An Old Geezer's View of Racing Part 4 - RC Groups

An Old Geezer's View of Racing Part 4

Rejoin long time racer and all around cranky old modeler, Holly Hollingsworth, as he continues the discussion of club racing, this time talking to the race pilots themselves on what makes a winning run.

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First and foremost, let me say that what follows are only suggestions. The points made here have worked for me, and more importantly have worked for some really good race pilots that have been known to take away the money.

Three of the most important rules of racing are …FLY THE COURSE, FLY THE COURSE, AND, of course, FLY THE COURSE!!!!!!

I placed this statement first so that it might be etched on your brain as we go through this segment. You will see it again and again as we proceed.

So now you have your plane built and the engine run in and you are ready to go. If you are like me, you called and they would not allow you to use gap seal on the ailerons or elevator hinges. (What’s the matter with them, that ain’t changing anything is it ??) And, yes, you have to use the fat wheels that came with the kit. (Bummer!)...

Control Throws and the Full Stick Approach

Oh well, lets set up the airplane. I have found that the control throws should be about the same as a trainer. Be advised, that a good stunt plane (one that is set up for aerobatics) usually doesn’t make a good racer. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fast, it just means that with all that control throw you stand a great chance of over control in a race and wadding the little hummer up. I have talked with many racers and a big percentage of them, like me, “bang the sticks” to round the pylons. What this means is that the aileron stick is deflected to the stop to obtain the 90 degree roll, (knife edge) needed to set up for the turn. Then the elevator stick is “banged” to the up stop to make the turn. To be able to do this without entering a snap roll you must set your control throws carefully. I usually take the plane up high and dive a little with full power and “bang” the stick back for a loop. If she snaps out at the top, bring it down and reduce the throw until she will do a fairly tight loop with no tendency to snap. The aileron throw should be set so that full deflection of the stick to the stop produces a relatively fast, but controlled, roll rate to knife edge. You will find that a true 90’ knife edge is a real important thing.


Why Full Stick?

I also know racers that “fly” the plane around the pylons ……. I can’t do it consistently enough to stay with a good pilot. And just between you and me, they can’t do it either all the time … they go long, they go short, they go up and down, yada, yada, yada ….. This kind of racing can be somewhat equated to bowling. The more you can do everything the same, the better you do. Same approach, same steps, same back swing, same release, put it on the same mark, and so on. With racing, it’s same altitude, same count, same knife edge, same roll out, and so on. So, by making full stick be the input every time, there is less chance of giving a little more or a little less throw in one turn or another, thus making each turn more consistent.

Callers and Finding the Pylon

Lets talk about your caller. This individual is a VERY important part of how good a racer you are going to be. You need to find the most laid back, calm, nothing bothers him/her, never gets excited, person you know. You and your caller need to practice and get a rhythm going for the count. If your caller can see the plane and pylon and turn you without cutting …Good for you! Most of us have to count to get the plane and pylon in the right position to turn without going long or cutting. As an example ….

I usually get a friend to stand directly in line with the pylon, (back off the course, where the pylon judge will be stationed), with his arm raised. When my plane passes the pylon he drops his arm. The count starts when the plane passes in front of you and your caller. (Stand as close as possible to the start finish line.) As the plane passes you count in rhythm. Thousand one ……. thousand two …… thousand three …..thousand four …..ready …..turn. Oops, the arm came down at “three” which means you are about two seconds long. Two or three turns like that and you’ll be flying in the next heat, cause this one will be over. So we have to shorten things up. Shorten the count, not the rhythm. Thousand one ….thousand two ….readyyyy …..TURN …..

That should put you just past the pylon and safe from a cut. As the plane passes you and your caller going down the back straight, the count starts again, and so on and so forth for all the laps. The count as stated above is assuming a no wind situation. This doesn’t happen very often so you will need to adjust again. ADJUST THE COUNT, NOT THE RHYTHM. You will probably adjust to 3 or 4 up wind and one and a half downwind, depending on conditions.

