There has been quite a bit of discussion among some media, on Facebook and on RC tech about the possibility of the 2015 World EP Off Road Championships at Yatabe being run on Astro Turf as it is currently configured.
Neobuggy are calling it astrogate – http://www.neobuggy.net/2014/12/01/2015-ifmar-yatabe-worlds-astrogate/
RCTech forums – http://www.rctech.net/forum/electric-off-road/849776-2015-offroad-worlds-astro.html
Interesting though much of the feedback has been overwhelmingly negative towards the idea which surprises me a little I have to say, certainly I have seen some very heated debate on Facebook varying from support to horror and threats of drivers pulling out. . Neobuggy suggested that some manufacturers have been working on new models if it eventuates, and certainly the Hot Bodies (HB) team members appear to have been testing a lot on the similar high traction surface of carpet of late. The way it is worded almost sounds like it is scandalous though, because there aren’t any manufacturers that have cars suited to those conditions! Oh, wait, that’s not right! The B5M exists for precisely these conditions, Schumacher has a number of models suited to high traction as does Team Durango and TLR. Ok, maybe not specifically for those conditions, but designs that work well on this type of surfaces and are commonly raced on those surfaces in various parts of the world. Let’s not forget the current trend for sugared surfaces as well which offers almost ridiculous levels of grip and very heavy tyre wear.
I have seen comments from all off road should be on dirt through to it’s just touring cars with big wheels, and whilst I personally disagree, I doubt this post will change many minds other than for me to vent about it a little and put across my point of view. However I have seen dirt tracks with far fewer “off road obstacles” than many of the astro turf tracks that I have seen around the place. Have a look at the video below of Yatabe and tell me that it is boring or even lacking in challenging features?
There has been the suggestion that it would be unfair for the drivers who race on dirt all the time and have no astro setups. My first thought was that they have been missing out, but how is it any different for a racer used to racing indoors and on carpet or turf coming to race on a dirt track, how is that any less fair? and you will always have locals with a certain level of experience with the surface and conditions in a local area. It is no different to a loose dirt track vs a sugared high traction track? The same argument can be applied to the suggestion that you need to buy a car for the astro conditions, but if you already race on astro, the same applies to going to race on dirt.
Personally, I race on a carpet and astro turf track. I race a buggy that can be configured for anything from loose dirt through to high grip carpet and everything in between. I enjoy the different challenges racing on this surface brings, but it is not as easy as it sounds. I actually have used the phrase “Too much grip” a number of times when referring to my setup. The surface is not 100% the same everywhere with some areas wearing out, some areas blackening up with rubber down, and other areas are quite bumpy because of the layering of carpet. I took some photos at a recent event and the layering of the carpet alone was putting the wheels of most cars in the air. As far as looking after the surface it is much easier than dirt to look after as we are indoors so no rain to need to cancel race days (unlike most Tasmanian clubs), it is easy to change the configuration of the track and in our case, we have to be out of the shed for at least 4 weeks a year so that the owners of the site can use it (so dirt simply is not an option for us).
At the end of the day, it is about seeing which driver makes the most of the equipment that they have, at the location they are racing to see who is first across the line at the end of the day. The challenges along the way is what makes it interesting and exciting. If that means adapting to a new tyre, a new track, a new car or a new radio, that is all part of the challenges that you need to overcome. I don’t see how a different colored surface changes that much, perhaps some drivers are worried that they loose an edge being unfamiliar with the conditions, surface or track? Only time will tell the outcome, but I really can’t understand what all the noise is about!