What’s hot and what’s not
By Matt Higgins
Trends come and go. It’s true in the mainstream world and just as true in RC. Some categories in our hobby have stood the proverbial test of time and transcended the “trend” designation. Two prime examples are monster trucks and 1/8-scale off-road racing. They might rise and fall in popularity, but they are here to stay and in even in their lowest dips make up a huge part of the hobby. What about all those other categories? Let’s check out some of RC’s past and current hot trends.
This segment was once simply huge and it was the biggest deal in RC for years. Then it virtually all but vanished. There are plenty of hot spots and some very active club racing going on. There are also some exceptional releases hitting the scene though the rate of new cars and the variety of manufacturers is nothing like what it was five years ago. What happened? The demise of touring cars is inarguably due to the technology and specialization of the segment making it far more complicated than the average hobbyist would tolerate. Case closed. Will touring cars and on-road in general make a comeback? It’s possible with the high-profile releases like Traxxas’ Rally VXL and new cars from popular companies such Associated with its new TC6.
If you have been around RC for a long time, you might remember oval racing being as big, or even bigger, than touring cars. The story of oval racing is similar to touring cars, but has struggled more to maintain or regain popularity because pan cars used in oval can only be raced. For the most part, only racers have pan cars. It is unlikely someone would have an oval car and then progress into racing. This type of advancement feeds all the other forms of racing. Ironically, while oval remains miniscule in RC, it is huge in full-size racing thanks to NASCAR’s huge appeal. Soon, very soon, someone in RC will make an oval car that is just as at home on the typical uneven and dirty parking lot as it is on a prepped carpet track. Then oval will be bigger than ever.
Few segments in RC make you think “I want to try that” like drifting does. Yet, drifting has gotten warm but never hot. Drifting has a lot going for it. It’s extremely inexpensive to get into as other than hard tires, it really requires no special equipment. Any old touring car with any old electronics setup will do. Drifting also has high scale appeal which has been a proven draw in this hobby. The problem—if you can even say it has a problem—with drifting is two-fold: first, the full-size motorsport it models never really took off in the U.S., and second, drifting is actually hard. Anyone who can drive RC can do it—but only with practice. Too many people want to just be able to instantly do something.
Want to make a diehard RC rock crawler mad enough to snap his upper links? Just call crawling a fad. I don’t know who ever called this segment a fad, but it clearly isn’t. Crawling has technically been around as long as there have been monster trucks and rocks to drive over, but true specialized rock crawling jumped on the scene a few years and quickly grabbed everyone’s attention. Just about every RC vehicle manufacturer was releasing a crawling or at least seriously considering it behind closed doors—trust me. Crawling’s popularity grew faster than anything the hobby had ever seen. Then two things happened almost simultaneously: short course was unleashed and absolutely blew up and competitive crawling got complicated and specialized and was more about performance than scale realism. The truth of matter is having the spotlight shift from crawling to short course didn’t really hurt crawling as much as people think and scale crawlers have more than taken up the slack of fewer people turning out for competitions. Overall, crawling is still huge; it just isn’t growing as fast as it once was; nothing could maintain that pace. Competitive crawling, however, would be wise to take note of the history lessons that oval and touring car racing provide.
Short course racing
Short course is simple the king of all trends. Crawling had an impressive rise to the top, but it’s hard to describe just how fast short course simply took over the hobby. At this point, no one is debating if they should have a short course truck. Short course is also one of the few categories that is just as popular with bashers as it is with racers. In fact, no segment has ever brought more people to the track than short course. In turn, no other category has had racers having fun again like short course. The best part about short course is that it is scale. The trucks look like something and people not in the hobby instantly identify with them. Short course helps grow the hobby. The only question with short course is how long will it absolutely dominate the hobby. What could possible come along that could knock short course off its throne? Got any predictions?