A group of young Iraqis wants to enter international motor racing championships – their competition cars will include everything from 4WD vehicles to Formula 1 autos. Except their vehicles will be miniatures or models and they will be remote- controlled.
Remote controlled, or radio controlled (RC) racing is a popular sport in other countries, with racers spending thousands on souping up their model cars. Around ten years ago, the governing bodies for model auto racing in the US boasted 22,000 members. The European governing body, the European Federation of Radio Operated Model Automobiles, has members from 32 constituent countries including Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia and Turkey.
And now, for the first time, the Iraqis want to join them. They’re starting small but as the Baghdad language student, Tamer Amir, who started Iraq’s first RC auto club, the Iraqi Union for RC Cars and Planes, told NIQASH, they have big plans for the future.
NIQASH: Why create this club now?
Amir: I’ve been interested in remote control games since I was young, I used to follow the development of remote control vehicles online. I know that there’s a huge following for this kind of thing in the US, Europe and in some Arab countries like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
Some other friends share my interests and we knew that nothing like this exists in Iraq at the moment. So on Nov 15 we announced the creation of this club. We started with ten members and now we already have 20.
Our goal is to form a remote control [or RC] games team for Iraq – the same sort of team that many other countries in the world have. We’re also keen to develop the pastime at a local level too.
NIQASH: So tell us more about what you’re doing in this club?
Amir: We’re basically racing RC model cars and planes made by Japanese and American manufacturers like HPI, GTR, Tamiya and Kyosho. Prices for the vehicles – they’re mostly 4WD models - go from US$700 to US$1,200. And helicopters and gliders cost from US$60 to US$300.
NIQASH: And how are you promoting your club?
Amir: We’re using social media like Facebook to communicate with members and to introduce them to our activities and to schedule contests and training times for beginners. We also discuss tips and techniques as well as how to repair broken vehicles on Facebook. We’ve got about 1,000 followers already.
NIQASH: Isn\'t it difficult to get into a hobby like this in Iraq?
Amir: There are lots of challenges. For one thing, we don’t have any clubroom premises. For another, we need empty, paved roads on which to race – we mostly just use any empty spaces we can find at the moment; it’s damaging the cars quite a lot. It’s tricky getting official permission to use empty public spaces for racing too.
And then there’s the issue of spare parts – they’re very expensive and usually have to be imported because they’re not available in Iraq.
NIQASH: How do you see the future of RC games in Iraq?
Amir: We’re hoping to network with other sports clubs in Iraq. We’d like to add maritime RC vehicles, like boats, to the games here. And we’d eventually like to hold national and local championships here – we’re hoping that the Iraqi Ministry of Youth and Sports might sponsor that.
We’d also like to compete overseas against other national teams – we believe we could be very competitive in Arab and European contests for RC vehicles.