Radio-controlled car racing founder eyes mainland China expansion after Hong Kong success
Second date may be added to Asian Scale Invasion event as sport’s popularity explodes across the region
The founder of Asia’s only radio-controlled scale racing event said growing popularity among mainland players has prompted him to consider adding to the sport’s Hong Kong stop with an event north of the border.
Brian Parker, founder of Recon G6, saw a significant increase in interest from mainland drivers through social media and this year’s Asian Scale Invasion event in Hong Kong – happening this Saturday and Sunday – and may add a second Asian stop to the tour in the mainland next year or in 2019.
“I don’t know where right now, but the growth is there … I do see an opportunity to go into China,” Parker said. The electronic sport, which originated in the United States, debuted in Asia through the Hong Kong race last year.
Principal organiser of the local event, AsiaTees Hobbies director Jason Patrick Tsang, said this year’s attendance showed that the sports’ popularity was growing across the border.
“Last year we only had about three people come from [mainland] China … there’s around 30 people coming this time,” he said.
RC scale racing involves races between cars scaled down from the real version. Over this weekend, the Hong Kong event will have multiple competitions on dirt tracks riddled with obstacles in a remote village in Sheung Shui.
The hobby has a big following, with its popularity exploding in the last few years. Race and scale videos on YouTube have generated tens of millions of views. One video has 52 million views – comparable to some of the world’s largest television events, such as the Superbowl.
“If we didn’t have social media, we wouldn’t have grown as fast as we have. It would have stayed very localised and very niche,” Parker said.
The races in Sheung Shui are expected to attract between 400 and 500 people from more than 14 countries and regions – nearly trebling last year’s attendance.
The increasing popularity of the sport caught the eye of five-star hotel brand Kerry Hotel – which opened six months ago in Hung Hom – and offered discount room rates to overseas drivers and fans. The hotel was also helping to host the closing ceremony.
“I actually underestimated it, I thought there would be 50 or a hundred people,” Kerry Hotel general manager Nicholas Smith said.
“Running down a football or rugby pitch is not for everybody. [RC scale racing] has grown and you see the following – some people say it’s quite small but they don’t realise how big it is.”
One of the most widely viewed scale racing videos on YouTube was from last year’s Hong Kong event, which amassed nearly six million views, generating more interest in the sport and the city for some racers.
Before the explosion of online media, having a television contract was the benchmark of whether a product was important enough to have it sponsored by large companies. Smith believes the internet, through social media and platforms such as YouTube, has thrown old standards out, since hundreds of thousand of people – sometimes millions – could be watching from around the world.
“Look at the way [scale racing in Hong Kong] has grown in one year … what’s this going to be like in five years’ time? This is going to be a huge event,” Smith said.
When Smith presented the idea of sponsoring the event to his team, they were not initially on board, he said. But after showing them “how much fun” the sport was and the followers it had online, they saw “potential value”.
But Tsang was wary of the RC scale racing’s rapid growth. The sport’s popularity had brought in distributors and manufacturers who were not in the scale racing industry before and were luring away his customers, he said.