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A weekend of RC racing

Annual remote control car competition brings hundreds out to the SCV

Posted: July 21, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 21, 2014 2:00 a.m.

In this Thursday photo, drivers practice for the 17th Annual Hot Rod Hobbies and Raceways Offroad Shootout race at the Hot Rod Hobbies racetrack. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.

The 17th annual Hot Rod Hobbies and Raceways Offroad Shootout has become not only a tradition for remote car competitors in the Santa Clarita Valley but for enthusiasts across the country, according to some faithful returnees.

Kevin Gahan, who travelled from Temecula to compete in the local weekend-long competition, said the event now has the distinction of being the only lasting outdoor venue for remote control racing.

“This track is unique,” he said. “Today, all the places are indoor-style tracks.

“This is more like a tradition from back in the day.”

Gahan was one of more than 300 professional and privateer remote control car drivers to take part in the annual event.

Tucked in behind a row of unassuming automotive storefronts on Railroad Avenue at Drayton Avenue, scores of competitors from across America — pretty much all of them men — tinker and tune tiny bits of miniature car machinery under big top tents.

They worked quietly against the backdrop sound of tiny motors revving on a dirt track nearby.

Ryan Pavidis, 12, of Murrieta, already knows where the rubber meets the road or, in the case of tiny cars — where the “soft tires” meet the sand.

“It’s hard to pick out the right tires — hard or soft — until you’ve seen the track,” he said, having just finished competing.

Not too far from him were two men — still boys at heart.

When Derek Tarrant and Billy Fonnegra showed up at the Hot Rod Hobbies and Raceways Offroad Shootout — remote control cars in hand — they didn’t know each other. That was 17 years ago when they were both 8-year-olds.

“I’ve been here since the very first race,” Tarrant said, as he picked up his latest remote control car.

His football-sized car placed eighth out of 10 in a final race Sunday.

“I’m out. I crashed on the back double,” he said with a smile, pointing to a particularly roughpatch on the dirt track.

His friend, Fonnegra, pointed to the same patch, adding: “The landing is as high as the lift.”

Looking back on the better part of two decades, both RC car competitors say they have seen theirhobby pursuit evolve through drastic technological developments in the manufacture of remote control cars.

“Everything is so different,” Tarrant said. “The cars are better. And, because the cars are so much faster the (race) track has had to keep pace.

Drivers competed in qualifying races Saturday. On Sunday, the top 20 drivers in each class faced off against each other.

There were three rounds of qualifying races, with best two counting toward one main event position.
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