RC you there!
What’s over 300 metres long, lightning-fast and extremely noisy? No, it’s not the queue for Jackie Lennox’s on a Saturday night.
It’s the track at the Cork Radio Control Racing Club (CRCRC) where dirt has been thrown sky high for over a decade by some of the fastest RC drivers in the country.
For something that makes so much noise and is such a pure thrill to watch and to take part in, it’s a wonder that the club has remained relatively unknown for such a long time. Club Chairman Martin Coleman wants to change all that.
“It's a unique sport, not too many people know about us. I think there's only about five clubs on the island of Ireland,” he explains.
Boasting Ireland’s only all-dirt track, the CRCRC sits nestled in beautiful green countryside just outside Ballinhassig.
When I first contacted Martin, who joined the club as a complete novice three and a half years ago, he sent me on a video of the racers in action to a backing track of hard rock.
I was genuinely blown away by the speed and skill of the drivers, as well as how pristine and well-built the track looked.
“When you're there yourself, it’s even better because you hear the engines roaring and you see the dust get thrown up and you're immersed in it. I mean, look, my wife says we're boys with our toys, and that's literally what we are,” laughs Martin.
The club now has members from Waterford, Tipperary, Dublin and Cork with Germans, Australians, French and Italian nationalities all in the mix.
Club members race 1/8th scale Nitro/Electric cars that can reach speeds of up to 70km/h on a straight and can go between seven and ten minutes before refuelling.
The track is a wonder in itself, a perfect balance of speed, technicality and flow, and is equipped with a computerized timing system which can track each individual car to .01 of a second, not to mention the multiple ramps that can send cars up to five feet in the air!
One of the benefits of having an all-dirt track is that every two years, the club can completely redesign the layout, unlike the other mixed-surface tracks in the county which are fixed to one design.
At first glance, you might think RC racing is all about flooring the accelerator and getting from A to B as fast as possible, but it’s a lot more technical than it looks.
“So, tyres are probably the biggest difference on our track. The grip on the surface is completely different at 10am in the morning when we start racing, compared to 2pm when we're doing the finals.
“After that then you have your suspension springs, whether you want hard or soft. Then you look at your oil in your suspension, whether you want it at a higher viscosity or a lower viscosity to increase the rigidness of the car.
“You can go into so much detail with it. They're racing cars and you can control everything from how much steering you can put into it, how much weight. It can be really technical.
“Some lads will do a lap or two and know they need to change the angle of the back wheels by a degree, and I'm like, 'How the hell did you know that?'.”
In terms of difficulty, Martin says the sport is easy enough to pick up but tricky to master and that the club offers challenges for all levels of experience.
“When I joined the club I had absolutely no experience racing cars – I flew planes about fifteen years ago for a couple of years, but that was about it.
“The guys below were fantastic. If something broke, they'd show you how to fix it or, depending on what you need, they might give you a part just to keep you racing.
“If you came down tomorrow morning, we'd get you going. I always say to new people, slow is fast. When you slow down, you've the car under control so you can come around a bend correctly and accelerate correctly off it.
“There's a couple of boys out there and they are absolutely incredible racers.”
For newcomers to the sport, Martin says about €400-€500 would get you what’s known as an RTR (Ready to Roll) car which comes complete with everything you’ll need to get racing.
Then, for the more elite drivers, he says you’re looking at roughly €600 for the buggy without an engine or any electronics, which the racer then adds themselves for a more customised racing machine.
Importantly, Martin warns newcomers not to buy cars or parts on sites like eBay as you might be buying “someone else’s trouble”.
“There's always somebody upgrading their car so there's always cars floating around in the market. So, if I'm upgrading my car this year, I'll be selling it onto another club member. The new members can get fantastic bargains from second-hand cars which are still perfectly good,” says Martin.
Martin and the rest of the members at the CRCRC are now eager to spread the word about the sport they love so much and are encouraging anyone with an interest to consider becoming a member.
“It's the beauty of joining a club and I suppose it's the same in any sport. If I wasn't part of a club, I wouldn't be racing now – I wouldn't be out the back or going down to the local woods driving a car. The thrill of it isn't there.
“It can be as competitive as you wish it to be, or it can be a good old laugh. Things can get a bit tense up there at times alright but everyone looks out for one another. It's a very tightknit community across the whole island.”
To find out more about RCRCR and how to become a member, check out the club’s Facebook page, Cork RC Racing, it’s Twitter @RcCork, Instagram at corkrcracingclub or visit corkrcracingclub.ie. It also has a brilliant YouTube channel called Cork RC Racing Club.