Not every patient is featured on the patient spotlight. But sometimes during an exam, I will find out something about a patient that I think is exceptionally interesting. This Patient Spotlight is about something that many of us remember fondly as kids, but maybe haven't thought about much recently: radio controlled car racing. Enter Paul Roberts, driver for Max Velocity Racing, international RC racing champion. - Dr. Nate
Dr. Nate: Thanks for being a Patient Spotlight. How did you get into RC racing?
Paul: I have been interested in RC (radio controlled) cars since I was a kid but only until I saw a race event did I get interested in racing. I was amazed at the speed of the cars and how precise the drivers were able to control them around turns. You could feel the excitement and adrenaline watching the cars maneuver and battle for position. Being a mechanical engineer, I was also interested in the technology that allowed the cars to perform at such a high level. After talking with a few of the racers I decided to purchase a car and give racing a try.
Tell me a little about your class...
The class is called 1/8 Scale GT. The cars are relatively big compared to other cars in the sport. The engines run on nitro-methane which is a highly volatile fuel that gives the engines such high performance. Cars can achieve speeds in excess of 75mph. These high speeds translate into visually dynamic turning and great crashes. The cars are required to have bodies that look like street legal sports cars which is one of the big reasons the class has received so much positive attention. The cars really look like scaled down Ferrari, Corvette, and Lamborghini sports cars.
How competitive is your class?
The class is very competitive due to the rules that are intended to make the cars as equal as possible (similar to stock car racing). This puts the focus on driving as the largest contributing factor in winning a race. Often 45 min races will come down to a couple seconds separating 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. There are frequent battles for position throughout the race that get oooohs and ahhhs from the on looking crowd.
To what do you attribute your success last year?
I would attribute my success at the 2010 GT World Championships to 4 things: calm driving, meticulous car maintenance, a good pit person, and luck. When driving with good drivers you are controlling your car at high speed within inches of other cars and barriers. In a 45 min race it is important to stay focused and avoid getting fatigued or riled up if you make a mistake or somebody hits you. You need to let it go and focus on the next turn. Some racers will make a mistake and get mad about it and it makes them make another mistake and then it snowballs and they defeat themselves. Staying calm and focused after a mistake is a big part of a good consistent driver.
Having your car as close to mechanically perfect is very important. The cars are very rugged but over time parts wear out, screws get loose, and parts break. It is important before the big race to meticulously go through the car from bumper to bumper checking and double checking parts and systems for wear or breakage. It can mean the difference between winning and not finishing the race.
Having a good pit person is always a good thing. The final races last 30-60 minutes and the cars only run 7 min on one tank of fuel. Your pit person re-fuels the car during the race and will make slight modifications to your car if necessary to optimize its performance. It’s always good to have a pit person that knows the car and is quick with the fuel to minimize your pit time.
Luck plays a role in the race because other drivers make mistakes too and crashes result. You don't always know when crashes will happen and you are lucky to avoid a crash if it happens in front of you. If you do get in a crash you are lucky if you don't break something. In the World Championship Race I ended the race with two crucial screws backed out 75% and one tire that was about to fail. Not to mention my engine broke in the last 30 seconds of the race (luckily I was 4 laps ahead and nobody could make up 4 laps in 30sec). Luck plays a role but the better you master the first three points the less luck will influence your outcome.
What are your future goals with RC racing?
My future goals are to keep improving my driving, have fun, and promote the sport. I have only been in this for a little under 2 years so I know I have more to learn in the driving realm. The secret to keeping it fun is staying positive and not get bummed out if you break and lose a race. As far as promoting the sport I think it is great for kids and adults. It’s a great outdoor activity that teaches mechanical ingenuity, auto racing concepts, and sportsmanship. Races are frequently held on the weekends at Lakes Park so if anyone is interested in seeing a race or would like more info come check us out.
Thanks, Paul. Good luck in your many future races!
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.
Watch a a video of Max Velocity Racing in action: