10 finisher of A-Main, top 5 finisher of B Main, and all mains will have a fast lap bonus points but only given to the fastest lap made in the last 10 minutes of the race. No additives are allowed to be re-applied during the 30 minute finals.
The reason for this format is to get more people involved and encourage team strategies and teamwork. Teams are allowed maximum 3 drivers but only type 2 driver’s results will count. Imagine if a team had one driver make the A Main and two drivers in the C Main, the C Main drivers can still get points by getting the fastest lap… it’s just more interesting.
Q. The SGP1 uses an impossibly cheap handout motor and esc combo, what was the reasoning behind this?
RW. This was by design to make RC F1 as realistic as possible to real F1. Making teams and drivers manage their power unit longevity and reliability.
We use the cheapest 27T Brushed motors and ESC because we know its reliability depends on proper gearing and temperature control. It also save costs to the drivers.
So what happened during our first race was a Team Mercedes driver was very aggressive with gearing and actually qualified P1 for the A-Main. However, 22 Mins into the 30 Min Main on the same motor, the motor smoked and blew up and his race was over. We limit it to a maximum of 3 motors, 3 ESC, 3 sets of tires for the entire 6 race season. Now this Mercedes Driver has only 2 motors left for the season. He can buy an extra motor but will have team points deducted… its like Real F1. Tire wear is also something to watch out for, only 3 sets allowed all season.
Q. One thing that is very evident in SGP1, is the use of very nicely presented replica bodies, with the most of the teams also taking the name of the real F1 team. Is presentation an important element?
RW. The problem with RC races today is everyone is lazy to paint up nice bodies so you see single coloured bodies at races worldwide, this is actually something that hurts our hobby. F1 livery in real life is a really cool element of racing and so to encourage SGP1 teams to paint nice bodies, we give a discount on entry fee if they paint up like any F1 team from any era. If you don’t have or want to paint bodies like real F1 teams, you must however have 3 different colours on the body.
One important thing to say is we Do not allow RC brand logos of any kind on the car body or else there will be a heavy fine. The objective is to promote F1 RC racing and Not any particular RC brand. Also, we don’t want SGP1 to be turned into commercially motivated or profit motivated racing series.
Q. Of course part of that realistic look comes from the handout Sweep tires that you use, can you tell us more about that partnership?
RW. Steve Kong has always been very supportive of racing in China and after discussion with him on SGP1 tires, We wanted to have the 2021 FIA style rims and Steve said he had just finished developing them, so Sweep became our official tire supplier. SGP1 tires were tested at RCI extensively and has its own SGP1 markings on tires… We thank Steve for his support and help to promote F1 racing in China.
Q. The series incorporate a compulsory pitstop into the 30 minute races and you use a really neat system to ensure the driver stays stopped for a minimum required time. Tell us more about the pitstop and how its regulated?
RW. This was an idea taken from someone in Europe posting on FB videos of an electronically controlled pit stop with automatic entry and exit gates. So, I had Ai (JJ’s Mechanic) design a pit stop mechanism timed with a Red/Greed traffic light where drivers on the driver stand can see when to pit or not. Its pretty cool stuff!!! Works well… Because of the 15 second stop, we can see on the timing software during race when the lead car comes in to stop, it starts to move down in position and rejoins about 6th in position. But when everyone else made their stop, it re-takes the lead but in some cases, there were exciting undercuts… it works just like Real F1 so I’m pretty happy about it and drivers and teams love it.
Q. What are your hopes regarding the series, will we see SGP1 and its format spread beyond Shanghai and China?
My hope is to spread SGP1 not only in China but worldwide. We are not doing this to make money and there are no commercial motivation what so ever. The idea is to help keep our hobby fun and create new excitement. SGP1, like UF1 in the USA, F1RCGP in Japan and many other F1 specific racing leagues, is to feed off of Formula One and put excitement into the hobby. If anyone from anywhere wants to replicate SGP1 racing series, we can help them with a turn-key program at Cost!
I would like to see SGP1 rules and regulations to be the same everywhere, this way, there could be more sharing of information and data between hobbyists worldwide.