Family life is a juggle. Sometimes I find that in all my running around after the kids I neglect my friends. In fact over the years it’s been easy to drift out of contact with more people than I care to admit.
Starting a local remote-controlled car club turned out to be one of the best things I did in this respect. Not only has been a great way to have fun with electronics, cars and mechanics, it’s also been an excellent way to make new friends and keep in touch with old ones.
We based the club around the 1:14 scale cars from Carisma. These were not only a great match to our indoor venue, but had a ready supply of spare parts and upgrades (hop-ups, as I discovered they are called). Although there are cheaper alternatives on the market, the ones we tested didn’t come close to the performance and longevity of these Carisma models.
The biggest difference is the amount of power they have in relation to their size. Because they can go proportionally much faster, getting them around corners efficiently is a real skill. Too much gas and you lose the tail, too little and you oversteer. Get it just right though and you brush the apex perfectly without losing momentum.
Discovering that the cars were regularly reduced on Amazon sealed the deal. Once the founding members had each purchased their cars we met for the first time and never looked back. The group quickly grew as news spread and we soon had a strong ten members.
Finding the right venue was important. We settled on a sports hall that was free every Sunday evening. This not only gave us a regular meeting place but set in stone the surface we would be racing on. Deciding this led to all manner of fine tuning of the cars to cope with the slightly slippery polished wood floor.
As well as adjusting the ride height and wheel camber you can upgrade various components for specific environments. We soon realized that a range of different tires could be purchased and fitted for a real boost in performance. For us it was the Indoor Tire set that offered the best results, although if you are racing outside on tarmac or on an indoor carpet surface other tires may be a better fit.
Other enhancements included different pinion gear ratios, ball differentials, and high performance oil filled dampers. The good thing was that although these did improve performance, and were a lot of fun to fit, the biggest determining factor was how well each member knew his or her car. Driving skill wasn’t eclipsed by budget, and so far we haven’t had to impose any limits on these customizations.
We construct a different course each time we meet. Following a tip from the GeekDad demolition derby project we use “pool noodles” to construct our chicanes and offer some protection from the sports hall walls. Because the Carisma cars travel so fast we discovered that a really good tape was required to keep them in place and the Big Boss noodles worked best as they could also be threaded onto a rope to hold them together.
It’s important to include a good long straight for those who have their cars tuned for straight line speed, as well as some tighter curved sections for the cornering setups. We start the evening with some shorter races and build up to a long 30 lap race to finish.
Each racer is responsible for counting their own laps and shouts out which they are on each time they cross the line. We did try some more technical solutions to the lap counting but in the end getting drivers to do it themselves worked best and kept the cost down for new members. We keep a note of finishing positions in each of the races and maintain a spreadsheet of results for the season.
Racing inside does has it downsides. If you overcook a particular corner there are often hard walls to contend with. This and car-on-car collisions has led to our fair share of breakages. Again this is where the Carisma cars proved to be a good choice. They have an extensive spare parts list — in fact one member priced up building a car completely from spares, although this turned out to be quite expensive.
Finally, there are a number of ways you can make you cars look different (important as the number of racers increased). There are different body shells, wheels and shocks that make one car stand out from another. I’m currently running a 2008 Porsche 977 body with silver hubs and must say it looks rather special — although I think also makes me a little more tentative around corners in case I damage it.
As with any complex piece of machinery pushed to its limits the Carisma cars do have some niggles. But being in a club means that we can work together to solve problems. Having raced them for a good year or so now we’ve solved most of the issues with these cars now. We’ve compiled a set of Carisma tips for things like solving a twitchy servo, adjusting the slipper, changing a broken differential, applying a custom paint job or even installing a brush-less motor setup.