Indoor Carpet Racing

A Cure for the Winter Blues


Unless you live in Southern California, then you know that winter is upon us. The outdoor tracks are closed, your fingers are frostbitten, and you're only weeks away from being able to race across the lake. But don't put that transmitter down just yet. Why? Because it's indoor racing season!

Indoor racing is an immensely popular sport in most of the country. Depending where you live, the season begins in late October/early November and goes until March or April. The beauty of the sport is that you don't have to worry about weather. You might have to drive your full-size car through a foot of snow, but your 1/10-scale is safe and sound.

A Team Losi XXX-S RTR zips across a standard carpet track in Bloomington, IL.

The Surfaces

Most indoor carpet tracks use standard carpeting called "gray Ozite", which provides great traction. It is the official surface for sedan racing, ensuring that track conditions are the same everywhere you go.

The Classes

There are four standard classes that most on-road tracks have in the US:

  • 1/10 sedan stock
  • 1/10 sedan modified
  • 1/12 stock
  • 1/12 modified

Tracks may also have:

  • Novice class, which helps you to gauge your skills
  • "Gearbox" class, which includes 2WD trucks and buggies
  • "Hobby Stock" class, which places limits on batteries to curb costs and is increasingly popular
  • Team Losi Mini-T class (coming soon!)


What You'll Need

The most popular class for carpet racing is 1/10 scale sedan stock. Here's what you should get for that:

1/10 scale sedan
All cars are goods to start with. There's no building necessary and it's made of hard, flexible parts that tend not to break if you hit a wall.

Foam tires
Your best bet will be purple compound rears and purple-orange compound fronts. They need to be trued before you race. A set should last roughly three to four races.

Stock Motor
ROAR legal 27-T is the standard. You can't go wrong with the Trinity Monster. Others available, look the local/nationals rules

Traction Compound
The more traction, the better. Trinity's "Death Grip" will do the job.

Battery Packs
You'll need three packs. Get GP-3300's or higher if you aspire to be at the competitive level. Dynamite carries a large and diverse selection for any skill level.

Tire Truer
Sure, they can be expensive, but you want the perfect shape and diameter, don't you? Hudy makes a good truer.

All those batteries have to get charged. Dynamite has great variety of chargers for all price ranges.

Dynamite, Team Losi, and a host of other manufacturers have good-quality sets for all that necessary tweaking.

A Setup!
Get your car race-ready like the pros. Download this indoor setup (PDF) for the car you own.

How to Get Into It

Contact your local hobby shop! Chances are that they either run races or know where races are held. If you're a beginner and are not sure how you stack up to the competition, ask if there is a novice class.


Indoor Driving Tips

Words: John Adams, Engineering Manager, Horizon Hobby

Winter Racing in the Midwest

Here in the Midwest, one of the few types of RC car racing that takes place during the winter months is indoor carpet racing. From October through March, indoor racing on carpet is very popular in this region. And next to my obsession for 1/8-scale gas cars, carpet on-road racing is my favorite class. Indoor on-road carpet racing is precise, fast, clean, competitive and fun. At Horizon we have a group of about a dozen staff members that include some of the top aerobatic and jet aircraft pilots in the country and, when the weather turns cold, we all break out our cars and head to the local carpet track.

Horizon Engineering Manager, John Adams' indoor carpet XXX-S with Alpha body.

At aerobatics contests, I don't have a prayer of beating the likes of Mike McConville, Peter Goldberg, or John Glezellis. However, it's a different story at the carpet track! Never mind that I've been carpet racing seriously since 1979, while these guys just dabble from time-to-time. Truth be told, I have more fun watching them do battle with each other for Monday's bragging rights at the office than racing myself. Throughout the following week; it's comical to have each of these guys individually sneak into my office asking about tips on how they can go faster to beat their work buddies the following weekend.


Each season I hold a seminar at the local indoor track that covers driving techniques, setup information, and motor and battery tips. Our web team got wind of this and asked if I'd write some of this information down so that they could put it on the site, so here goes.

Driving Techniques

Most beginners and even some experienced racers aren't totally sure what they are supposed to be thinking about and concentrating on while practicing and racing or even the purpose of practice. The following tips should help.



  • The primary purpose of practice is to learn the track and to evaluate how your car is performing. During those first practice laps, I think of my car as a tool that allows me to learn the exact location of what I call "goal points". I call them goal points because it's my goal to place the inside front tire directly on that point every lap. Many racers call these apexes, but I think of them as an exact point on the track. For me, these exact points are normally about 3 inches from the edge of the board at each corner. The distance out from the board where you envision your goal points is dependent on your skill level. Again, the goal is to drive such that your inside tire passes directly over all of these points every lap. The more accurately that you're able to judge these points and the more confident you are of their exact location, the better/faster you'll be able to drive.

  • The key to effectively learning the track layout is to learn the exact location of these goal points. During those first practice laps, don't even try to go fast but simply concentrate on accurately placing the car conservatively outside these goal points. With each lap you will develop a greater sense of the exact location of these goal points and as your confidence grows, you can begin to drive a tighter line with the eventual goal of consistently hitting every point on every lap. Remember your primary goal at this early stage of practice is to engrain the exact location of these goal points in your mind. (Not to beat your buddies and win practice!)

  • Once you're fairly confident of the goal points' locations, it's time to start evaluating your driving. As you drive through each corner, think about how successfully it was negotiated. Did you hit your goal point? Did you maintain a high corner speed? Obviously, you don't have much time to contemplate these issues as your car races around the track, but start to develop a sense of how each corner goes. Then, on following laps, work on improving the corners that you don't feel as good about and continue evaluating yourself on each corner. In summary, evaluate your performance in each corner while you're racing, and with each lap try to get closer to your goal point and to improve corner speed.

  • Because practice is so important, on the day of the race you need to arrive at the track early to allow plenty of track time for practice. It's a good idea to pre-charge 2 practice battery packs. Your car should be totally ready to run when you arrive at the track. Normally the track has the least traffic early and that's the best time to learn the track.

  • So what should you focus on when you're qualifying? The same thing! Focus on your goal points and evaluate your performance in every corner. Tighten up your line until you can consistently hit every goal point with your inside tire. Also focus on maintaining a high corner speed. Oh yeah, watch out for traffic!

  • So what should you think about during the main? Again the same thing! Hit your goal points in every corner and evaluate your performance in every turn. Focus on tightening up any corner that you're not satisfied with and be sure to maintain a high corner speed.

  • By the way- DON'T UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE DRIVE INSIDE YOUR GOAL POINTS. This is called a crash! The goal is to drive up to and eventually directly over (with the inside tire) the goal point, but never, even if you've established the goal point well outside the edge of the corner, drive inside the goal point. This sounds obvious but you must engrain this in your head and when you do, you will greatly reduce the number of crashes. Think of it like this, "If I never get inside my goal point, I can't crash on the inside of a turn." I know this sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many racers miss their goal point on the inside as often as out!


Next, I'll continue this discussion on driving and start to focus on chassis set-up. In the meantime, check out my setup I've been successfully using on my Losi XXX-S. Give it a try and let us know how it works for you. See ya at the track!

John's setup sheets:
  PDF File

Strategy is Key

Horizon Engineering Manager John Adams shows the rest of the field how it's done.

Our previous article on driving tips generated some interesting responses. Several full-scale road racers and go-cart drivers commented on how similar their driving techniques are compared to RC car racers. It seems that full-scale racers commonly refer to "goal points" as "hitting the marks." Interestingly, these full-scale racers are focusing on some of the same fundamentals as RC car racers.

This time, we'll go into more detail about driving techniques, including creep and getting consistently good starts.

John's XXX-S creeps around a corner.

No, I'm not talking about the guy that took you out during the last qualifier. Creep is a technique that many top drivers (especially in stock class) use to help maintain corner speed. When you let off the throttle, the mechanical friction and residual inductance of the motor create a slight braking effect. This braking causes a weight shift to the front of the car that can cause the car to over-steer entering a high-speed turn (the rear end wants to come around). While some expert drivers prevent this by not letting off the throttle completely when entering a high-speed turn, many drivers find it easier to bump the throttle trim up to the point that the car rolls slightly under its own power when the throttle is released. I've been using creep for years and it's especially helpful with stock class sedans in maintaining high corner speeds. Try it! I think you'll like it!

Getting Off to a Good Start

With electric races lasting 5 minutes, (8 minutes for 1/12 scale) getting a good start that gets you to the front of the pack is critical. And while that first turn pile-up seems inevitable, it's amazing how top drivers seem to consistently emerge from that first turn, laying near the front of the pack virtually every time! The key to consistently good starts is developing a good starting strategy and technique.

