These racers are always, even remotely, in control.
Lake Park in Lutz has always had an R/C, or remote control, race car track. It’s a little slice of clay dirt tucked toward the back of the park, providing an outlet for R/C enthusiasts to get outside and do a little racing.
“I would say it’s video game people — definitely hobby enthusiasts,” said Ryan Eckert, a Lutz resident who has been R/C car racing at Lake Park since 1997 and runs monthly weekend races at the track.
“Instead of playing video games, you’re out for a couple of hours, having a little fun and it’s kind of, techy, but it’s not a toy,” he said.
He continued: “Back in the day, you couldn’t buy R/C cars just anywhere like you can now. You can get an R/C car at Pep Boys, actually. It had to be specialty stores, but now that you can buy them anywhere, it’s a much easier hobby to get into.”
Lake Park R/C hosts races once a month except for during the summer because of the rain; however, the race track is open and available for use whenever Lake Park is open. Anyone can use the track at any time, but Eckert and the group maintain it when they can. It’s a dedication to a hobby, and sport, that starts at a young age.
“I think what got me into it was I wanted to race real cars, but my family couldn’t afford it,” Eckert said. “For sure, it is a lot safer to race remote control cars than real cars.
“Everyone has a blast, I think,” he added, “or I hope they do. I’ve always enjoyed this hobby and I’d like to see more kids, fathers and sons, and even novice drivers come out. All you need is a personal transponder to race.”
That personal transponder hooks into the car and allows Eckert to track lap times, provide stats and, of course, announce the winner. At the races, there are meets for both electric and nitro, or gas-powered, R/Cs. The latter requires actual pit stops to be fueled, which the length of the race also factors in.
Lake Park R/C already sees its fair share of families camp out for the day and make it an outing. Tampa resident Michael Abrahams does this with his son, Nixon, who just got an R/C kit for his birthday after showing an interest in racing.
“He’s into a lot of engineering, so he gets to work on the car, tinker with it and get his hands dirty,” Abrahams said. “It’s a great experience for him and he’s even learning a little something. … But the father/son bonding aspect? For sure. I’ll take that every weekend.”
Odessa resident, 13-year-old driver and the aptly named Ember Dirt, grew up around the R/C track, being “dragged” there by her father. So eventually, she wanted to get her hands on a controller.
“Since my dad has always done it, I wanted to get into it as well — it’s fun,” she said. “It’s not just out here playing with toys. It takes practice and some strategy. My friends think that it’s just toys, but I try to get them to come down and see it’s more than that — I bet they will one day.”
Even if R/C racing is more than toys, it is, indeed, still fun for the drivers.
And that’s all Eckert wants, too.
“I think some people can be a little scared to race — hesitant about those who are too competitive,” he said. “I wish that wasn’t the case because I think people want to come out, race and just have fun. Yes, it’s a race, but it shouldn’t scare people away. I want it to be fun — that’s the whole thing about R/C racing.”
Lake Park R/C
Where: 17314 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Lutz
Details: The organization hosts races monthly, except during the rainy summer months. Most races are on the weekends, but the R/C track at Lake Park is available for visitors, as long as the park is open.
Info: Visit Lake Park R/C on Facebook.
Published July 13, 2022