There's a new form of racing, without the danger,
expense and quest for sponsorship.
Phoenix area entrepreneur Jim McCabe is betting
his idea for quarter-scale stock cars with in-car
cameras, controlled through custom on-board computers
and driven on scaled racetracks will sweep the nation.
"Forget virtual. Get real," says McCabe,
RacingVisions LLC of Scottsdale's president, CEO,
founder, and the man who adds the marketing vision
to the technical expertise of his small team of engineers.
"We use the term 'remote reality'," he
says. "It really is a racing experience."
MiniFASTCAR is not a video game. It's a real racecar
four feet long and powered by a one-cylinder gasoline
engine and riding on fully adjustable suspension.
The car is driven from a nearby control station.
Driver inputs are fed to the car by a wireless network.
The car returns visual and audio signals to the control
station through two antennas in the center of the
What the driver behind the wheel at the control
station sees on the big screen "is not a cartoon,
like a video game," McCabe notes, it's what
the in-car camera sees. The driver hears the engine
and is in full control of the car on the racetrack
"It gives you the rush of speed without the
liability," McCabe said. "Nobody's going
to get hurt doing this."
The driver can't feel motion, the track or the gs
in the turns - yet -- but McCabe said engineers are
working on that.
"Robust" is how McCabe and others in his
company describe the durability of these little cars.
They are capable of slamming the wall and colliding
with other racers without damage.
As part of the company's marketing research, McCabe
and his crew set up control stations and a track
at Phoenix International Raceway in November 2003
when NASCAR was in town.
"We just wanted to see the reaction of fans
seeing the cars on the track," he said, recalling
that one fan asked how much it cost to watch the
little cars race.
"That's when we knew we really had something
pretty special," he said.
RacingVisions opened at the F1 Race Factory in Phoenix,
where a racetrack - with a grandstand for spectators
-- was built in the parking lot of the indoor go-kart
track. The track was designed for MiniFASTCARS, which
on this short course are programmed to reach 35 mph,
the equivalent of about 120 mph on the viewing screen.
The company plans to offer customers videos and
CDs so they can see their cars in competition on
the track just like a spectator and take home the
The idea for these cars came to McCabe unexpectedly
in a "vision" at an entrepreneur conference
while he was trying to figure out a way to capitalize
on NASCAR's soaring popularity Working out the technology
took engineers two years. "We're like a old
rock band that can't give up," he said.
Now, with the technical problems solved and significant
initial financial backing promised, McCabe is looking
to the future funded by a second round of financing.
His vision is to have 50 MiniFASTCAR racing facilities
at racetracks, amusement parks and entertainment
centers across the nation. One of his target markets
is Mooresville, N.C., where most of the major NASCAR
teams are based. NASCAR star Rusty Wallace is a company
McCabe hopes for regional and national MiniFASTCARs
leagues, and says that control stations can be install
in sports bars as far as 50 miles from the nearest
A little experience and you're at speed. Steering,
brake and gas are responsive and the cars are forgiving
of driver error.
It's just like looking through a windshield. The
wide-angle 105mm lens scans the width of the track,
but you don't have the peripheral vision to see who's
challenging for the turn.
Racing sensation ***
Running nose-to-tail jump-starts all the senses.
You're in a real race for position. It will be much
better when drivers can feel the track, motion and
G forces in the turns.
What racer doesn't want more speed! You can drive
these flat out all the way around and the cars will
The track ****
The 1/12-mile D-shape course mimics Phoenix International
Raceway, but the straights are much shorter. Each
turn is different, so the track has elements of both
oval and roadracing courses.
The introductory price is $10 for a 30-lap race.
Regular pricing is $15. Race packages, group and
corporate rates are available.
Fun Factor ****
Almost as exciting s being inside a racecar, but
without the trouble, danger, fear, discomfort and
liability. Within reach of the masses who otherwise
wouldn't have a racing experience.