Photos by Yoav Gilad
While everyone else is waiting (im)patiently for the 2014 NHRA season to begin, we got a head start on the racing action with Traxxas’ electric 1/8 scale NHRA Funny Cars.
Here at The Burnout’s west coast offices, we have the John Force and Courtney Force Ford Mustang Funny Cars, and we’ve been tearing up the carpet ever since they arrived. Like a bunch of eager kids, we threw aside the instruction manual and began racing right away.
Getting the Funny Cars up and running is a breeze. A latch underneath the front bumper releases the body and allows it to tilt up in true Funny Car fashion, revealing a tubular frame and slick rear wheels. The battery pack is installed in the center of the car, sitting low and tight in the frame for optimum weight distribution.
The cars are easy to drive on any surface, thanks to their full suspension system and excellent turning radius. The steering servos are quick and powerful, easily holding the steering angle while taking a sharp turn or doing donuts. The brushless electric motor is also a nice inclusion, typically reserved as an optional part with other manufacturers. These higher-end OEM parts are a welcomed feature as, from my experience, ready-to-run means bare minimum, but that’s not the case here. It’s nice to know that Traxxas delivers the full package because I hate having to spend extra money and time to get a ready-to-run car ready to run.
While we waited for the batteries to charge after our initial foray into eighth-scale drag racing, we took a moment to admire the smaller details of the Funny Cars. The paint and sponsor decals have been accurately reproduced and applied onto a body developed from full size CAD drawings of its real-life counterpart. An adjustable wheelie bar helps to transfer weight to the rear wheels and the belted slick tires actually retain heat and gain grip after a burnout.
To get an experience close to real-life drag racing, we also picked up the DTS-1 Drag Timing System which includes an LED christmas tree, laser staging beams and a speed trap. The DTS-1 turns any flat surface into a drag strip and it sets up in just a few minutes. A single press of a button pairs the christmas tree with the speed trap and a follow up button press sets up the staging and speed trap lasers. Everything has been designed to mimic professional drag racing, and that includes a choice of either Pro or Sportsman tree for the countdown, and a shaming red light for false starts.
The fun really starts when you get your friends together for single elimination bracket racing. I was up first with the John Force Ford Mustang. After a quick burnout, I flipped the switch on the transmitter to “Staging” and crept forward onto the starting line. Once I was staged, I set the launch control switch, held down the throttle and went into “Race” mode. I got a clean launch when the green light dropped, albeit with a less than ideal reaction time, but kept it straight to the finish line while traction issues plagued my opponent, causing him to fishtail down the second half of the track and hand me the win. Traction was the biggest opponent in all of our races as the dusty concrete floor provided little grip for these rear-wheel drive cars; asphalt on a warm, sunny day would have been more ideal.
Watch our race video below:
Now see what it’s like when professional R/C drivers race:
Before we knew it, we had a crowd of onlookers cheering us on and jumping in on the racing action. For the next hour, it was a spectacular mix of racing, crashing and all-out fun. I lost count of how many times we hit the walls, flipped the cars over and spun out. And through all of the chaos, the Funny Cars kept performing, never showing any signs of wear and tear. I am thoroughly impressed with the quality and durability of the cars. They stood the test of first-time remote control drivers where the only throttle position is wide open and the concept of braking doesn’t exist.
For the expert enthusiast, every aspect of the Funny Car is tunable or upgradeable, allowing for an endless pursuit of maximum traction and low ETs. With a few modifications, racers can achieve speeds of over 70 mph!
Overall, Traxxas’ 1/8 scale NHRA Funny Cars are a lot of fun to drive, but you’ll need a large open area to get the most out of the experience. I enjoyed the drag racing simulation aspects most: burning out, psyching out my opponent with a late stage and trying for a perfect reaction time. The best part about these cars is that they’ve been designed with everyone in mind, from the casual carpet racer to the hardcore hobbyist, and require almost zero maintenance to stay in running condition. They’re a fun way to keep the competition going with your friends while away from the drag strip.