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Where’s the Dirt? IFMAR Rolls Out Artificial Turf For Off-Road Worlds

Where’s the Dirt? IFMAR Rolls Out Artificial Turf For Off-Road Worlds

Carl Hyndman

In ‘Merica we like our Hot Dogs, Baseball, and Apple Pie. Mess with it and you’ll get an earful. You just don’t change a good thing. That seems to be a lot of the sentiment surrounding IFMAR’s decision to allow astroturf for the surface at the upcoming 2015 Electric Off-road Worlds at Yatabe Arena in Japan. Social media seems to be lighting up with forums and Facebook all having some pretty heated discussions about this ruling. But, is it justified? After all, in a lot of places around the world, astroturf and other surfaces are standard and accepted. In Europe there is even a successful Euro Offroad Series (EOS) that has many of the fastest off-road drivers in the world competing at and enjoying. Let’s take a look at all the fuss.

The European Offroad Series is a successful group of events that runs throughout the year and uses carpet for its surface.

The European Offroad Series is a successful group of events that runs throughout the year and uses carpet for its surface.

WHAT DO OTHER SPORTS DO?

A lot of arguments have been made that off-road should always be run on dirt? That there is a unspoken rule that this has always been the case and that sports like Motocross and events like the Baja 1000 are true examples of this. However, the reality is that modern electric off-road racing has been run on surfaces that are very different then what we see in full size sports. Venture to any modern facility, and the chances of seeing dirt flying and big roosts of dust are about as common as seeing a Sasquatch running through the forest. In fact, the last IFMAR Worlds was run on a surface that resembled something closer to what you’d see at an International House of Pancakes than what James Stewart kicks up behind his Suzuki. And what about organizations such as the Olympics that host events like BMX? Surely most of us would agree that their credibility is probably higher than that of IFMAR’s. Well the last Olympic BMX event saw a track that had asphalt in most of the key areas. There was no loamy dirt, ruts or blown out berms. Also, for all those who still hold on to the argument that dirt bikes are always run on dirt should watch Enduro X at the X-Games. The course for that sport consists of boulders, logs, ponds and a lot of other obstacles that would make many people cringe if incorporated in to electric off-road racing.

BMX is a successful event at the Olympics and includes asphalt for the running surface.

BMX is a successful event at the Olympics and includes asphalt for the running surface.

THE INDUSTRY’S PUSH

So how does the industry feel about it? Wouldn’t the products sold reflect the attitude of the racers? The fact is that the chassis manufacturers have been turning out products that meet the demand for tracks that use astroturf. XRAY, Team Durango, Schumacher, Team C and a host of others make buggies that are specifically designed to run in those conditions. Even the mid-motor buggies from TLR and Team Associated were specifically developed for high grip conditions.

XRAY is just one manufacturer that has committed their line of electric buggies to running on high-grip surfaces.

XRAY is just one manufacturer that has committed their line of electric buggies to running on high-grip surfaces.

ON-ROAD IS ASPHALT AND OFF-ROAD IS DIRT RIGHT?

So on-road is all about asphalt and off-road means dirt right? Well not according to those who were preparing for the 2014 IFMAR 1:12 World Championships in Florida. Originally the on-road event was planned to be run on asphalt, but there was such a big backlash from the racers that the organizers had to improvise and give in. The reality is that carpet is primarily chosen for the pan cars and asphalt is frowned on. It really came down to what was familiar and comfortable for the participants.

For on-road 1/12-scale pan cars, carpet is the preferred surface, not asphalt.

For on-road 1/12-scale pan cars, carpet is the preferred surface, not asphalt.

The 2014 IFMAR Nitro World Championships held in Italy used a variety of surfaces and was a successful event.

The 2014 IFMAR Nitro World Championships held in Italy used a variety of surfaces and was a successful event.

