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Off-Road Racing Needs a Real Spec Class [Fast Laps]

Off-Road Racing Needs a Real Spec Class [Fast Laps]

If you race off-road, you’re probably aware of a pretty serious issue going on; it’s the high costs associated with racing and it’s keeping participants away. There’s lots of theories and criticism associated with it, but in order for racing to thrive, we need a real spec class with simple, inexpensive, and durable vehicles. Now I’m not talking about Stock Racing- that has been addressed here. What I’m talking about is a spec class with its own rules, guidelines, and products that are supported by the industry, participants, tracks and governing bodies. That’s often easier said than done, but with modern technology at an all time high, it wouldn’t be hard to implement something easy and affordable. Let’s take a look.

Racing pits

Racing is a lot of fun, but costs and complicated products can be a big deterrent for the new or average racer.

THE INDUSTRY

Without the industry’s backing, there is no chance for a spec class to succeed, but often the solution isn’t too far fetched and even includes products that already exist or could exist with minimal modifications. Many of us remember the fun and excitement of racing the Traxxas Slash spec class, but it either evolved in to the modern and expensive short-course class we have today, or went out of favor do to its inherent ill-handling traits. Compounding this problem was the monopoly a spec class like this had to a specific manufacturer and this contributed to its resistance in the industry. The industry needs to be behind the class and have a financial gain as an incentive. Let’s not be naive, money is often the driving force for success. They already did it in on-road racing and have had some success with spec classes that include Vintage Trans Am, Tamiya M-Chassis, etc., but this is off-road and we are due. Here’s a breakdown of some of the components that need to addressed:

-Platform: Due to their already popular following, the logical step for a spec vehicle would be a 2WD buggy. It’s the lifeblood of most tracks and teaches the fundamentals of racing that is relevant at every level. It wouldn’t have to be anything current (although that is an option), older versions could suffice. Keep things simple and common- rear-motor, steel turnbuckles, and tamper-free transmissions. No modifications like cutting of idler gears, swapping to aluminum layshafts or CVAs, etc. The idea here is to keep material costs low and use what has been proven on the track. No aftermarket upgrades or modifications allowed. Tuning is limited to simple items already existing on the car (i.e., shock and camber link locations, etc.) although some tuning like shock springs, pistons and oil weight can be changed.

Meticulously prepared buggies prepare to race at the recent ROAR Nationals.

Meticulously prepared buggies prepare to race at the recent ROAR Nationals.

-Tires: A basic selection of premounted tires in varying compounds for use in a variety of conditions with low wear while still providing traction suited for close racing. Inserts would be tamper proof and wheels include breath holes.

-Motors: 23.5T (let’s slow these missiles down a bit), brushless, sensored, locked timing and sealed endbell with a predetermined maximum cost. Companies like Trinity have already pushed to implement this with products that fit these parameters.

-Speed Control: Basic features, blinky mode, predetermined maximum cost- done. Most companies already have a stock spec version and could easily be used or adapted to meet low-cost restrictions.

-Batteries: LiPo 2S packs with maximum price.

-Chargers: We all know this has been gaining lots of attention, but what’s wrong with specifying a basic charger with limited options. Maximum 6A charge arte and discharge rate- affordable and something any manufacturer has access to.

 

PARTICIPANTS

Racers would need to get behind it. There’s only so much policing and rules are only worth their weight when they are respected and adhered to. A Gentlemen’s Agreement would have to exist in order for success. Like stock racing, tracks and events only have so many resources and participants need to be involved. Luckily, other classes like stock have enjoyed success with this and the self-policing most (I use “most” with some restraint) racing uses is sufficient.

TRACKS

The reality is that most tracks exist in their own little bubble. They set their own rules and format their racing to suit their local scene and racing needs. However, they often use existing standards as an outline and lean on proven formulas for their racing. Tracks would need to embrace it and make spec cars and parts easily available as a rental or purchase.

Race tracks would have to support a spec class in order for it to find success.

Race tracks would have to support a spec class in order for it to find success.

ORGANIZATIONS

The obvious organization here is ROAR. While many scoff and criticize ROAR, it is often the governing body most tracks look to for guidelines, rules and standards. Tracks may not be affiliated with ROAR, but without any other legitimate options (at this time), using them as a resource is the only logical chance for a spec class to have rules that everyone references.

FINAL WORD

There have been a lot of complaints about the costs associated with racing, and for many it can be a big deterrent. Combine this with the complications and over-tedious nature racing is warranting and you have a recipe for an unhealthy racing scene with no other options. We need a spec class that is simple, fun, inexpensive and durable for the sake of the hobby. Stock in it’s current form isn’t the answer, it already sees a strong following, and that’s fine for many, but a spec class would offer an alternative and provide a key segment that racing is missing.

