Back Back to Control-Line articles index.

Everything Under Control - Team racing

I'll race you...

Racing two, or more, control-line models against each other is something that did not immediately occur to the early flyers. A group in California came up with the original idea some time in the late 1940's. As a pit crew was needed in addition to the pilot, the American group came up with the name 'Team Racing'. They formed a club to foster the idea and called it 'First All Speed Team' (FAST). The basic idea was to produce a model form of full-size air racing and the intent was to use semi-scale models complete with cockpit and a dummy pilot. It is interesting that the event started in the USA at a time when full-size racing was virtually non-existent due to a poor safety record.

The first race in this country was on Easter Monday 1950, in Brighton, to an experimental set of rules that allowed all engine sizes to compete on a supposedly even footing. That first race was won by Phil Smith flying a scale Midget Mustang powered by an Amco 3.5 motor. This was actually the prototype of a Veron kit not originally intended as a racer.

The 'Battler' by Ron Moulton was the first published team racer design in the UK.

From the beginning, the intention was that the models would need to make pitstops and this was ensured by limiting the tank size. Immediately there were two main schools of thought; speed versus range. This became a question of whether to go for one stop regardless of speed, or maximum speed regardless of the number of stops.

The optimum middle line became a matter of great discussion. There was at one time a long-running series of articles in the old 'Model Aircraft' magazine entitled 'Forty laps at ninety'. The discussion centred on whether this ideal was actually attainable with a 'Class B' model and eventually reached the conclusion that it was - just. Any modern racer would consider that a minimum starting point.

At the 1963 World Championships in Belgium the Nixon/Cambell team started their 100 lap heat with what seemed a slightly lower speed than normal. No one took much interest until the model reached 60 laps and showed no sign of stopping. At 70 laps the opposition were now taking a very keen interest. At 80 laps, some very noted fellow competitors were looking distinctly worried.

Finally, at 84 laps, the motor stopped and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Needless to say, the well cooked motor refused to restart.

Simple to complex

Like all model events, there are many variations on the basic theme. You can race any two, or more, models against each other for fun. They don't need to be even remotely similar, or even on the same length of line.

There have been numerous attempts to produce 'simple' racing classes. One approach was to have no limit on tank size but to specify a minimum number of stops in heats and finals. Other approaches include simpler profile fuselage models.

The earliest of the simple classes was 'Rat Racing', a ferocious event for 0.40 cu in motors which reached a point where it was so fast that few people had the physical fitness to compete safely. Logically, there was an offshoot of this for the smaller 0.049 cu in motors and known as 'Mouse Racing'. This enjoyed some success in this country but died out because of the non-availability of a suitable British motor. 'Weasel Racing' is a recent attempt to revive the basic idea.

The original American class for 0.29 cu in motors became 'Class B' in the UK, with a smaller 'Class A' for the popular 2.5cc motors. This eventually developed into the FAI F2C class for world championships with the result that 'Class A' is no longer flown, although there is a 'Vintage A' class.

The requirement for a semi-scale model with a cockpit led to some interesting variations employing underslung cockpits and other unlikely arrangements, particularly in the FAI class. Model development in this class has led to a situation where the vast majority of models are of the flying wing layout and, sadly, all look more or less identical.

Development in all of the classes has led to a steady increase in the complexity of the tank and refuelling arrangements and it has become necessary to limit this in some events. Similar advancement in motor technology has also introduced limits on the motor aimed at reducing costs.

An early development was the use of shut-offs so that the pilot could stop the motor at a time which was convenient for the crew rather than when the model felt like it. This has become seen as a safety feature and some classes now make it a mandatory requirement.

The current, state of the art, FAI model will have a complex plumbing system with an integral shut-off and some form of refuelling valve which will allow the tank to be refilled from a pressurised system. In some cases this system will also employ a method of automatically priming the motors exhaust for instant restarting.

With a limited tank capacity, it is essential that the tank can be filled to the maximum every time and that the motor can use every last drop of fuel in the tank. This has led to much research into the optimum shape for the tank and the venting arrangements.

