THUNDER BAY – With pandemic restrictions eased and local COVID-19 numbers encouragingly low, Thunder Bay residents are gratefully returning to some of their favourite summer activities. For one committed group of hobbyists, that means gathering around a dirt track just off Cumberland Street for hours of racing.
The cars speeding around the track may be only a couple of feet long, but that’s all part of the fun for members of the Lakehead Radio Controlled Car Club.
Racers control their vehicles from a raised platform, with others standing ready to put vehicles back on track when they overturn - which happens with some frequency as the cars jostle around hairpin turns and over steep jumps.
With around 50 members, it’s a tight-knit but welcoming community that’s been around since the early 1980s, said president Erick Bruce. He joined later that decade and took a break several years later, but returned to the sport when his kids got old enough to develop an interest.
The ability to get high-octane thrills in total safety makes it a perfect family activity, Bruce believes.
“It’s racing action without all the rides to the hospital, really,” he said. “You’re still getting that thrill of racing, the competition and camaraderie.”
It’s also a sport that allows smaller children to compete on an even playing field with adults, sometimes matching up within the same divisions.
“We’ve got three kids [in their] early teens, they’re regularly kicking their parents’ butts all over the track,” related Bruce. “It’s great!”
Nine-year-old racer Maddie Loda agreed, though she said she’s more focused on having fun than winning races. She’s been racing since age six, after her father got her interested in the sport.
She encourages other young kids to give it a try, saying she’s met several new friends through the community.
Beginners can get into the sport with basic models for around $300 or $400, Bruce said, with more competitive set-ups running closer to $1,000.
He encouraged those interested to come down to the track to watch a race and talk with the regulars. More information on the club is available on their Facebook page.