Reedy Outdoor Champs Restores ‘Real Dirt’ to Off-Road—Should This Be The Standard?

Reedy Outdoor Champs Restores ‘Real Dirt’ to Off-Road—Should This Be The Standard?

Fast Laps Columnist and RC Car Action EditorCarl Hyndman

The just-announced Reedy Outdoor Off-Road Race of Champions (November 20-22, Hot Rod Hobbies in Saugus, CA) promises “a watered track surface [that] brings back major off-road racing as it began with roost and pin tires.” This is a reaction to the current state of electric off-road racing, which is ruled by high bite tracks with surfaces usually consisting of prepared clay, AstroTurf or some other high-traction variant.

The move to unchanging, high-grip surfaces didn’t happen by accident. Over the years, RC’s biggest races have worked hard to provide maximum track-surface consistency so that every participant could qualify and compete on an equal playing field. With the objective to eliminate conditions that improved or deteriorated throughout a race, tracks have removed the x-factor of loamy, roostable dirt in favor of unchanging surfaces that allow high grip, high speeds, and razor-sharp line choices. These tracks make car setup ultra-critical and remove conventional “dirt” from off-road racing–to the point that the hottest trend in “off-road” tires is slick treads and sticky “clay” compounds.

In response, some racers would like to return to tracks that are truly “off-road,” require actual knobby treads, and deliver a driving experience closer to the dirt-roosting action of full-size off-road competition. Modern rock-hard, high-bite tracks are just too tedious and unforgiving for the beginner or someone looking for a more casual racing experience. The Reedy Outdoor Off-Road Race of Champions will provide a relief to the stresses of high-traction competition and introduce an element of chance and luck (in the form of changing track conditions) that will be refreshing. But should this type of track take over and become the new standard?

I say “no.” Track evolution happened for a reason, and for most racers, we prefer the higher traction and far greater race-to-race consistency of modern high-bite surfaces. We can analyze laps times, prep our tires and race with our friends without some random bump showing up on the track to spoil our day. It’s the future and it’s here to stay.

The track at SRS Raceway in Arizona was host to the 2015 Cactus Classic and had a surface that closely resembled the clay used on a potter's wheel. Slciks were a must and many drivers were forced to make drastic changes to their vehicle and use slicks to help deal with the high grip level.

The track at SRS Raceway in Arizona was host to the 2015 Cactus Classic and had a surface that closely resembled the clay used on a potter’s wheel. From the first  practice run to the final Mains, the track conditions were unchanged.

There's nothing quite like throwing a big roost and picking the right line.

There’s nothing quite like throwing a big roost and picking the right line on a “real dirt” track, but this type of racing shouldn’t be the standard for high-level competition.

The amount of prep work and knowledge needed to race on highly prepared surfaces is beond what many racers are willing to deal with.

The amount of prep work and knowledge needed to race on highly prepared surfaces is typical and expected for high level racing.

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Updated: July 30, 2015 — 1:29 PM

15 Comments

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  1. I’m glad to see this subject has been brought up, and must be on people’s minds ’cause of all the comments posted here. I’ve been hoping for the return of “real dirt” and saying today’s off-road racing is nothing but road racing with jumps…nothing off-road about it. Now that all the tire companies coming out with slicks for racing…that’s crazy! The use of off-road racing rubber without knobs/spikes/lugs/step-pins? C’mon dudes!

    What really gets me going is my search for medium compound, big lugged 1/10 buggy tires. For the everyday backyard “basher”/track runner that runs their RCs everyday on “real dirt” at homes across the country, the days are numbered finding a rear buggy tire that will last more than a day of normal use on “real dirt”.

    I’ve contacted one big name, if not the biggest name in RC, tire manufacturer about producing medium compound tires with big lugged motocross style inspired tread for 1/10 buggies. I got a generic response of …’try one of our super mini pinned treads…’ that I can disintegrate in two battery packs on my backyard “real dirt” track built for my RC rooster-tail non racing enjoyment.

