IMPERIAL â€“ For years, off-road racing conjured up images of dusty, skidding four wheel drive vehicles tearing around dirt tracks and outdoor trails. However, off-road racing has now taken a clean, sharp turn into innovative indoor carpet remote control (R/C) speed racing, and Imperial Valley fans can brag of having their own indoor track at Ricochet Rec Center.
In July, Ricochet R/C Raceway & Hobby Shop inaugurated its first Indoor Carpet Classic which offers an 80-foot obstacle course for professional racers, as well as a kidâ€™s track for beginners.
â€œI always wanted to do an indoor track,â€ said Mark Gaddis, owner of the raceway. â€œMy grandkids come to Ricochet to jump, and one day, I just happened to stumble on this empty warehouse and thought it was the perfect place for an indoor race track. I contacted the city of Imperial who just so happened to have money available for small businesses, and here we are. Since the day we opened, it gets stronger and stronger. We anticipated 15 people per day, and we have far surpassed that — we are six times over what we anticipated.â€
At the raceway, off-road racing aficionados can experience the thrill of NASCAR racing, but with the indoor amenities such as air conditioning, food and entertainment for children.
â€œThere are only three carpet tracks that I know of — one in Las Vegas, one in Oregon and Iâ€™ve got the third,â€ said Gaddis.
â€œBecause itâ€™s an indoor race track with air conditioning, food and lounge, guys can bring their wives and children,â€ said Gaddis. â€œPeople come from Yuma, San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson, and often say there is no other race track that has a restaurant and air conditioning.â€
Most of the miniature vehicles are two-wheel drive buggies and four-wheel drive trucks. Each vehicle is equipped with a transponder that ties into a computer, and when it crosses the wires located beneath the carpet, the program records lap times as well as the names of drivers.
â€œJust like NASCAR, whoever has the fastest lap is the qualifier for the main race,â€ explained Gaddis. â€œLap times also determine the starting position for the race.â€
Ricochet also holds professional races on Wednesdays and Saturdays where the number of those attending can reach up to 200 people.
â€œThere are Saturdays when there is absolutely no space because we are completely filled up,â€ said Gaddis. â€œFor big races, we usually have 80 entries, and for our smaller one, we have about 30. There have been times where we have had 15 people racing at the same time as long as everyone knows how to drive.â€
Ricochet is also equipped with 60 pit areas where drivers can service their vehicles, and a store that offers a wide variety of parts and tires for purchase.
â€œJust like NASCAR, we have pit areas to repair vehicles, charge batteries and change tires if need be,â€ said Gaddis. â€œEveryone is always wrecking and breaking down, and then thereâ€™s some who simply want to fine tune their cars. Right now we have 60 pit areas. However, when we finish we will wind up with 90.â€
Gaddis went on to say indoor racing is becoming more and more popular among younger children.
â€œLately we have seen an increase of children right around ten years old coming here,â€ said Gaddis. â€œKids races are usually held with five racers.â€
A starter car can be purchased for approximately $300 at a hobby shop, including Ricochet’s.
â€œThese are not your typical Walmart cars,â€ explained Gaddis. â€œThese are special vehicles for indoor racing that must be bought at hobby shops.â€
For those who want to try out the sport and donâ€™t want to invest the money, the raceway also offers rental cars. Ricochet Rec is located at 450 West Aten Road in Imperial. Hours are Wednesday through Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.[envira-gallery id=”84002″]