2009 Toledo Nationals
by Mike Myers
We got to the track bright and early Thursday, but it was already packed with racers and friends. The track opened up for practice around 8am or so, and within an hour things were looking quite busy. The driver's meeting was set for 10:30am, when everyone gathered around the timing and scoring area for the longest driver's meeting I've seen in ages. I don't think there was any rule or regulation that wasn't covered. Because of the tight schedule and the officials not wanting people walking on the track, we never got a chance to take a group photo – maybe later in the week (after the Finals) that might be possible.
As per ROAR rules, the race is being run with qualifying points, meaning each round is scored separately. Should the track be "fast" or "slow" doesn't matter – TQ'ing your round on either fast or slow tracks gets you a points score of zero, so every round is equally important regardless of track conditions. Some people feel this is wrong, as the racer who puts in the fastest run at the event won't be TQ unless he does extremely well in two rounds, meaning it's important to not break, and to be consistent. With six rounds of qualifying, there's plenty of time for racers to put in two rounds of their best performance. For those who are still struggling, there are also bump-ups in the Finals, allowing them to advance up to the Final even if they're starting in a lower final.
The race is being run in the IFMAR "ladder" system, with the racers divided between "odd" and "even". Racers compete in whichever group they are placed in. The top racers go directly to the Final. The top two racers from each group (odd and even) also advance into the Final. Because of the difference in track speed I was told there will be 12 cars in the 1/8 Final, and 14 cars in the 1/10 Final. This is also the first time I've been to a major event which didn't have a radio impound. With so many cars using the new technology "DSM" radios, there are so few racers left on the old frequencies that the officials felt it was no longer necessary. Personal transponders and the new radio technology certainly have simplified the racing scene! One other comment on qualifying – many racers were still trying to work out their fuel mileage, and there were quite a few cars that flamed out just before the start/finish line.
The start of each qualifier was based on the "flagless start" system first developed by the Toledo club. Cars go out for a warmup, and can stop in the pits as often as they want. When it's thirty seconds before the race clock is to start, drivers are informed, and they can again pit whenever they wish. After refueling, they can start whenever they want, but they shouldn't go over the line again until the race clock starts. The goal is to allow them to spread themselves out around the track for the start, and when the countdown reaches "zero" the race clock starts. As long as you go over the start/finish line before the first car to cross the line completes a full lap, you'll be on your own clock, and get your full time for qualifying. Once the first car starts the clock, the timer starts for all cars even if they haven't yet completed a lap, so you have to plan accordingly. This system saves time, is easy on the drivers, and if the cars spread out as they should, there won't be any of the dreaded "first turn pileups".
I got to talk to several racers about the event. I was told that the reason so many racers were here, was that Toledo was within driving distance of most of them, making the trip less expensive than if they had to fly. Actually, many wished there weren't so many people here – it resulted in a very packed schedule, to get the full event in. There are 21 heats per round, making each round about 3 ½ hours long. Some racers who tried to sign up late were told the event was sold out, so they couldn't get in. On the other hand, everyone is quite happy about the weather – today is even nicer than yesterday, and the weather is expected to remain perfect for the entire week.
When you walk around the pits, you see two types of racers. There is one huge group that is here because they enjoy RC, and want to be with their friends, doing what they enjoy most. They aren't worried about how well they'll do in the races – they just enjoy doing it. Then there's another group that's here because it's a championship race. Most of these racers are sponsored, and despite the economy, how well they do with their gear will hopefully help their sponsors sell more in the future. All the major brands of cars are here, and these guys are dead serious about the racing. As you walk around the pits, you'll see the first group smiling and kidding around with other racers, while the second group is usually dead serious and working (struggling?) with their cars. With two classes, many racers are running both.
The "practice round" started around 11am. Apparently it was a good chance for everyone to get things sorted out, and get used to the racers they'll have with them in their first two rounds of qualifying (after the second round, there will be a re-sort). After a short break, the first round of qualifying started.
The following photo gallery has some photos from late Wednesday, which I didn't get posted yesterday:
For today's photo gallery here's a link for the early photos, and one for some racing action from the 1/8 qualifier:
Click the following link to see the qualifying order at the end of ONE round of qualifying. These are mostly of some of the faster racers in the 1/8 open class. There are photos of Paolo Morganti, Jim Adkins, Ted Hammer, Mike Swauger, Art Carbonell, Michael Palazzola, Scott Kimbrow, Ralph Burch, Josh Cyrul, and a few others.
QUALIFYING ORDER AFTER ONE ROUND OF QUALIFYING:
Note: When I take photos, early in the event I concentrate on photos of the people at the event. The next day I usually try to cover the track and the facilities. On the last day I try to get shots of the Finals, the winners, and the winning cars. If there are photos that people would like to see which I'm not usually taking, please send me an email explaining what you'd like to see, and I'll try to add it to the photos I take. The email address to use is "mikem @ rc-racing.com". For those who are interested in technical details, almost all my photos are taken with Nikon DSLR cameras, although at this event most of the "people photos" and shots around the track were taken with a rangefinder Leica.