Develop a Starting Strategy to Your Specific Condition

Not all starts are alike. The strategy used when starting from the pole in a widely spaced staggered start is very different than starting from the middle of the pack in a crowded heads-up start. It's important to develop a starting strategy that offers the best chances of emerging from the first lap chaos near the front of the pack.

Important factors to consider when planning your starting strategy include:

  • Starting position (pole position, middle of the pack, bringing up the rear)
  • How much the cars are staggered on the grid (space between cars)
  • The available traction
  • How well your car accelerates and how well it handles during acceleration
  • Knowing the driving habits of the racers directly in front of and behind helps!

Starting Techniques

Relax and Stay in Control
Realizing that everyone in your race is nervous (not just you) helps. Having a starting plan, and going over it in your head on the drivers stand just before the start, helps to gain confidence and calms the nerves. It's only natural to be tense, especially during the start. It's important to relax, stay calm and maintain precise exact control so that you can effectively carry out your starting strategy. Relax and listen for the starting tone then put your plan into play.

John's car (in white) fights to stay inside the turn.

Fight for the Inside Line
Most races have staggered starts, which greatly reduce the chances of the dreaded first turn pile-up. But no matter how much the cars are spaced apart, there always seems to be a pile-up on the first lap. Recognizing the signs for making a pile-up likely to happen is important. Typically when a gaggle of 3 or more cars are within a few feet of each other fighting for position, there is going to be a pile-up. While it's best to stay in front of or at least a safe distance behind, if you find yourself in this gaggle of cars, remember this rule: In heavy traffic always stay on the inside of the turn. In fact, do whatever is necessary to get to the inside of the turn. The car that's on the inside has a distinct advantage and will get through the mayhem first and best. That's because when any bumping, sliding or crashing occurs, the momentum naturally carries the car(s) to the outside due to centrifugal force. In this case, the inside line is definitely the winning line and to consistently get through these first lap pile-ups you either need to avoid them (not always possible) or fight through on the inside line!

Make Your First Laps Your Smoothest (Not fastest) Laps
It takes a couple of laps for most drivers to settle down into a rhythm to begin turning consistently fast laps. I've seen several racers (and even top level pros) that go-for-broke on the first corner, with "broke" being the operative word! Your first laps should be focused on getting through traffic and establishing a position. Focus on being smooth and accurate, allowing a little extra distance off your goal points. Within a few laps, your confidence and rhythm will automatically come and you can start cutting those awesome laps-but you've got to get to this point first. Your best opportunity here is to focus on being smooth (not fast) for the first lap or two. Also realizing your competitors face the same issues of taking a lap or two to fall into a rhythm helps and, if they make the mistake of going-for-broke on the first lap, it can be to your advantage.

Standing Starting Practice
During practice, make a few standing starts from the starting line. Evaluate the traction, how your car accelerates and how it tracks/handles. Does it pull to the right or left? Doing a couple of standing starts during practice will prepare you for the real thing during the main, giving you the confidence to rip-it if the traction's there, or to roll-it if the surface is slick.

Make sure you're comfortable with the traction or you may end up with none.

Starting Strategy Scenario
Okay, so now you've qualified 4th in the A-main. The cars are staggered 5 feet apart and your 4th on the grid. Traction is awesome and in practice your car leaps off a standing start in a straight controlled line. The two guys ahead of you in 2nd and 3rd have been your racing buddies for years and they can be trusted in a close side-by-side battle. The guy behind you in 5th is new at your track. His fastest lap time in qualifying is 2 tenths of a second slower than your best laps. Strategy?

You'll want to be quick off the line to get away from the driver on your tail. Joining the group of guys in front of you is your goal and you'll try to catch them quickly after you've settled into a rhythm. Listen carefully for the starting tone, then full punch the throttle and feel confident that your car will accelerate straight away. If the racer from behind catches you on the first lap, be cautious and let him go by. You're faster and you can pass him later. His driving style is still unknown and you can't afford a crash in these early laps. Focus on being smooth and let the rhythm come to you, then tighten-up on those goal points. Remember to avoid the gaggle of cars that can result in a pile-up and, heaven forbid if you're in that gaggle, get to the inside of every corner. With any luck, you'll be fighting for second place among your buddies on lap number two.


Horizon Hobby