 

FINAL WORD

Personally I like the spectacle of racing on astroturf. It’s fast, exciting and a real challenge to the best drivers in the world. It probably isn’t going to take over as the chosen surface for club racing around the United States, but it is familiar and common for many around the world. 2015 is the year the IFMAR Worlds goes to Japan, and for most of the competitors astroturf is something they prefer. It may go against what us Americans are comfortable with, but racing is about adapting and rising to the top in all conditions. The World Champion should be a person who has all the skills and possesses the right stuff to take them to the top of the podium, not just one style of surface or certain kind of car. Astroturf? Hell yeah!

 

 

Updated: July 21, 2015 — 3:33 PM

6 Comments

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  1. It is America , not ” `merica “

  2. Astroturf is fine for a mini-golf course. Off-road racing should be on dirt. Instead of off-road racing they should call it on-turf racing.

  3. i believe that astro is off road and carpet is not. you know not all of the countries of the world have the beautiful sunny days of californian america, in fact most countries have an average due rain of 3 days a week, and dirt racing can become mud racing after a small 10 minute shower, so is that fare to impose dirt to every body? i don’t thinks so. Astro should be really considered as grass not as carpet and hope that carpet will not make it into IFMAR’s rule book. off road in the most european language and my native language french is translated into “tout terrain” . now that means all surfaces.
    and thus an off road track should incorporate dirt, hight traction astro, slippery wood… and that is he fun part of off road, it is to drive across different surface and handling characteristics, it make is fun and technical, just like the french kyosho masters track or the 1/8 off road in italy 2014. Add jumps ,elevations and and some ruff surfaces i.e. blown out and all of the talent can be showed by the drivers and mechanics on the cars. carpet in the other hand is usually placed on the concreat, straining the car, braking them, damaging drive trains. touring car can’t be jumped and so why would buggies do what the touring car do. if you want to go so fast than drive 1/12 and touring. carpet has no change in traction, it is homogenous all the way through and that by it self is not off road. carpet should be accepted as a hole different class by it self, i race carpet, i like carpet but is not off road to me and the can’t accepted at the 1/10 off road IFMAR championships. this new carpet grand have forced manufacturers such as yokomo. xray and many others to make carpet specific cars which are being more and more common, that are not able to handle dirt, and companies will be digging graves for the dirt off road racing scene. i believe it is up to federation and track owner to make the effort, because if you love off road you won’t complain about maintenance, i also believe that that the usa should not be complaining as they have started this movement with hight traction sugar tracks 2013 IFMAR worlds and the tire additive wars.

  4. Off-road is off-road. Lucas Oil Short Course racing is not on carpet. It’s on d.i.r.t. DIRT not astroturf. Off-road is also about inconsistent surface conditions not the color of the rug.

  5. Rc racing car is great . Racing on clay is great but racing on astro too. For a lot of countries there is no others choice to race outside than race on an astro track . weather in central europe is not that sunny so astro permit to drive when it’s rainy and keep track in decent condition .Yatabe is a temple of off road racing but think change and people want to change .For the first year in Belgium we have made an indoor clay track and we got more driver.Yatabe switch to astro with the same result …..more drivers……what people want is not dirt of astro ….it’s sometime try something different . Top drivers always first on the track . JMR

  6. I agree with running the event on whatever the Host country is comfortable with which is usually what they run on anyways, be it carpet, astroturf, loose topsoil dirt, loose clay, hard packed clay, etc… It is about adapting. This is what offroad has always been. AstroTurf is offroad, Carpet is offroad, asphalt is directly on-road. For years and years IFMAR has made other countries hosting offroad events, come completely out of what they normally run on and go out of their way to make a “special” dirt only offroad track for this one event, where we the USA participants have always had the upper hand at due to this is what we normally run on. To make the IFMMAR Worlds a truely international event, I can only wish they further amend the rules to allow the host country to run on “their choice of surface which is a reflection of what they normally run on a usual basis for off-road events”.

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