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Nature vs Nurture

Posted 13-08-2008 at 11:52 PM by RCVoice

Nature vs Nurture

I’d had an easy couple of blog entries over the past month or so, with the timing of the European Championships providing blogs that wrote themselves. But last week I began pondering what the next instalment might be, and which area of RC car racing could be covered next- fortunately the answer came via that most valuable educational and entertainment resource, the TV.

On one of the nights last week, I forget which day it actually was, a fascinating (well I thought it was anyway and for this blogs sake I hope you do too!) programme dedicated to the extremely talented and gorgeous Vanessa Mae was shown on the BBC. Now for those of you who may not know Miss Mae, she is a violinist, perhaps the world’s most famous, who has performed on all the biggest stages and TV shows, regarded as a performer who is controversial and who has broken down the boundaries of classical music to merge it with other genres, playing electric violin and wearing clothes not found amongst the string section in an orchestra.

Anyway, the purpose of the programme was that Vanessa Mae was attempting to identify whether her talent was something natural or whether indeed it came about solely via her immense levels of practice or the opportunities provided for her by her mother. She called on the assistance of professors and other music professionals to try and give her some insight into which was more powerful in terms of talent, nature or nurture.

So I got to thinking, and I don’t know an answer to this and will never research it to the depths that Mae did, in terms of being a successful model car racer, what is more significant- nature or nurture? I would welcome you each to offer your opinions on this as I really am no expert in this field, but I will offer you my views anyway.
I suppose firstly you must ask what is necessary to be successful at RC racing. What are those basic traits that must be present for success and is it possible to identify which of those can be classed as natural and which can only be defined as more nurtured and honed. This is going to be tough, and you may well disagree, so as said, feel free to offer your views in the comments section. Let me begin by offering what I feel is the case for nature...


1. Good co-ordination. Let’s face it, you have to have it... your left and right thumb or your trigger finger and wrist must work in harmony if you are going to be able to maintain a good and accurate control of an RC vehicle. This I think is fair to class as a natural possession, certain people are just naturally better co-ordinated than others and if you are not well co-ordinated, driving an RC car can be a real tough slog.

2. Competitive Instinct. This is racing, if you’re going to get to the top you have to beat people (not physically, however tempting that might be) but you must be willing to be better than everyone else to get to the top. Certainly some people are naturally more competitive than others, and surely it is those who are more competitive who are more successful than those who just go out there to have a good time? My personal view is that becoming competitive minded is not really something that can be gained, it has to come naturally.

3. Good concentration under pressure. This is something that can be honed I would guess, with experience of pressured situations comes different levels of calmness but if you are unable to keep your cool and concentrate when it is most needed then your success will be limited. Having good concentration and focus are what I would class as natural values.
I’m struggling, you can tell that I would guess, categorising these considered necessary traits is quite difficult, let’s consider nurture...


1. Good race craft. By race craft what I refer to is knowing when to push, when to conserve. Knowing when to attempt an overtake and when to hold back. This is something that you can only really gain via competition and experience of being in such a situation where you need to make such a decision. It is more something that is learned rather than being natural.

2. Good technical knowledge. A tricky one this, what I refer to is that the driver, or his mechanic must have some form of knowledge of car tuning or maintenance in order to be successful (to finish 1st, 1st you have to finish and all that) and this is something gained over time. You can’t naturally know how to rebuild a diff successfully and little set up tweaks without some form of education either academic or just via racing experience. Though I do recognise that some people are just naturally more technically minded than others, like I said, tricky one this.

3. Competitive, reliable equipment. Yes, yes I know, “it’s all about the driver...” we’ve all heard it, but remember what Associated told us, “It takes a CAR and a driver to win a world championship”. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you don’t have the gear you won’t achieve big things. How many people have won races when they’ve dumped after 3 minutes? How many people have won races with a tyco? You see my point... and having good gear, via sponsorship or via a healthy bank balance is achieved through nurture.

