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IFMAR Worlds – Who Is Going To Rock And Roll?

1991-Winter-ChampsI read an article once where Billy Easton was asked about racing and getting to the top. He claimed it was a lot like the song by AC/DC. It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. It’s so true, it’s a very long path and some never get there.

You start off wanting to have some fun, you hear of R/C maybe through a neighbor or a friend. You get involved by visiting a hobby shop and getting pointed in the right direction. If you are lucky you have some support of your parents. They see a benefit in having a harmless hobby. “It’s for the kids right”

You pick a vehicle that appeals to you and your budget and probably more specfically, your parents budget. You take it home and have your dad or parents help build the vehicle. You have some issues along the way but your dad “has the ultimate set of tools” he can fix it. You fix it with Tie-wraps, duct tape, super glue, wood, scotch tape, aluminum, welding rods, Vaseline and WD40 (water displacement 40th revision).

Your experience requires some dedication. You bring vehicles back to the hobby shop if they don’t work and look for a quick fix. You beg the parents for a better vehicle and start all over again. This time you are a little better at it and recognize the errors you are making before they happen. You start fixing the cars with the proper parts. You convince your friends to get something “so you can race”. You start doing all the work yourself because your parents are busy and paying the bills. You can’t get enough.

You build a track in your backyard based on a vision in your head of what a bad azz track should look like. Figure 8 track it is!! You build some jumps and use some trees as the corners. You charge a few batteries and run the track, in between your favorite monster truck videos.

You quickly gain the reputation of the guy that has a track in your backyard. Your cousin and your neighbor are your toughest competition but somehow you always have enough races where you end up winning. Once you master the track it’s time for photos and video of the action to show your parents and others what you are doing. Interviews, changeable bodies, you have thought of everything to make these videos legit. ESPN 2 ready!!

The hobby shop mentions a race track nearby the store….what!!?? There is actual racing and a track somewhere? Yes, it’s real and you should check it out. Your parents drive you to the track and before you can get out of the car, you are in love. This is the real deal! After pulling some strings you get a real race car. You have the best of what the hobby store recommends for the local track. Your first practice day is a blast and you are looking for your cousin and neighbor to attend but they don’t. It’s just you, your parents and your race car. Sliding around, drifting and jumping on the “real” track is fun.

Next weekend you signup for the race and don’t know anything. Transponder? Lap-times? A-main? B-main? Your parents are just as lost. You are up, kid! Just go when the horn goes off. You got this! Sliding around, drifting and jumping on the “real” track is fun. Race over.
Hey kid, have you raced before? No, it’s my first time….BS, you must have raced before, you are fast out there. How do you know I’m fast? I looked at your lap-times and they are quicker than other veteran racers here. Oh, so you mean I can drive good? Yes, I can’t believe it.

You meet your first friend, then your next friend. Everyone has a ton in common. You are there every week moving up the ranks. Someone says are you running the “big one” in February? What is the “big one”? It’s only the biggest race in the U.S.A. and it’s just 2 short hours away. Yeah, I’m in.

Arrive to the “big one” to find huge tents and people everywhere. Woah, there is Cliff Lett… He’s in the magazine. This is the coolest thing ever. There is a line for practice? Start here and wait your turn for a 4 minute run. You are almost shaking, so nervous to be around so many people. Do you belong? Qualifying starts and it’s just you and the track. You find a way to make it happen and pull off decent finishes. You don’t know what you are doing. Woah, it’s Jay Halsey….he’s the coolest.

Pretty soon it’s state champs, regionals, nationals and unique paint schemes. You can’t get enough, grass is growing on the old backyard track. Your schedule revolves around practice, racing and the track. You win your first race! Things are moving at a fast pace. You see improvement in yourself, it’s exciting and rewarding.

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One day you arrive to the track and there is a buzz in the air. Someone tells you there is a sponsored driver racing at your local track. Oh no! What is sponsored? Basically he gets everything for free and thinks he’s the best. Not on my home track he’s not….you get your azz kicked anyway. Man, I need to be sponsored.!.! That’s how he’s so fast.

You find out where they are from and want to race them all the time. If I beat them, I have to be the best. All I need is more track time and a sponsor. You fall for any sponsor you can get and it’s temporary happiness. I still can’t beat these guys…man, they are really good. I need to talk to them. How are they good? What is their setup? Do I need a different sponsor? Follow them around like a puppy dog.

Wow, I’m getting better. I’m getting closer. This is a lot harder than I thought, though. When I was in novice I was told I was good? The “big one” is back in town again. Damn, I made the B-main and raced with Gil Losi JR and Rick Howart. I don’t even know what I’m doing. Your parents call for more sponsorships and get them. B-main was good at the “big one” I guess. You win your first state championship. Someone pours water on your head. Cue the Karate Kid music, “you’re the best…around”

You are on fire locally, people ask you for advice. Your wall is full of trophies. You get more vehicles, you have more success. More sponsors on-board. You get a few haters a long the way. He’s got everything, he’s not that good, he’s lucky. More winning. Respected people take you under their wing. You qualify for the Worlds. You are on the Worlds team! A trip to the Worlds! Your old backyard track is completely grass. Submerged in the new life, trying to make a name for yourself. You’ve made it to the Worlds. You get on the drivers stand and the nerves kick in. You are back to square one, you are back at your first “big one” all over again. It’s intense, cut throat, secretive, and political. You resort back to your parents and friends for comfort. Everyone looks at you like a threat. “This is my house”

You succeed while being incredibly nervous while feeling out of place. You are making a name for yourself. You fly home and race right away with new confidence and comfort. You are a local big shot and have the look of a hired gun. You travel anywhere to take people down on their home track. Your first question when you arrive to a new track. “What’s the track record”

2 years goes by and you attend another World Championship. Only this time you aren’t afraid or intimated. You are the one setting the pace, the setup and trends. You compete, you do well, but not the champion. The guy wins standing next to you on the drivers stand. You can’t stand it but congratulate anyways. You want to skip the banquet, you want to throw away your trophy, you don’t care about free food. You are a poor sport! Your old backyard track has 7 years of grass on it with a little bit of clay peaking out. The old tree turn is still there but now it’s more a tree and less a turn. Man, it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll.

Tomorrow, at the 2014 IFMAR World Championships. 24 drivers who’ve all had similar experiences to mine will sit in the Semi-Final. 2 absolute winners sit at the top of their respective Semis. They have impressed the field, done things nobody else can do. Who wins? Who loses? Do they even make the show? Is the winner at least standing next to you? Who carries the trophy home? Who wants to throw theirs away? Who has the most grass growing on their old backyard track?

Who is going to rock and roll?


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