Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Why appearance matters

The RC car forums are filled with threads debating the whole "Scale Appearance" issue. The views range from 'car must only resemble real race cars' to 'don't care what it looks like as long as it wins'.

Now, fundamentally, I don't have any particular issue with either end of the spectrum, but I do think that the appearance of our current crop of racing bodies is not helping involve new people in the sport. In an era where TV is more important than ever as well as more and more racing classes available to watch on live streams, I don't believe we can continue to ignore this in favour of a "performance is everything" attitude. Our current international rule set still contains references to super touring and touring cars even though none of the currently raced RC car bodies bare any resemblance to any modern touring car racing formula. The current bodies being foisted onto us by body manufactures rarely even refer to real cars and IF they do, they are seriously bastardizsed versions. The new Protoform Mazda 6 GX is a perfect example of this in my view.

This version of the Mazda 6, built to compete in the Daytona Prototype series' Grand Tourer Experimental class was, IMO, one of the sexiest 4 door saloon racing cars to hit the track in a decade, yet the version delivered by Protoform simply fails to deliver and why? - because it has been reshaped and re-styled to deliver a particular type of performance rather than look good.
Compare for yourself -

Ok, there are just enough original styling, mostly in unimportant aspects like headlights and wheel arch moldings to get away with calling it a Mazda 6, but it is also different enough for those with a less performance biased eye to go "that isn't the car I've seen racing on TV".

Now I don't want to go on about scale appearance because I don't think that helps anyone but I think RC does need relevant appearance (see what I did there). This is, potentially, more important for on-road, because it really doesn't matter to much what you do to an off-road body, the rest of the rules ensure its still mostly looks like an off-road car. To my mind this counters those that argue one of the most popular off-road cars in the late 80's and early 90's was the Tamiya Manta Ray. Yes it was a futuristic body with styling cues based on the form of sea creature its named after but it STILL looks like an off-road car and it doesn't try to call itself a Toyota Tundra or Hilux, which is what we do to on-road bodies. 1/12 and 1/8 Nitro on-road take this to ludicrous levels.

Just to punctuate this a little - Protoform is rumored to be producing a special body just for the 200mm nitro worlds. Teaser photos show a nondescript body with little moldings and lumps all over it to, supposedly, increase down force. I shouldn't be too naive about it because the current crop of 200mm nitro bodies look like someone chamfered the front into a wedge shape so they could serve a 2nd purpose as a door stop.

Ok... lets try to mold this into some form of coherent point. How do you market to people, who's main exposure to motorsport comes from the TV or internet, a form of racing that supposes to be a scale representation of real racing when none of the cars LOOK like recognisable cars? 

For example, why doesn't someone re-market VTA as Touring Car Masters which is currently experiencing a decent amount of popularity here in Australia (the bodies are almost identical)?

I am not arguing for strict scale appearance but I do believe in making the bodies more representative of what people see BEFORE they come racing.

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