    I’m sorry, but today’s high bite, easy to drive on, smooth clay tracks let off-road racers get lazy, and make them afraid to get a little dust/dirt on their $$$ race rigs. IMO, the small (sometimes big) imperfections that develop on a “real dirt” track make off-road racing great, and adds to the fun factor.

    Parting note/question: How did we get to the point of adding traction additives to slicks for off-road racing? Get Real! …real dirt 😉

  2. “Track evolution happened for a reason, and for most racers, we prefer the higher traction and far greater race-to-race consistency of modern high-bite surfaces. We can analyze laps times, prep our tires and race with our friends without some random bump showing up on the track to spoil our day.”

    Most racers? I think not, especially when you yourself originally captioned the last photo with “The amount of prep work and knowledge needed to race on highly prepared surfaces is beyond what many racers are willing to deal with.” That was a bit too honest, so you then punted with “…is typical and expected for high level racing.” In other words, if you don’t like it, you must not be a high level racer – this is what off-road racing must evolve toward in order to “progress” toward faster lap times. That’s bad enough, but sounds better than acknowledging that most racers will give up the pastime in frustration if tracks move in this direction.

    In my world, 100 guys out kicking up dirt and endo-ing because they occasionally fail to steer around a hazard is far, far better than 5 guys micro-analyzing lap times for track conditions that never vary. Making off-road racing closely resemble carpet racing is not progress, and does nothing to lure newbies to that side of the hobby. You want to race the track. I want to race the other guy just in front of me, and have a track that demands that I stay awake. Maybe HE will skid into the trough! The bumps, loose spots and surface inconsistencies are NOT the problem, and the solution is NOT to remove them. The solution is to learn to deal with them. They are part of the fun and challenge of off-road racing, defining it.

    Off-road R/C racing is a tiny pastime now, compared to what it was, even though overall costs are less than they once were and the equipment is better. Discarding luck and demanding very high levels of local-specific expertise will simply enforce the exodus. Tracks that cater to pleasing the 5 locals that want brown carpet racing are signing up for a slow strangulation. No one will replace them when they lose interest one by one, and no one will buy anything but the one chassis, one motor and one tire that was required to click off the top times – and those may come from the Internet. “Oops, you have the wrong car for this track and you’ll need about 30 hours of track time to get it dialed in – if you know what you’re doing” is a walkout, not a buying spree waiting to happen.

    Not everyone wants to dedicate their lives to R/C. They’d rather have fun, and learn just enough basics to keep them motivated to come back again for more. Obsessive microtuning with the same equipment as everyone else may be appealing for some, but the numbers having an interest will be limited for off-road. Dirt is dirt, and you take what you get and like it. Clay is for modifieds running oval, where lap times do begin to count. Pavement and carpet are for tuners. Let’s not get confused, and lobby for one to be the same as another. The more a hobby “evolves”, increases its tedious demands and loses its basic appeal, the quicker it niches, then withers and dies. It “progresses” itself right out of existence. You might have much more difficulty finding a track within a workable distance of home now, but the other big difference from the past is that finding table space there is probably no issue at all any more. Opening the door used to be like opening a tin of sardines. How do you define progress for this hobby, exactly? I’m not being mean, I’m just viewing it differently.

  3. Back to real off road racing. Not touring cars with jumps. Off road is not about consistency, it is about negotiating a rough track with jumps. And the ever changing track conditions. To win on this surface is alot harder to do than on the modern sugar tracks. Why? Because you have to set up for changing conditions. Not the oh so perfect track without a tiny little bump in it. It is off road for a reason, get with the old school racing again. I am tired of clay and sugared tracks. Give me the real dirt!

  4. It’s fine if you want to have high bit clay, but let’s stop pretending it’s off-road. If your buggy handles like an on-road touring car, then what’s the point?

