When I was starting out racing I made lots of mistakes and I decided to learn the hard way. Each time I see newcomers, I often see them making some of the same mistakes I did.
RC cars are just fun! – lets be honest, call it what you want hobby grade or toy car it doesn’t matter. When you decide to take your hobby one step further and look into racing R/C cars. It gets serious and fun (seriously fun!). It’s like a hobby with-in a hobby. Lots of new information starts flooding in that you didn’t even think of before. You purchase all the gear and your just excited to go out on the track.
Here are 10 mistakes new drivers often make, some I have made myself. Others have been from newcomers I have met over the years. Hopefully this article will help you avoid these common mistakes.
- Not having a properly setup car.
- Not walking the track.
- Not thinking about a fixed driving point.
- Wrong tire choice.
- No spare parts backup.
- Pushing too hard.
- Turning settings up to the max.
- Awareness of faster drivers.
- Giving up too soon.
- Not asking for help.
Correctly set-up car.
This doesn’t mean you have to understand all the setup options on an RC car. What I am talking about here is getting the basics in place.
- End points – a large number of new drivers commonly forget to set end points up correctly. There is a tell tale sign when your end points are not set up. Your servo will keep trying to turn the wheels after full lock. On a throttle servo, you want your carburetor to fully open and no-more.
- Antenna – if your laughing at this one then just bare with me. Some antennas only function from the top part. If you want to keep things neat and tidy by placing the antenna inside the box. It may mean you loose signal at the far end of the track. Be careful of damages also a broken antenna can drop signal quality considerably.
- Oils – fresh oil and the correct oil is very important in the shocks and the differentials. If you are not sure what oil to put in, go with the manufactures recommended starting setup. You will find this in your instruction manual or on the manufacturers website.
- Gear mesh – both electric and nitro cars require the right amount of meshing. This is the gap between the pinion/clutch and spur/main gear. Check, re-check and then check again. Place a piece of paper between the gears you want it to slide through no problem.
- Ride height – this is set by adjusting your suspension preload, ensure the left and right side of your car are set the same. You can have small differences between the front and back. Measuring your suspension preload vernier caliper and you ride height with a ruler will help.
Walking the track.
The amount of people that sit chatting in the pits and forget to do this is astonishing. Take your race friends with you and spend some time just walking round and inspecting the track. You will get a great idea for any hidden dips, bumps or obstacles. Inspect all areas of the track. That corner you thought was very small and tight from the rostrum, may actually be quite large as you walk around.
You may see areas were you could go faster, or where you will actually need to go slower than you thought. Trust me, walk round the track before you race on it. It will pay you back later on. Those of you that have walked the track before, its still worth your time, things change over time.
Fixed driving point.
It’s actually harder than you think to stay in one set position and drive a car round a track. Your perspective of the track will change depending on where you stand. Next time you go to the track, try standing in a different spot on the rostrum. We all have our favorite spots, that one area we feel best suits us.
Sometimes you may not be able to stand in your favorite spot. Race directors call starting positions out for finals one by one. As each driver is called out they go in the qualifying position on the rostrum. That spot you have been standing in all day during the qualifying rounds, may be gone when it comes to your final.
Wrong tire choice.
Tires are one of if not the most important tuning factor, when it comes to racing. You can spend hours fine tuning your suspension, ride height, camber and droop. None of these make as much difference to your lap times as choosing the wrong set of tires. Most new drivers will turn up at the track with the any type of tire, and spend all day fighting to control the car.
Spend a little time doing research, you don’t have to spend much time at all. Speak to your local track owner or ask the drivers, what the recommended tire is. In the beginning this may not seem all that important. Choose the right tire for the track and you will have an an advantage over those who didn’t.
Spare parts backup.
The truth is, accidents happen crashes and wear & tear is no different in racing. When you have chosen the car you want to race, buy a few of the common parts. Things like screws, nuts, drive shafts, lower suspension arms, gears & turnbuckle links. It’s really not good when a part malfunctions and you don’t have a spare. Race days can end quickly, even from a simple thing like a screw falling out.
Pushing too hard.
What I mean by this is when I see drivers hammer the accelerator, brake hard, turn sharp and then hit the accelerator as hard as possible out of the corner. Aggressive driving styles are common among drivers, in the beginning you will be better of if you do things smoother. Take your time to learn the track, I get that you want to go as fast as possible, we all do!
