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When you feel the need for speed

by Gesel Mangilit

Mall goers in Makati, most of them families out for a weekend respite of air conditioned bliss, are oblivious to the activity going on at the uppermost level of the Park Square 2 parking lot. But for RC model enthusiasts, the summer season is the perfect time to race RC model cars in what they call the Makati RC Speedway.

A great number of people today, young and old, are enjoying radio controlled models. These are nothing more than miniature cars that can be controlled by radio signals. But what attracts hobbyists and novices alike is the precise mechanism and realistic make up of these mini cars. In fact, throughout the world, the radio control cars has become very popular, with electric cars having the largest number of enthusiasts. And the best place to acquire these toys is Japan, where the most popular brand that carries everything is located, the Tamiya. In the Philippines, there are lots of hobby shops you can go to like Lil's Futaba in Park Square and Megamall, Ogini Hobby Plus at the Power Plant Mall, Pit Shop in Araneta, QC, The Hobby Shop in Alabang Town Center, among others.

Remember how the Tamiya craze swept the malls by storm? If the Tamiya car is for kids, then its grown up counterpart is the RC model car. On any weekday, specially during office lunch time, you see grown men in office get-up playing with these mini cars at the Makati RC Speedway. The difference between an RC model car and your average radio controlled toy is that the toy is always sold in completed form while the model is presented in a kit form with components unassembled. The model may be completed in varying degrees of performance and requires the skill of the assembler.

What also accounts for the interest in these cars is the countless model types you can choose from. Think of any brand and type of car and chances are, it has its RC counterpart. Once my husband joked about getting me a car, telling me I can name any car I want and he'll buy it for me. Imagine my joy when he came home lugging a large box containing in what to me are millions of spare parts of an Ford F1 (he did after all make good his promise of getting me a car, albeit a small one). But when all the manuals and instructions were laid out before me, I've had to let him do the assembling, which took him half a day. This you might say, is an activity that can tax one's patience, because all parts have to be assembled exactly and precisely, utilizing a myriad of tiny gadgets, drills of all sizes and super strength glue.

These toys, though small, are not your average department store-bought toy which you can let small kids play with at will. There are rules and regulations for those who own such cars. You need an enclosed area or a track where you can play and you need to keep your distance at all times. Otherwise, you can get seriously injured. Just a few weeks ago, I made the mistake of going inside the track to fetch a stalled car. Suddenly from nowhere, a car came racing down the curve and struck my sandal-clad foot. The model was a 1/8 Formula 1 barreling down at 30 kph or 8 seconds per meter, which caused a gash deep enough for me to get that dreadful tetanus shot and a day off work.

Some radio controlled racing cars (even airplanes and boats) powered by gas engines can achieve speeds of over 100 kph. That's about the speed you get when driving in South Superhiway on a traffic free day. Hence, apart from keeping your distance, you should prevent radio interference by checking your receiver and transmitter prior to operation. RC cars use radio waves in order to function. The term frequency band is used to denote the frequencies of radio waves. Signal waves of radio control systems can reach two kilometers in the air and 300 to 500 meters on the ground. When there's another person operating a radio control unit, compare your radio control frequency with his and use an alternate frequency if possible. Otherwise, problems could develop like loss of control and possible injury. There was a time when a car lost control plunging from the topmost level of the Park Square building to the sidewalk near National Bookstore (near SM). Thankfully, no pedestrian or bystander was hit by the wayward car. Unfortunately for the owner though, his car was run over by a taxi passing by costing him a whooping P20,000.

Radio controlled units can either be gas powered (nitro) or battery powered (electric). At 7,000-10,000 a pop, this for the battery operated ones only, this you might say, is a hobby not to be taken lightly. A gas powered model can sell for P15,000-20,000. This however, does not include the cost of parts you need in case you plan on upgrading your car, because for a serious hobbyist, there is limitless enjoyment in customizing a car for the sake of increasing its performance. And what comes next is the road test of course. That's why there are countless organized races and competitions that exist if you keep yourself updated on the latest goings on in the RC racing circuit. Currently, there's the on-going IFMAR Nationals from which we field our representatives to the 2004 IFMAR Championships in Sweden on _______(log on to kyosho.co.jp) . Then there the Kyosho Cup held every two years participated in by more than 35 countries around the world. This is an international race event for amateur drivers who want to enjoy the thrill of racing in an event conducted on a global scale. As a regulation, professional drivers are prevented from entering the race. The first and hopefully not the last Kyosho Cup ever o be held here in the Philippines was way back in 1995 held at the Enrile-owned Traksnijak in Tagaytay. Subsequent Kyosho Cup races around the world have been held in Japan (1997), Hawaii (1999) and Beijing. The fifth Kyosho Cup is set in the year 2005 in Dubai.

If you plan on getting into this hobby there are informal races organized by hobbyists and enthusiasts especially during summer. And the best places to see and observe how these races go? Capitol Speedway in Kapitolyo Pasig along Shaw Boulevard, Connecticut Speedway - Annapolis St. GreenHills, San Juan, the Quezon City Memorial Circle, Fiesta Carnival in Cubao, RC Racing Circuit in Urbano Velasco Avenue in Pinagbuhatan Pasig, the newly re opened Montalban and the soon-to-open Speedzone RC Track at the Fort (near MC Home Depot), a 1,000 square meter asphalt track equipped with computerized lap counting system and standby overhead monitors. Free parking with security, It also has a go kart race track. If you want to go a little farther, then there's the Batangas RC Speedway just before Lipa Cathedral past the Carmelite Monastery.

Apart from cars, airplane kits, gliders, tanks, boats and sailboats are also available. And the perfect place to play with these gadgets is in wide open spaces like Subic or Tagaytay. So next time you ever feel the need for speed, why not go and get yourself a new hobby --- like RC racing.

Resource for Article: RCCarTips.com


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