Control system

In racing, a high degree of precision is needed in the control of the model rather than extreme manoeuvrability. Because of this many of the more advanced racing models employ a 'circular bellcrank' (Fig. 1). This gives a much more linear control and a better 'feel'. At first sight, it looks unlikely that the leadout wires will remain in position, but this is made possible by the fairly small range of movement that is required.

Circular bellcrank

Flying technique

There are many rules regarding the actual conduct of the pilot during a race, particularly in the FAI class. Many of these are common sense and it is normal for faster models to overtake by flying over the slower model. 'Undertaking' is not permitted. This is complicated by the fact that there is a maximum flying height to prevent any advantage being gained by flying excessively high and shortening the ground radius. The pilots have to stay within a circle marked on the ground.

'Whipping' the model is not permitted and this is made more difficult by specifying that the pilots flying hand must be held in the middle of his chest. The pilots must all walk round in a circle together, making the other flyers run around you is not allowed. There are also rules relating to the attitude of the pilot and the various ways that he can block his competitors or obstruct their lines.

Things become more complex during pitstops and there are regulations regarding the position of the pilot and the handle during these. At this time, there are also rules relating to the conduct of the mechanic. It is common practice for the mechanic to catch the model, but this cannot be done until the model has touched the ground with the motor stopped. The mechanic also has to stay outside of a circle marked on the ground which is designed to keep him out of the actual flying area for safety.

Transgressions of any of the above will result in a warning being given. Three warnings will result in disqualification from that race. Warnings are transmitted to the pilots via a tannoy system.

The classes

The following gives a basic overview of team racing classes, ancient and modern. It is not exhaustive. For example, Mouse Racing was split into two classes, for reed valve motors and any motor. Phantom racing also has an open class for any motor. And so on...

The vintage classes have a design cut off date of 1st January 1958 for 'Vintage A' and 'Vintage B' and 1st January 1961 for 'Vintage 1/2A'. There is a long list of eligible models and motors, which may be found in the BMFA Rule Book.

Class Engine Size Tank Capacity Line Length Comments
Vintage 1/2A 1.5cc 10cc 42' 0" x 0.012"
Vintage A 2.5cc 15cc 14.2m x 0.30mm
Vintage B 2.51 - 5cc 30cc 17.06m x 0.38mm
Class 1/2A 1.5cc 6cc 14m x 0.25mm
Class A 2.5cc 15cc 46' 8" Now defunct
Class B 2.51 - 5cc 30cc 17.69m x 0.40mm
F2C 2.5cc 7cc 15.92m x 0.34mm FAI class
F2C Nationale 2.5cc diesel 15cc 15.92m x 0.30mm Profile FAI
Mouse 0.049 cu in - 35' 0" Now defunct
Weasel 0.35 cu in - 60' 0" x 0.015" Plain bearing engine
Rat 0.40 cu in - 60' 0" Now defunct
Phantom 1.5cc 10cc 35' 0" x 0.012" Plain bearing diesel
Open Goodyear 2.5cc - 15.92m x 0.375mm 1/8 scale profile
British Goodyear 2.5cc diesel - 15.92m x 0.30mm 1/8 scale profile
Mini Goodyear 1.5cc P/B diesel - 13.5m x 0.30mm 1/12 scale profile

The reason for the existence of a minimum engine size for the 'B' classes is because there was a practice at one time of using stretched (high aspect ratio) 'A' racers with overbored engines. The advantage here was that they were capable of completing a heat race without a pitstop.

Sources of information

The BMFA rule book (Contest Rules Section 4 - Control Line Book 2) covering Team racing, Combat and Carrier (current cost 3.00), can be obtained from:

British Model Flying Association,
Chacksfield House,
31 St Andrews Road,
LE2 8RE.
Tel: 0116 244 0028, FAX: 0116 244 0645.

Andy Whorton has a Team Racing and Speed website with news, contest calendar and results at

Never fly control-line models near overhead electric power cables

Other articles in this series.
Handles Lines Controls Hinges/Tanks
Stunt Combat Speed Carrier

Coloured divider

Top Home C/L Heli Articles Links What's New