9 sure fire ways to get better at RC racing!

RC racing is very competitive at all levels club, national & world class. Even if your moto at the track is to finish the race you still want to do batter than you did last time right? Natural ability can help you only so far. There will come a point when you are thinking how do I get better at this.

I have put together the following list of 9 tips I find have helped me the most. These are not your average tips talked about at the track and some may seem a little quirky. As with any sport practice makes perfect (only when you practice what works).

For these tips to make the most sense, I will assume the following:

  • You own a hobby grade remote control car.
  • Have raced RC cars or have spent time driving an RC car round a track.
  • Want to improve your skills on the track.

1: Have a friend video you, driving round the track.

This is a fantastic way to analyze how you drive. You won’t need to publish it on Youtube and it doesn’t have to be the highest quality video out there. A smart phone will do just fine. Ask your friend to follow the car but ensure its not zoomed in too much. This trick also works during a race, in fact I would recommend you film a race and a practice session. The reason for both is a practice session can be very relaxing. I have got some of my best lap times during a practice session. When you are in the heat of a race it’s nerve racking and that plays a big role in how you drive.

So you have a couple videos now what?

Look at how you take corners.

  • Do you follow the racing line? – The racing line is the straightest route around a corner.
  • Do you brake too soon? – If you are on and off the brakes you will be loosing time. If you spend any time coasting up to or in a corner you will also be loosing time.
  • Does your car look balanced? – If your cars wheels are coming off the ground as you are turning traction is being lost.

How do you handle traffic?

When you are overtaking another driver or a faster driver is coming up behind you. It’s import to look at how you handled that. Look closely at changes of direction, braking and acceleration. Any sudden changes can unbalance your car or throw you out of the “zone”.

2: Get in the “Zone”.

Have you ever been driving home from work and everything for a brief moment just flew by. You might of covered a few miles and then finally realized. Another driver might of just randomly pulled out in front of you and you took it in your stride, handled it like a boss. Stayed calm and you responded almost instinctively. This is what I like to call the Zone.

Its when everything just happens you feel like a natural expert. It could only last for a moment, but during that moment you had it in the bag! Now its all good and well me saying just get into the Zone. I may as well just tell you to be a great driver and end this article here.

 I asked permission from Joseph Quagraine of JQ Racing to create the following video (he said he was happy with it -not many people would be!) its my kind of humor.

Anyway, here are a few tips I have picked up that help me out.

  • Run your own race – very hard to do but just try to focus on your car. Nothing else regardless of how intense the race is. Think of it like a practice day it’s just you out there on your own driving round. When you can focus just on your car and not look at other drivers you will have better control over your car.
  • Reward yourself (silently) – this can be on any aspect of the race large or small. Land a good jump, take that corner in style or overtake like a professional, reward yourself. When I do something I think is cool I say to myself “that was epic”. Don’t make a huge fuss about it. Just a quick little thought before your onto the next area of the track.
  • Plan ahead just not too far ahead– this is easier with more track time. Try to think about the next corner or obstacle. Do this the split second that you have completed a corner or an obstacle. Have the next one in your head ready, before it happens.

3: Make a setup change.

It’s worth having a basic setup to begin with start with the recommended setup from your chosen manufacturer. You could pick the same setup as a local or professional driver. It is better to start with a basic setup and learn from there. If you are not sure how to fill in a setp sheet I wrote an article explaining the different parts of a setup sheet.

Pick just one setup option like camber, ride height or shock oil. When you focus on one aspect of tuning it’s far easier to see its effects negative or positive. Once you start making changes pay close attention to the effect it had and write it down. Keep changing it until you feel it’s gone too far. Once you change an area it can affect another. As you go through the different areas one by one. You will get better at setup up your car.

4: Create a spread sheet to track achievements .

This is ironic for me, I don’t like spread sheets much. However I do find this very helpful and it works for me. You can create one similar or download mine for free (I don’t ask for emails). I like to include the event, setup sheet, finishing position best lap time, average lap time and the time between best and average. This sort of works like the video step except we can only see limited pieces of information.

From the best and average you can see the difference between the two. The higher the difference the more the section will be highlighted in red. You can also quickly see the report graph and get an idea for which result was the best.