  5. This news makes me very happy, and all comments to this article validate my feelings towards the current state of off road racing. Touring car racing on brown concrete will lead to the same death suffered by actual touring car racing (you remember touring cars, those on road cars designed to race on imperfect surfaces so you could create 1/10 road America in any parking lot and have fun, what happened?). I do agree that the racing format may need to change for actual off road racing do to changing conditions, but this is a small pricing to pay. I just cannot see how people who state that this is how off road racing should be arrive at their viewpoint. I don’t see how removing all of the things that differentiate off road racing and make it interesting and challenging is seen as progress. The author mentions a random bump ruining a run. I have a few issues with this statement, -Other than the movie “Tremors” I have never seen dirt instantly spring up 6″, -Off road rc cars used to have suspensions that dealt with so called random bumps, -“stuff happens” it is a part of off road racing as unfair as it may be, if we want fair why not just run a computer program that measures the reaction time and accuracy of the drivers and let a computer algorithm declare the winner (no unfair reality to ruin the competition). The rc racing hobby has never enjoyed the popularity it deserves, and this ultra low margin for error in both setup and driving will drive away many more new racers than it attracts. It is racing and the cream will still rise to the top, but going back to actual off road will make sure that sponsored ultra talented racers are not the only ones who will enjoy the hobby. LONG LIVE DIRT!

    1. I think this type of track should be brought back. This will show real driving skills.

  6. happy to see this, i understand that nationals and worlds need a fully repped track, but Joe Schmo doesn’t need or want the hassle of setting up and racing through a set of tires a race. Add to that modern cars are built for prepped tracks, be fun to see them on real dirt.

  7. Keep off road real. I like knobby tires and ruts in the track. High level racing has become road racing with jumps. If you want precision go back to carpet and asphalt. Real off road racing isn’t done with slicks. We spend all kinds of money to be realistic yet we ruin it with smooth tires and hard tracks. We
    What happened to the excitement.

  8. Real dirt tracks have an “x” factor that makes it much more enjoyable to race and vastly better to watch. Off road racing has really lost its way in recent years and the tracks have become a bit anodyne. Bring back the fun I say. After all, its why most of us got into it in the first place……

  9. The Reedy race is the perfect venue for a “real” dirt track due to it’s racing format. Since you’re only racing the cars in your heat everyone has the same track. Guys in Heat 3 could turn 16 laps and guys in Heat 8 might only turn 14 but each winner gets the same amount of points. I can’t wait to watch this race 🙂

  10. Bravo Reedy!! High bite clay tracks are not really off road (I am a die hard on road racer, turning off road due to loss of tracks) and using traction compound on off road mini pin super soft tires is silly. Keep the on road racing there and make off road really off road. Also, the costs of hard packed clay for tires, chassis etc…. it’s getting too costly for tires when they only last one day (if that).

  11. Bring back the Dirt 🙂
    That’s what 99.9% of people run on So that’s what racing should be ,
    Waaaaa if you don’t have a perfect line , If you want that race onroad on concrete

  12. high bite tracks are for woosies. There are no real “high bite” off-road racing environments that I have seen, even rally racing has roost in off-road areas

  13. Sweet. I love the idea of returning to real dirt and I hope it catches on and becomes the standard again for off-road racing. I’ve been around long enough to remember when off-road was off-road and I love the look of the old buggies with vintage knobby tires. I hated how off-road slowly changed from realistic looking buggies to aerodynamic spaceships with almost slick tires. Running on clay is like on-road racing with jumps. The tricky elements and track uncertainty will bring back that missing dimension that’s been out of off-road RC racing for many years. Look at some of the race coverage from old 80’s RCCA issues and you’ll see what I mean.

  14. I think this is great. It is fine to have high bite track surfaces, but these shouldn’t be catergorized as “off road”.
    The only thing “off road” about these tracks may be the jumps.
    Buggy Racing on a real dirt track like Ours here in the woods of Vermont hones different driving skills.

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