I believe your memories of how fast 1/12th scale was in the 90's may be a little off. Those cars have gotten faster in your memories over the years. We need to remember that the chassis' are much better now and the battery capacity is two to three times higher. I remember never touching the throttle before the racing started. We geared our cars to the capability / capacity of our batteries not to the cars or the drivers ability. We all hoped that the car would go like hell for 8 minutes then dump right after the finish line.
The chassis' and tires today are so good that you can run flat out all the way around the track in 17.5 blinky. The old chassis' and tires couldn't hold. A big part of that is the reduction in weight with the lipo battery. If you can find some old race videos, you don't see a black groove like you do today.
Check out this 1/12th worlds video. These cars are 6 cell modified. I think a modern 17.5 blinky could scare them and boosted would beat them.
Sean Cochran commented on the "1992 IFMAR 1/12th WORLDS VIDEO thread. (02/09/2012)
A couple of things for everyone to consider regarding the speed.
1. The batteries then, if I remember correctly, were Panasonic P170s, 1700mah.
Most peoples Tx packs have more run-time than what was available then.
2. Most racers were probably running 18-20 turn motors.
3. There was no way in the World that normal people could get equipment comparable to what was run by those racers.
Now days everyone can buy the "best stuff" from any hobby shop and be competitive at the WCs. If they have the skill.
4. The cars were almost 200 grams heavier than what we have now.
After watching the 12th mod cars at Snowbirds I am convinced that 12th scale was much more rewarding "back in the day". The cars are so flipping fast and no one has to even think about dumping, the skill set required to run 12th is much different. Now you simply pull the trigger and hang on, emphasis on hang on! I'm not denying the talent that it takes to get a 12th car around now days but just stating it requires a different type of skill.
While I think lipo and brushless has made general RC racing much better for the masses it has also ruined some areas of racing, with 12th scale and possibly to some degree oval being less fun because of the endless run-time.
Also the type of back and forth action you can see in the video just isn't possible with the cars today due to the speed. It seems to me that today if you don't have a 2 foot "bubble" of free space around your car there is going to be a crash. Things are just happening too fast for even the "best reflexes in the business" to be able to keep up for an entire race distance.
I'm sure others will have differing opinions on this but I have watched and participated in 12th scale racing for 24 years, yes I'm getting really old, and just wanted to give some observations on what I have been seeing happen over the last few years. It just takes looking at old videos to really drive home the point.
I'm now going to go grab a fire extinguisher and wait.
Long live 12th scale.