Thursday, June 27, 2002

Hamilton opens expanded track for model cars

$30,000 upgrade ready for nationals

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — Enthusiasts swarmed the city's upgraded scale auto raceway Wednesday, testing their pint-sized machines on the serpentine track.

        Hamilton officials opened the expanded facility at a midday ceremony at Joyce Park. No sooner was the ribbon cut than the 1,200-foot track was abuzz with scale model roadsters vying for the inside lane.

        Unlike radio-controlled cars sold in toyshops, these racers are truly miniature cars and receive constant fine-tuning from their owners. Each model is about 12 inches long, weighs 3 1/2 pounds and costs $1,500 or more. Gas powered, they spew fine plumes of smoke as they zoom around the course, whining like angry bees.

        “They can go from zero to 60 miles an hour in just under two seconds,” said Kevin Roberson, an Anderson Township resident and event coordinator for the Tri-State Auto Racers.

        Most of the auto racers present Wednesday are in town to compete in the ROAR 2002 Fuel On Road Sedan Nationals, which begin today. From now through Sunday, about 160 “drivers” from all over the United States and Canada will compete at this race to qualify for the 2004 world championship event.

        “(Today) is the qualifying rounds,” said Columbus resident Jason Conley, who sat beneath a canopy, adjusting his car's engine. “Everybody's goal is to be in the top 10 percent.”

        Mr. Conley has participated in scale model racing for 13 years, traveling around the country to competitions and even participating in the 1998 world championships in Finland.

        “I do this a couple of weekends a month. In this sport you can do as much or as little as you want,” he said.

        Hobby racers like Mr. Conley compete on the curves and straightaways with professional drivers. In the Associated Electrics Tent, factory team racer Barry Baker got ready to premiere a new model for his company.

        “This is my first big race with this car,” he said. “This is a beautiful facility.”

        For Vincent Jackson, 14, it was the first big race, period. The teen traveled from Prince George's County, Md., with two racing models and a dream.

        “I'm trying to do good,” he said. “I've been racing since I was 5, but this is my first time at a national.”

        “I told him if he did good in school, we'd come,” explained Vincent's father, Louis Jackson.

        The $30,000 facility upgrade enlarged the track and improved the judging stands. It will enable Tri-State Auto Racers to host both national and world events. The project was financed by the Hamilton Community Foundation, Hamilton Convention and Visitors Bureau, racer manufacturer Serpent and the local racing club.

        In September, the new track will draw 150 racers from 47 countries to the 1/10 scale world championship race.


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