By Peter W. Soule
THIS ARTICLE is an introduction to what is probably the biggest "comeback" event in U.S. competitive modeling. Originating on the West Coast in 1948 and spreading East, team racing emigrated to Europe, almost disappearing in the U.S. However, it has come back on a wave of greatly increased popularity and now promises to take hold as an interesting and challenging event.
At this point one might reasonably inquire, "Why promote FAI Team Racing?" Surely there are enough other things to work on, what with the Junior Problem, the ever increasing number of events on the AMA schedule, interference on the Citizens band, and the like. FAI Team Racing is admittedly one of the less popular control-line events with the rank-and-file American modelers. But the point is, that this is such a great event from every standpoint that many modelers would switch if they knew what they were missing. It offers, perhaps, the greatest scope for the development and application of talent of any event open to the control-line modeler -and that is what this hobby/sport is all about.
An idea of what FAI TR has become can be gained from the situation existing at the Budaors aerodrome in Hungary during the 1964 Control Line World Championships: Twenty nations and well over 200 of the world's most ardent control-line fans met there in competition. Three categories-Stunt, Speed, Team Racing-comprised the classic trio of International Events. The stunt event abounded with world famous names like Kari of Finland, Sirotkin of Russia and the powerful Gieseke-McFarland-Gialdini team from the United States-and there was battle between the great speed engines: MOKI, Super Tigre, MVVS and K&B.
This was the stuff excitement is made of, with such supercharged competition, but where were the crowds? Watching Team Racing. In sharp contrast to the precision aerobatics event where, after 100 or so repetitions of the pattern even a judge or two would fail to watch a flight, the final in Team Racing created a crowd control problem despite the efforts of the efficient Hungarian organization.
This tremendous crowd appeal is reflected in vigorous and increasing interest in Europe for Team Racing. Contests on the International calendar of the FAI which include, or are exclusively for TR, continue to grow in number. For example, the Belgian Criterium of Aces, Italian Gold Cup, Czech Hradek Criterium, Jugoslav Vartex Cup, and more, draw groups of TR teams from many nations.
Face it, there's something to it! Competition under this single set of rules has now spread to over 30 countries. The demonstrated popularity of TR and an awakening of interest in our own land should justify an introduction to this section of our sport for you.
About the Event: In terms of opportunity to experiment, variety of design and techniques, contest management, safety, durability of the model and perfection of the rules, FAI Team Racing is far superior to either rat racing or to the vanishing "AMA TR." Any event that can be run smoothly when contestants speak some 15 languages has got to have good rules. At the World Champ's, for example, they regularly managed to run six or more 100-lap races an hour in one circle (and this includes the pre-race activity of pit and official assignment, etc., and the 90-second warm-up and count down periods).
Performance standards in the United States relatively are still so low that FAI TR at, say, the Nats or King Orange, is not a tough event to place in. In a year or so the increased popularity will be reflected in greater difficulty for newcomers.
Best of all, this is one event which is still quite free of the need for special equipment, factory backing, speed secrets, and the like, in order to produce really first rate results. Many basic modeling skills are required, however, and the best model-engine-fueI-prop combination hardly stands a chance without an expert and well-practiced pilot-mechanic team.
Stunt is to TR as figure skating is to ice hockey. Comparing team racing and Speed is like comparing Indianapolis to Bonneville. TR is a contest of man and machine, not against the degree of conformance to a fixed standard, not against a clock, but against other men and other machines with unexpected events, body contact, tactics and improvisation all superimposed on the battle of streamlining and horsepower against a stopwatch and a 10 cc. tank.
Getting Started: Most of the difficulty in getting started in
TR used to stem from a lack of a few critical items which were not in
common supply, and a lack of information. Now, however, a number of AMA
members, and members of the hobby industry, have filled in many areas of
the event that once caused frustration in America. A throng of modelers
have great experience in
Rat racing, which provides an excellent, though not required, background for advancement in TR.
Equipment: The following are the only unusual items: Engines, fuel and pans.
Engines: More makes of first-class engines are produced for TR than for any other fixed-displacement class event, but they are all of foreign origin and availability in this country is sharply limited. Most of them, however, last indefinitely if treated properly. The British Oliver Tiger is the dean of TR engines. This hand-made engine is available in standard or factory-modified form from Rare Model Engines, 207 Kilts Dr., Houston, Tex. 77024. The British Eta 15D is available from Vigo Model Products, 131 S. 4th, Terre Haute, Ind. 47801. The Italian Super Tigre 15D, distributed by World Engines, completes the trio of engines that accounts for nearly all the United States competition. The Super Tigre has now practically disappeared from the market, unfortunately.
Fuel: Fuel is not secret and most mixes vary little from the traditional "Oliver mix"-20% castor oil, 30% ethyl ether, 47% kerosene and 3% ignitor, such as amyl nitrate of nitrite, isopropyl nitrate, etc. The reason for the use of the diesel engine is that, with the regulation 10 cc (about 1/3 oz.) of fuel, no other kind of engine has shown the ability to produce the range required and, contrary to popular opinion, diesels are easier to pit once you get to know them!
Pans: Although common, they certainly are not required. The present World Champion, Dick Place, does not use one. The Javelin by Elimination Models is a nice kit made for the Eta/ Oliver and comes with a pan. If you like to build from plans, several are available from, or will appear shortly in, magazines. Two designs from the Valley Circle Burners, the Barr-Norsikian "Minuteman 11" (MAN) and the Brandt-Soule "Framas 9" (to appear in A.M.) are probably the most recently available.
Information: The best source is the FAI Team Race Newsletter an amateur publication (produced at irregular intervals) $2.00 for a subscription which includes six or more issues, depending on the income of this nonprofit news sheet. It is circulated throughout the world and is international in scope. "TRNL" attempts to cover every aspect of the sport, including contest results, team selection details, construction techniques, engine set-up, design and so on. FAI TR Newsletter, 26622 Fond Du Lac, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Calif. 90274.
Competition Activity: What are your chances of going to Palm Springs for the team selection or, perhaps, even to the World Champs? Most encouraging, out of three sets of three teams, each sent overseas by the AMA, only one team has gone twice. So it is eight newcomers to one veteran so-far. Incidentally, TR is a popular brother or father and-son team event.
Biggest centers of activity seem to be Los Angeles, Seattle, Huntsville, Washington, D. C., and Eastern Florida. TRNL will put you in touch with any near-by subscribers. Your local area groups may have many interested parties if you ask questions and/or talk about the event.
Summation: To enjoy what Kevin Lindsey of the British journal Model Aircraft termed the most popular competition control-line event in the world is: