My First National
When I first started in RC, way back in the late 1980s, I would turn up to the weekly club meeting, with my Tamiya Boomerang, transmitter, two sets of crystals, a couple of batteries, a charger and a tool box with a wheel spanner and a few spares.
It was three five minute qualifying rounds and a final, and every month we would have a trophy meeting. The trophies were donated by a two of the older semi professional guys who basically ran the club and over the years had collected what must have been hundreds of trophies and had no space for them anymore. The lure of a trophy always brought out the "not as enthusiastic types" and the small church function room was always packed on those nights.
About a year in, my collection of B final trophies was beginning to clutter my room, and my dad bought me the new Tamiya Manta Ray. That was the big turning point in my RC career.
From then on it was A finals all the way. Then one day in the summer of 1992 the club organisers (the semi pro guys) asked me if I would like to go to a BIG national meeting way down south in Malvern. I asked my dad and with a bit of prompting he said "why not".
When we got to that meeting we found there were around a hundred competitors, with ten groups of ten. I was in group "H". and two of my friends who came down with us were in group "I" so were on just before me.
I remember that first race like it was yesterday. It was a staggered start and I set off next to last. I had never raced on a proper outdoor dirt track before. My only experience was on indoor carpet, but my old Manta Ray took off like a bullet. Most of the others in my heat were rookies, and by the end of the third lap I was up with the leader. He was good … very good … but I stuck to him like glue. Each twist, turn and jump brought me closer and closer, this guy was fast, but I was faster … for a while anyway. A lap before the end my old over worked 1400mah battery, was struggling to give me what I needed to keep up with him and my buggy got slower and slower. I ended up third in that first race, but wasn't about to give up that easy.
There was a shop at the meeting and straight after the race I nagged my dad to get me a new battery. In those days money was tight, and normally before dad would spend anything he would consult my mum, but this time she wasn't there, and after watching my performance in that race he didn't need much pushing to get me that badly needed new battery.
Waiting for the second round seemed to take an age, but when it arrived I was pumped up and ready with steely determination. I was away third after finishing third in the first round, so my duel with the guy who beat me before carried on where it had left off. Two laps in and I was on his tail. He wasn't going to beat me this time. We lapped a couple of back markers and were quickly catching up to a third. He slipped past him in a flash, but when I moved in, the idiot drove straight into me, knocking my Manta Ray on its back. The marshal was oblivious to my plight. I shouted my head of but the marshals eyes were fixed on what I guess was the car of one of his friends in my race. The next thing I saw was my dad, bounding across the track like a gazelle, picking up my car, putting it on the track and giving me the thumbs up. I drove like the wind, passing car after car, slowly working back up to third, where I eventually finished.
But it didn't end there. Because my dad had ran out onto the track, I was disqualified … we pleaded our case and eventually were allowed to continue.
The third round heat arrived. This time I wasn't going to let anything stop me. My focus was to win that race, and beat that guy who had all the luck so far. Because of the previous race I set off last. Car after car was left in my wake, until once more it was me against him. Mano a mano, he saw it was me and he upped his game. Lap after lap we duelled for the lead. Coming into the very last lap I was a nose in front and pulling away. With each corner I could sense the battery was once again giving up and my car started to slow down. Corner after corner I could see him getting closer and closer. … we got to the final straight and he was right on top of me breathing down my neck. I held my breath and jammed over the throttle leaver and just crossed the line before him … I had won my first national heat race. … and it wasn't to be the last.
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