You will save more time in the beginning by diving slower and learning the track. Than you will just focusing on going as fast as possible. Just try it, next time your at the track accelerate, brake and turn less aggressively. You will notice your car is far more stable, you will have less weight transfer and less body roll in the corners.
Set to the max!
There are so many tweaks and tuning options on an RC car is actually quite astonishing. As you spend more time on the track you will want to find ways to go faster. We all do, so your not on your own. There are however some areas, which can do more harm than good when you set them to the highest possible setting.
- High response servos. – All servos have a torque and speed rating. High voltage servos will respond quicker with a higher voltage supply. A fast steering response can actually cause you to constantly over correct. The fastest way round a track is the straightest line. If you have a high voltage servo, try dropping it down to 6.0v.
- ESC Throttle punch. – Throttle punch controls how quickly an electric car will accelerate. More punch means more acceleration, so why is that bad thing? – When your punch is set too high for the track your wheels will spend more time spinning. Than they will providing forward momentum.
- Brake strength. – When you set your brakes too strong, you loose time. It also puts undue stress on your drive train. It’s possible to front flip your car on high traction tracks.
- Engine turning. – Tuning your engine to run as lean as possible is high risk. You run the risk of blowing your engine up at any point. Just like with electric cars and throttle punch you could also be spending more time spinning your wheels. An engine which is a little rich will last far longer that one that is too lean.
- Dual rate. – Dual rate controls how far your servo moves in each direction. If your steering response is a little too quick you can use the D/R to slow it down.
Awareness of other drivers – race craft.
When your starting out this can be very hard to do. It’s not just beginners that need to be aware of other drivers, its all drivers full stop. When your racing it can be hard to tell who is behind you or in-front. Sometimes race directors will call your car number out to make you aware of a faster driver approaching.
- Faster driver approaching – its quite obvious to tell when a faster driver is approaching. They should not however ram you out the way. When a faster driver is coming up behind, try to move just a car length away from the racing line. If you move too far away you could, diminish your own position.
- Clean over takes – when it’s time for you to overtake another driver hang behind them, putting the pressure on. Till you spot the opportunity to overtake. If it is a driver in a lower race position than you. They should move off the racing line as you approach. When you overtake try to pass as cleanly as possible.
Here is a fantastic example of good race craft, in the Euro 2018/19, 1/10th scale modified truck 2nd leg A main. Very clean overtakes and slower drivers moving off the racing line, as race leaders approach.
Giving up too soon.
Anything can happen in racing and I mean anything! – It can get a little disheartening when you make a mistake and fall back by several places. Even worse when you collide with another racer and need help from a marshal. Don’t give up, seriously you just never know what will happen later in the race. There has been so many instances where drivers have pulled it back at the last minute.
Search Youtube for Ty Tessmann, and you will see for yourself. The guy never gives up, he is one of the best R/C drivers in the world and is a prime example of not giving up. When the going gets tough, he is one of those drivers that can stay in the game and make his back to the front.
Run your own race, just try to focus on your car. Imagine no one else is on the track with you. It’s just you out there putting in some practice day lap times. I like to use this technique in a race, it helps when things go wrong. When you focus just on your own car everything else will fall into place, it will help keep you calm.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I have a few hobbies air rifle shooting, racing and climbing. What I have found in R/C it doesn’t matter what country you race in. You come across friendly and helpful people all the time. Don’t be worried about making yourself look silly. There is always someone who will be happy to help you.
Aside from asking for help, most will also be willing to help you with set-ups. I say most because the ones that are unable too are often still learning themselves.
Bonus tip – RC Simulator.
I recently published a review on VRC-Pro. If you are not familiar with VRC its an RC racing simulator, which gives you the most realistic experience possible for racing remote control cars. You can connect your transmitter with a USB adapter and control the cars. I wouldn’t say playing this simulator would make you a pro in real life, but it is great practice.
Any track time is valuable experience, VRC has 13 classes of cars and 95+ tracks to choose from. Most of the tracks are modeled after real tracks.
Hopefully you now have a heads up, when you go to the track. Avoid these basic mistakes and you will save valuable time, time that can be better spent on the racing line. If you made a mistake or are aware of any other mistakes not mentioned here. Feel free to place them in the comment section below.
- Bashing To Racing The Learning Curve
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I’m the owner of racingrccar.com. I am currently 29 years of age, and enjoy racing remote control cars. My favorite classes are 1/8th & 1/10th off road electric. I do also like to dabble with 1/10th touring cars and 1/12th pan cars.