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.