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Off the beaten tracks

Posted: July 22, 2012 2:30 a.m.
Updated: July 22, 2012 2:30 a.m.

Drivers watch their cars from the drivers stand as one of their 1/10-scale model buggies go airborne during a qualifying race at the 15th annual Hot Rod Hobbies Off-Road Shootout RC race competition held at Hot Rod Hobbies in Saugus on Saturday.

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About 300 amateur and professional remote control car racers gathered at a small race track in Santa Clarita on Saturday for what some racers say is one of the biggest RC car events in the world.

“The track is always phenomenal,” said 25-year-old Ryan Maifield of the scaled-down dirt raceway behind the Hot Rod Hobbies store on Railroad Avenue during the Hobbies Off-Road Shootout RC race competition.

It resembles a motorcross track with triple jumps, tabletops and tight turns. “It’s really similar to my home track,” Maifield said.

The RC car enthusiast from Phoenix, said he’s a professional racer with several sponsors and spends about half the year traveling to various races.

“I started racing remote-control cars as a hobby but I slowly got good at it and now it’s my full-time job,” Maifield said.

He placed first in his qualifying race Saturday and hoped to win the main event.

Hot Rod Hobbies Off-Road Shootout’s  annual event involves two days of practice and three days of racing with the main event today.

“Like any other motor sport, if you’re good enough someone will pay you to do it,” said Jimmy Babcock, owner of Hot Rod Hobbies and organizer of the 15th annual competition. He added that racers flew to the race from as far away as Austria and Germany with sponsors paying for their airfare, hotel and rental cars.

Babcock said he raced remote-control cars professionally for 15 years before he retired and took over Hot Rod Hobbies about seven years ago. He said only five to eight people at the race are paid professionals but a few earn up to $100,000 a year in the sport.

Brian Mowry, a 15-year-old Castaic resident, said he’s been racing RC cars for eight years. He got into it because his dad raced slot cars and the two do repairs together on his $300 electric off-road racer.

“I enjoy racing with my dad,” said Mowry, adding that he doesn’t have any sponsors but hopes to some day. “It’s kind of a bonding experience.”

Mowry said he enjoys watching the professional racers’ techniques as they navigate around the 10-foot-wide track.

“They don’t make any mistakes,” he said. “Every turn is perfect.”


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