"What Do You Mean 'Do Not Race'?"

I am now going to tell you something that will make you think that this old croc has gone senile.


I will guarantee you that if you start racing another airplane you will cut, chandelle a turn, or wad it up on the ground. If your caller starts racing another airplane he/she will cut you within two pylons, trust me ………..The caller who can see other airplanes and tell you where they are and how to avoid them while maintaining the rhythmic count is priceless!!! Buy him/her dinner after the races, 'cause you will have some extra cash if you have flown the course. One of my favorite NASCAR drivers was a fellow called "Handsome” Harry Gant. He was a very good racecar driver. He said something about, “Going fast down the straights ain’t nothin’, turning around at the end and coming back is where it’s at”……….True, Very true…

Now we get to “Flying the course” …… You have flown the racer enough now to know what it’s going to do when you bang the sticks. You are comfortable with it, you have fixed or removed any bad habits it may have had. It is trimmed and ready.


So now pick an altitude you are comfortable with. It does NOT have to be “on the deck” like the big boys …..The only restriction on altitude is to be low enough so the pylon judge can see your plane and the pylon at the same time and make a judgment call as to weather you went past it. That being said, pick an altitude that will allow you to push over a little if you need just a little more speed on the last lap. What ever altitude you have chosen, STAY WITH IT !!! Every one sort of “comes down” for the start, just for a little more speed. When you get to your comfort zone try to stay there the entire race. When you have to climb you slow down, big time!!!

A Perfect Turn

Here is where the perfect 90 degree knife edge is REAL important. If you over rotate and pull the elevator to turn, you might end up in a pile up at the foot of the pylon. If you rotate less than 90’ you get a beautiful Chandelle of about 100 feet and every one goes under you like you are a glider. Aerobatics and racing just don’t mix well. The more fancy maneuvers you do, the slower you are. Chandelles in the turns have cost many a fast airplane the win in many a race. The real trick as I see it, is ….. FLY THE COURSE ……… Maintain the same altitude, at “readyyyy” roll up 90’, at “turn” come around, immediately roll out, level the wings, and head for the next pylon. If you are off track, roll onto the right heading quickly and level the wings, quickly!! Your airplane is 5 to 7 mph slower going down the straight in a bank!!! Looks great for the noon airshow, but, you don’t win races.

The Start

The start is somewhat important, like a whole lot!!! If you can get to the first pylon with speed, you are in the catbird seat big time ! Fly the course and let those suckers try to catch YOU…… and that’s fun, I don’t care who you are, that’s fun. A count helps here also. After the two minute window has passed you are “on the 60 second clock”. Everyone is just milling around above the course. As the starter counts it down …. 40 seconds ………..30 ….20, I try to be on the back stretch, crossing the start/finish line heading for number two pylon at 10 seconds. Go out for 6 or 7 seconds depending on the wind, and altitude they let me get, (some starters won’t let you dive at the start line) whatever, the trick is to cross the start line ….. AT THE HORN ….. AT 0 ….. zero, not 1 one ….

Let me say that again... You MUST cross the start line at the horn -- at ZERO -- not at one!

You cross at “one” and you are a second ahead and have a start cut. So, if you are heading out on the backside at 10 seconds, do not make your turn and start back at 5 -- that gets you there at “one...aaaaw fooy, and other words. But, if you got it right, and your little hummer is about 5 feet on the “good” side of the line when the horn sounds, full bore, ears laid back, out front, screaming toward number one pylon ……….

That’s fun!! I don’t care who you are, that’s fun right there !!!!


What are the key points to winning?

  • Wings level
  • 90 degree knife edge turns
  • a calm rhythmic count
  • maintaining the same altitude through out the race
  • not racing the other guy
  • a good start
  • and, for the umpteenth time, “just fly the &*$% course” wins races!

See you at the races ………….. Always check yer 6!

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