Today’s entry in our Learner’s corner is around scoring. A large part of the RC car racing hobby is the competitive aspect of it and like all forms of competition, scoring is the mechanism used to measure the winner.
So what is required from a race car to score and what scoring formats are applied here? Let’s start with the mechanism for scoring; lap and race timing.
RC cars are fitted with a small transponder which gets powered by the car’s electrics during a race. This is referred to as an “active” transponder where Radio Frequency ID (RFID) of the unique transponder number is emitted to a timing loop as it passes over the platform. The track has an embedded loop across part of the track that reads the RFID data from the transponder as it crosses and feeds this information back to timing software that runs on a standard PC / Laptop.
Transponders usually cost around the $120-$150 mark although some clubs (such as ours) have a stock of these that can be loaned to racers who do not have their own personal ones equiped in their cars.
At race meets, the timing software allows for multiple formats of race meets and competitors are entered in to their appropriate race classes with their personal transponder number input to track their times.
So how are these times used to score?
Different race meets can have different scoring formats depending on the duration of the meet (single day event or multi-day event) but usually follow a similar format of timed practice, qualifying and races (pretty much the same as any common motorsport racing format!).
Session times are usually 5-6 minutes in length and for practice sessions, usually used to get your car configured optimally for the track and conditions. Ideally, during practice sessions, you are aiming to bring your lap times down. It’s not uncommon to see lap times reduced by 2+ seconds when tweaked across practice and qualifying sessions.
Practice sessions (along with Qualifying sessions) can also be where grading is performed. This is common where there are competitions with too many competitors to fit on a track at the same time. A race may be capped at 10 cars but if there are 20 competitions, the top 10 fastest cars may be graded in the first round and the second 10 in the next round.
Qualifying sessions are used to determine grid positions for races. In this format, cars start the qualifying session (same 5-6 min format as actual races) but do not start from a grid but are staggered (spaced) at the start of the session. At completion of the timed duration, racers must complete the lap they are currently on and the results are used to determine best times.
How do you interpret the race times?
At completion of a qualifying session, positions are based on the least amount of time taken to complete the most amount of laps. This will read in the format of laps/time where 16/6:08.983 means there were 16 laps completed in 6 minus 8.983 seconds. This would beat a time of 15/6:03.455 because even though time of 6 mins 3 seconds is 3 seconds better than the other time of 6 mins 8 seconds, this racer only managed 15 laps so was a lap down on the first racer.
At completion of qualifying rounds, racers start ALL races on the starting grid based on the order they finished in qualifying. Some points systems / championships may award points to the Top Qualifier (TQ) as well.
Races are then run on a pre-determined number of races with a cumulative points system based on position finishes to determine an ultimate winner based on most points.