This is by no means an exact science as there are variables like track condition and temperature which can effect performance. However it does help point you in the right direction. Over the course of a year you will have a catalog of information. Which you can look back on, it’s also useful to have this information available for any sponsorship opportunities which may come along.

The time is recorded as MM:SS.00

5: Race at different tracks or mix things up.

Racing at different tracks will widen your skill range. Other tracks will have different obstacles, you may have to learn a new technique. If you stay on the same track you can pickup little mistakes that you may not realize. If you practice the wrong thing you will only improve your muscle memory at doing the little mistakes.

Not everyone will have the opportunity to attend different tracks. If that is the case then try mixing it up on a practice day ask permission to run the track in reverse. You could also try a different scale of car if it is allowed. A little trick I personally like to try is running my 1/8th scale electric buggy at 65% throttle. I do this for an extended period of time (only on practice days) until it feels normal.

When the speed is limited to 65% it feels very slow. I have to take every corner slower, each jump has to be timed better. Then when i turn it back up to 100% it feels strange. I feel like I have to learn to adjust quickly. It feels much faster and I have to readjust timings and the corners.

When I go slow round the track I take better lines than when I am pushing as hard as possible. When I turn the power back on those lines stick in my head, I end up taking the same lines at a much higher speed.

6: Create lap time goals and compete with a friend.

This really helped me improve my skills at my local track. My racing buddy set a fast lap time and I was determined to beat him. When I did I made sure he was the first person to know about it. He then went on track until he beat me, we kept doing this until the lap times became so close we called it a draw. Competing with a friend helps you to push yourself harder. When you do it on a practice day there are not risks of loosing a race.

When we race there isn’t much between us. The focus is to win the race, but if we don’t we are still happy if we beat each other. It’s exciting when you get close to your best lap time in a race. You end up creating another goal for yourself which lifts you up.

7: Practice with faster drivers.

You don’t have to find the most top rated professional to race with. Clubs have drivers of all skills levels. Pick someone who is a little better than you. When your on track with faster drivers you tend to push yourself harder in order to keep up. If they are too fast then this trick defeats the purpose. When they are a little better you have more chance of sticking with them.

This is all about learning something different. Do they take the jump the same as you?. Are they taking the corner differently? These are all things you need to be thinking about. Don’t be afraid to try new things or go a little faster into sections on the track. Once your on a level playing field you can add someone else into the mix who again is a little faster.

8: Have another racer, drive your car.

You can pick someone of the same skill level or higher. I would avoid going for someone that is a lower skill level. Not because you won’t learn anything because you might. But ideally you want someone who has track time in the bag. Someone you know understands the track and can tell you how the car feels.

Now the best part, while they are driving your car ask them questions like:

How does it feel? – just let them tell you as they drive, you are more likely to get an honest opinion.

Is the car stable? – they may have a different opinion to you or surprise you. Two heads are often better than one as they say.

Anything you would change and why? – it’s very important to get a reason why.

Now you have someone else’s view don’t go off changing everything on your car to what they said. What works for one person may not be the same for another. This could shed some light on a particular area you might not of thought about. The other bonus is you have a good reason to try their car out now.

When you drive someone else’s car you will get a different perspective. At first it may be difficult to control, as the setup will be different to yours. As you get better think about the same questions you asked them. Make notes if you need to, chances are you will learn something new.

9: Preparation is key!

Ensure you arrive at the track with your car in the best possible condition it can be.

  • Clean – it doesn’t matter what track surface you race on you will need to clean you car at some point. I personally like to clean my car after each race. When your cleaning your car its during this time that you will notice any damages or worn parts. My local track has an air compressor which is brilliant for quickly blowing the dirt off. If your track has cleaning facilities don’t just rely on them. When you get home sit down and throughly clean your car.
  • Oils – Your car will perform better on fresh shock oil and diff oil. You won’t have to change this every-time you race (some drivers do). However the more you do change them the better the performance will be.
  • Screws – ensure all your screws are tightened up. The vibrations that travel through an RC car are enough to loosen some of the tightest screws. It takes a minute to go over all the screws and check them. You can loose allot more than a minute on race day if a screw falls out.
  • Wheels & tires  – check for rips, tears and cracks in your wheels. You also want to check if your inserts have not bunched up into one area.

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