I am the chairman of the 1/12 electric section of the BRCA, so it's my job to coordinate and oversee the activities of 1/12 scale in the UK. To be fair we are more like 'the pan car section' as we encompass WorldGT and F1 too, although they don't have a huge following here at the present time.
When I started racing 1/12 scale some 10 years ago, I went to a BRCA national and there were barely 45 drivers in attendance. The track was small, and by our standards of today was not really up to par. The people I raced with are great, and many of them stuck around, but at the time they were an ever-dwindling bunch. It was a highly specialized class.
Since then, the 1/12 class has seen significant change; the switch to brushless motors, LiPo batteries, evolving body designs, ever-changing car designs, different tire additives - the list goes on.
Most of those things have combined to give a class that is, in a way, more accessible. It is no longer a necessity to have the best batteries and in-depth knowledge and experience of maintaining electronics in order to be reasonably competitive. The introduction of stock classes has also helped with that. To many (inclding myself) some of the purity has been lost. Making runtime was once an art that I watched my heroes (Spashett, Grifiths et al) accomplish with relative ease, and there was far more of a tactical side to racing 1/12 scale. That is part of what attracted me to it, but also something that frustrated me as an inexperienced hand.
Whatever peoples views and opinions might be on the above, the statistics will always ring true. By about 2010, 1/12 scale was booming in the UK - our national events were at or nearly full and drivers were once again buzzing about the class. Even some old faces were making a return. The tracks and organisation were getting better with each year, and the trend was very much an upward facing one. Great!
But something was still missing. National level racing was popular; good numbers, awesome tracks, high grip. All good! However, the club scene still wasn't great. Most people who raced 1/12 scale did it as their second class. Something to do in the winter when the weather here was too bad for tc racing. To that end, the majority of racers were only racing the class at national level and selected other events. There wasn't much of a club scene to speak of. Why?
A glance at a 'modern' 1/12 car shows up many things which tell us why they don't lend themselves to club racing. 1/12 scale is fast... really fast! It's not the kind of class that a beginner can just pick up and race. Even when you fit a slow motor, they react unbelievably quickly, and it's still very easy to get through tyres and bodyshells like they're going out of fashion. The tracks have to be quite big, and undoubtedly smooth/flat. Whilst seemingly quite simple to those of us that know them, in fact 1/12 cars are quite technical and highly sensitive; to the average joe at a club, 0.5mm of ride height or a mildly chunked tyre shouldn't be important. But in 1/12 scale those things are important. That's before you get into the realms of tweak caused by badly routed motor wires, or poorly built diffs. By nature it is a 'specialists' class and not one which lends itself to the entry level racer, or someone who just wants to 'dabble' occasionally.
So we decided to do something about it. Something was needed that is relatively simple, affordable and yet attractive enough for people to want to have a go. It had to relate to 'proper' 1/12 scale sufficiently to be relevant, but not be a direct clone of it. GT12 was the answer. A few guys were running Mardave cars which ended up becoming the basis for the rules we now have, and then the release of the original Schumacher Supastox really got the ball rolling. It was a bunch of racers that came up with the idea; we (the BRCA) enabled it to be realized.
After a 'trial year' of running cars to loose rules as support at our 1/12 nationals, we wrote some proper rules and subsequently ran it as an officially recognised class at our national events. During those two years, the class developed at a rapid rate. It was booming, particularly at club level. It seemed that the existence of a nationally accepted set of rules and a 'proper' class had led to unprecedented takeup of it at club level. In hindsight that was no wonder really; a small, cheap, easy to run class that was perfectly suited to small carpet tracks using cars that can withstand a lot of punishment. To that end it's the perfect club class; to the point where several people informed me that "GT12 had saved their club".
Now we find ourselves in a position where it's popular to the point of having outgrown it's 20-entry support class allocation at our 1/12 nationals, which are also over-subscibed. So for this season we have 2 national championships; "LMP12" for 'classic 1/12 scale' and "GT", for GT12, WorldGT and F1. I expect 80-90 entries at each of our six LMP national events (several are already fully booked with 90 + reserves), and at least 60-70 entries at each of the four GT national events (probably 40+ GT12 and the rest WorldGT and F1). Not only that, but we are continuing to see people who came into the section with GT12 a couple of years ago now trying their hand at proper 1/12 scale, which was one of the reasons for introducing GT12 in the first place.
I have always been someone who dislikes seeing too many 'classes'. I see reports of big US races with 250+ entries, but then sigh when I see that those entries are spread across about 10 different classes. The racing would be way better with 3 or 4 classes and 70+ entries in each. Sure not everyone can race modified, but is there any reason to have more than a couple of motor classes within a 'chassis formula'?
I think the answer is to give people choice, but in the right way. Rather than have a dozen different classes which use the same cars but different motors, why not have a class (in our case GT12) that gets people 'in the door' and is sustainable at clubs, and then give them options (in our case 1/12 scale mainly) to pursure if they wish once they've got a bit of experience running a similar, but much simpler and cheaper class?
GT12 has been a revelation in the UK, and with the interest of further manufacturers it is likely to keep growing for years to come. The introduction of the Protoform body for GT12 could provide the springboard it needs to eventually become adopted aboad. If a manufacturer like Associated or Xray decided to do a chassis then it would very quickly explode globally I think. The trick for us will be trying to control that growth to keep it as it was originally intended. Hopefully the rules and their intent (kit price caps, suspension/damper rules etc...) will enable us to achieve that. We welcome other bodies and nations who might wish to use our rules and procedures for their racing - that is why we exist!
As always, the UK lads (drivers and officials, many of us both!) are happy to answer any questions you might have. If you would like to contact me directly then my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
, or add/message me on Facebook. In the meantime, have fun folks! Embrace it, and consider the great benefits it could offer, particularly at entry/club level.