CLOVERDALE — Radio-controlled cars raced by Kris Miller’s feet as he tried to explain the appeal of the Outlaw RC club he helped launch.
“Just look around,” he encouraged with a wide smile. “It’s an awesome sport, hands-on, like a video game but it’s not.”
Close to 40 men and kids gathered for RC car races at Shannon Hall on Oct. 31.
In the winter months, members of the club set up a carpet track at the hall every second Saturday.
Come March, they’ll be back at an outdoor track they built in another corner of Cloverdale Fairgrounds, near the Showbarn.
The club got rolling in the spring of 2013.
“I got into RC four years ago, and I had sons engaged in it after I purchased my first RC car,” Miller said.
“I started looking around for a club in the Fraser Valley, just to get into it.”
Instead, Miller and others started a club, and word has spread to include some racers from towns south of the border.
“Our club is gaining interest – we’re the new club in the area,” Miller explained. “It all starts with community and letting people know we’re here, spreading the word, what we stand for and what we’re about. There are a lot of people with RC cars who perhaps don’t know a club like this exists, for races.”
When the Now visited, Bellingham resident Jason Sims and his son Caleb, first-time racers at Shannon Hall, worked on their trucks in the pit area that surrounds the track.
“Our local track closed down and we’ve come up here a couple times now,” Jason said, “but this is our first time on carpet.”
They brought with them several radio-controlled vehicles, including a stadium-series truck, a short-course model and a two-wheel-drive buggy.
“There’ll be three races for each car, and we race four different cars,” Jason revealed.
“It’s a fun father-son thing that we’ve got going,” he added.
“We check over the suspension and make sure the battery is charged up, that things are tightened up and ready to race. (Caleb) does a lot of the work himself and back when we first started, he was about 10 and needed a bit of help. Now he’s 13 and he’s got the confidence to tear into it. I love it, he’s learning to do things himself.”
Jason has noticed that his teen son has him beat for hand-eye co-ordination.
“He can control things better, so he’s really got the ability to really learn, grow and improve at this, where I’m just struggling to keep up. I have the wallet to buy the parts that keeps him going, that’s all.”
The carpet track is made of PVC pipe, wood, foam (for ramps) and a decent amount of duct tape. Members of the club recently constructed the track and now bring it out of a storage for race days.
The cars are each fitted with transponders that connect to a laptop computer placed on a table near the drivers’ stand, Miller explained.
“That computer tells the racer how fast the car is going and where your placement is, just like NASCAR and motocross races. It’s pretty high-tech. We don’t mess around here.”
The price of an “average” car on the track is around $300, he said, but the price can rocket to $3,000 or more for high-performance models.
“It just depends on how much you want to spend, just like a regular car,” Miller said with a shrug. “You can go economy or go for the real sports car. But these aren’t $50,000, they’re $500 – you know, the same price as an Xbox. I try to tell parents that it’s just like buying another video game console for your kids, pretty much.
“But,” he added, “because of the cost, it’s mostly adults doing this, I’d say – grown men playing with toys, right? That’s really what it is.”
The club’s indoor race series shifts over to the Showbarn building for this Saturday only (Nov. 14), due to another event previously booked at Shannon Hall. The biweekly action, with “open practice” public sessions held on the previous Friday night, returns to Shannon Hall on Dec. 5 and 19, followed by race dates in early 2016.