 

 

 

Updated: September 29, 2015 — 11:25 AM
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10 Comments

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  1. Traxxas lcg Deli-design chassis stampede premounts lipo limit? Paul Winn turned a 22.1 with the lcg stampede 2wd brushed rtr with goosebumps 2.2 premounts. His mod buggy time is a 18.4? @ Beachline raceway cocoa Beach fl indoor track. Have pics n video.

  2. When I was in my late teens, I was all about racing. I had plenty of time to tinker and dial in my rides. I’m 26 now and have a house. My time is very limited. I miss the heck out of racing, but no longer have the time to maintain my stuff and don’t feel like spending an arm and a leg just to barely compete. I’d love to see stock Tamiya classes. There’s plenty of vintage vehicles getting re-released. I think it’d be great if you could have a class where everyone just ran the old stuff. Let it come down to driving skill and have a fun factor off the charts.

  3. I agree. The stock classes all have loopholes.

  4. Pick any Traxxas vehicle and use that for spec class racing. Most come with everything out of the box to make your spec class and almost everyone sells parts for them. This would allow you folks to say buy this box and your racing right down to the battery and charger.

    1. No one wants to race a traxxas though.

  5. If I recall Team Losi attempted this when they released spec version of their 2wd buggy. It really didn’t seem to take off as no one really embraced it. No matter what it will be hard to find a universal class that all can get into without spending money and making it affordable for all to do. I would think a novice style class would be better more suited as it allows the beginner to run in the novice class and work their way toward the faster classes. No matter what I think someone will always be trying to push the envelope in any class. That seems to be the thing to do in almost any form of racing. I like the fact the vintage cars are coming back and actually they had a VONATS this year in Wolcott, CT. Hope to see them make more comebacks and would be nice to see other companiens do some re-release of some kits. Just does seem most companies are in it to make money more than anything. A nice class across the board that all could back and get behind would be great to see. Hoepfully your article might just be a stepping stone to get the ball rolling.

  6. Take my opinion for what its worth (absolutely nothing), but what I feel this all has to do with, is mid-pack guys who are stuck mid-pack, and are looking at finding alternatives to get a podium finish.

    My answer as always to these topics, look at 1/8th scale. There is never any of this “he’s got aluminium axles” or “lightened drivetrain” nonsense. Talent and setup easily prevails over any mechanical advantages, the fundamentals of racing.

  7. I would love a spec class, and I can remember when the 2wd Slash first came out our local track had a class for it. There was only a hand full of entries because the class was so new. People watched the close “stock” racing action and literally ran to the hobby shop to buy one and immediately throw it onto the track for the next qualifier. By the time the mains came up, there were two full heats with about 20 entries!

    However, whenever I see a good stock or spec class, the same issues ALWAYS kill it within a few weeks.

    1.)The main issue is that good talent always stands out in spec classes. The guys who are really fast and consistent usually move right to the front and leave everyone else in the dirt, making things more frustrating for those with lower skill levels. And this feeds right into the second issue

    2.)Only one person can win, and only 3 can podium. I think its the frustration of the same “fast guys” winning all the time at club races that drives the less skilled in a desperate search of performance parts and upgrades to make them competitive with the faster guys. This is ultimately what killed our “stock slash” class. There was always one guy who would get really far ahead and lap the field. It would leave everyone else to hopping up their cars, buying better shocks, tires and chassis in a desperate attempt to keep up. Then ultimately buying a faster motor, which would put them in the Mod class where they get their butt kicked anyway

    Unfortunately the ultimate problem with spec classes is not the enforcement or products, its the consumers themselves. Most people will not be able to accept the fact that the way to get faster is practice practice practice. People dont realize how critical track time really is, and will spend countless hours and money trying to find that “secret” hop up or set up that will instantaneously make them a pro driver over night.

    1. Well said Tim. I could see a mix-methods article being published on just those two points. I love to race but dislike driving 2 hours a nite round trip for 20min. of track time, then the track shutting down after that. If you want to win, make the sacrifices to win: practice, ask for input, don’t limit yourself to just your local track (if there are other ones within limits), and don’t always shoot for 1st place. A top 5 finish is better than not making the a main (or b main) at all. I’d rather see a good race between 3rd and 4th place over the person who wins by two laps!

  8. Much more challenging track conditions would be a good way of creating a more level field with less predictability. As long as you race on a consistent, prepared and manicured high grip surface the car performance will be key to lapping well. Throw in much looser surfaces, real rough conditions and multiple lines open themselves up, taking emphasis away from outright car speed.

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