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How Do You Build An RC Drag Strip?


Question: How Do You Build An RC Drag Strip?
Depending on what you want to do you can go the easy route, which is purchasing a complete RC Drag strip set up and equipment, or you could build your own. If you're not careful though, you could spend a ton of money on equipment for your RCs. So take the time to think and plan things out before going full steam ahead. I would personally choose to go the DIY route because, in my opinion, it's more challenging and also more enjoyable. Not all the equipment and accessories have to be built from scratch or kits because let's face it, not all of us are master fabricators and electronics wizards.
Answer: A drag strip is a straight, level strip of paved track. No banked or hairpin turns, no washboards or jumps like you might find on other RC tracks. It's divided into three parts: a warm-up section leading up to the starting line, the race portion between the start and finish, and the slow-down section following the finish line.

The RC drag strip is designed for a straight side-by-side high speed race between two or more RC dragsters. An RC drag strip is usually two lanes wide but could be as wide as 4, 6, or even 8 lanes for racing that many RCs at once. A full-size (non-RC) drag strip is generally a quarter mile long and the RC drag strip would be to scale, depending on the size of the RCs.

Materials to build an RC drag strip can be minimal. For instance, just a simple start line and finish line. Alternatively, you can go all out and have all the bells and whistles, like a computer controlled light tree, digital time/speed boards, loud speakers, microphone, overhead lights for late night drag racing and of course let's not forget the pit area and stands for the people to sit and watch. Oh, you also can't forget the concession stands for snacks and drinks. See, just from that example alone one can easily get carried away and go bankrupt doing so. It's important to think about what you want to do.

The Drag Strip
Here is a list of things to consider when building your own drag strip.

  • Is it going to be an RC drag strip for both nitro and electric RCs?
  • What scale are you going to use?
  • Is your RC drag strip going to be permanent or temporary?
  • Where are you going to build it?
  • How are you going to build it (simple or all out)?
  • How much is it going to cost for materials and equipment (simple or all out)?
If you plan on building an RC drag strip for both nitro and electric RCs you want to make sure you have enough room. The length of a drag strip for a 1/10th or 1/12th scale RC is roughly 132 feet not counting the slow-down stretch after the finish line and the warm-up section before the starting line. You have to figure in room for slowing down and stopping and if you'll be racing multiple scales of dragsters your strip should be long enough to accommodate the larger vehicles. Simply adjust the distance between the start/finish lines for other scales. I have seen nitro and electric RCs reach speeds of 80+ mph in that short of a distance, so space is a big factor. The type of track you plan on building depends on if you personally have an area to make it permanent, or if you are just thinking of setting up a temporary drag strip in a parking lot.

If you are doing a temporary RC drag strip, check and make sure it is OK to do so if in a public parking lot or street. Now we move on to the fun part. What is going to be done to the drag strip? You'll need to do your research. Do you really want to haul around a lot of equipment, lights, tents, and seating for a temporary drag strip? I wouldn't, because not only is that not practical, it also could be expensive for a temporary type of drag strip.

Starting Line Systems
Whether you decide to have your buddy wave his arm down or build a light tree this is an important part of drag racing, the fair start. There is no way one person can tell the other person holding their controller to start and honestly get an even start. Having a person or piece of equipment do it for you is a better way to go. Here are two ways to decide how you are going to make it a fair race aside from the buddy option.

  1. DIY Lighted Staging System
  2. Complete Ready To Use Staging Systems

I heard about this software through multiple forums on the net. It's made for use in slot car racing, but with a little tweaking it could also be used for RC drag racing. Slot Race Manager also provides some simple wiring plans on how to make your own starting system through the use of a parallel port on a desktop PC or laptop.

Rules And Regulations
Last but not least there are some simple rules and regulations you might want to follow to have a more realistic RC drag race experience. The IMDRA site has a lot of info and also has the rulebook in PDF format for you to have on hand at your track.

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