I’ve offered just six values there, and divided them equally between the 2 “n” categories. I know you can probably reel off more than just these 6, but what I have attempted to illustrate here is that it is ultimately an equal combination of nature and nurture which leads to success and advances talent, yes talent is possibly most important and is defined as a natural value but without the additional nurtured factors present as highlighted above, talent simply isn’t enough.

You can apply this to all sports, maybe the Olympics will present more fuel to this debate, the British team is going into the games as one of the best funded groups there, but will other more naturally gifted athletes prevail even if from the smallest countries. Who knows.

My view, which is similar to the view determined by Mae, is that it is impossible to determine which is more vital, if it was all natural, why would the successful racers in the sport be the ones who stick at it the longest, and why was the term “practice makes perfect” coined rather than “don’t bother practicing it’s all natural”?

If it was all nurture, why can Neil Cragg win a worlds with a B4 whilst some can’t win a Thursday night club race with the same chassis? As stated, I am no expert on this and welcome your views on this matter, but when you think of it in those terms, it shows why a clear conclusion doesn’t come naturally... or ‘nurterdly!’

‘til the start tone sounds...

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  1. Old
    bigred5765's Avatar
    i say practice makes perfect, but nurture makes a champion
    Posted 14-08-2008 at 12:23 AM by bigred5765 bigred5765 is offline
  2. Old
    Id say that although 'practise makes perfect'..if you havent got that 'thing' about you in the first instance you aint going to be the next Craggy.

    I bet Neil had 'skillz' when he first started racing RC cars, and then adding the practise turned him into the legend that he's turned into.

    Posted 14-08-2008 at 01:01 PM by c0sie c0sie is offline
  3. Old
    I would say 90% of all RC racers can become champions. If they work hard at it and practice and race, and learn to set up their cars, they can win any given race. A small part of racers will never be champions, because they lack co-ordination, cant concentrate, or similar. Another small part are the naturally talented drivers, who practice and race a lot, and learn to set up their cars. The difference between these drivers, and us mortals, is that instead of being fast enough to win any given race, the are fast enough to dominate, and win every race in one year, or a major race many years in a row. I think you dont need the natural talent to win, but you do need it to dominate and win over and over. Also, there are the natural talented drivers that dont practice alot, and they just make the mains most of the time, and occasionally get a really good result.
    Posted 15-08-2008 at 10:05 AM by "JQ" "JQ" is offline
  4. Old
    ginger fixit's Avatar
    i find it hard to say why a certain racer wins one thing is cash cold hard cash if you aint got it in rc you aint gona win regularly.
    neil cragg for instance has his dad his pit man takes away some of the work keeps his mind clear helps him race i think im good enough to beat a driver such as neil if given a car the best cells tyres and an awsome team behind me.
    i have raced many top racers over the 4 years i have been racing rc and all of them were no quicker on a single lap as such it just came down to my car lacking that punch and drivablity we all talk about (set up and kit comes it to that).
    give me six months neils buget and loads of track time i would beat him and i think many of us would our radio are so good now that a driver can iron out the way the car drives and i think rc is just down to learning how to drive them natural talent in rc is just hand eye cordination and this can be taught like is say rc is money money money.
    this is just an opinion
    Posted 18-08-2008 at 12:19 AM by ginger fixit ginger fixit is offline
  5. Old
    Northy's Avatar
    Thankyou Ginger Fixit-Mag
    Posted 18-08-2008 at 01:39 PM by Northy Northy is offline
  6. Old
    ben's Avatar
    G-mag are you being serious?
    Posted 18-08-2008 at 01:44 PM by ben ben is offline
  7. Old
    Lee's Avatar

    So what you are saying is that you are the best driver in the world but you dont have the budget.

    So if i gave you the best of everything to make your car faster than neils in a straight line and punchier etc, you would beat him?

    I`m willing to do it, but if you dont i would like the cost of the car and equipment back two fold
    Posted 18-08-2008 at 02:44 PM by Lee Lee is offline
  8. Old
    Belsten's Avatar
    I'd go with naturist
    Posted 18-08-2008 at 07:26 PM by Belsten Belsten is offline
  9. Old
    millzy's Avatar
    Track time is what it comes down to, understanding the lines to take, how much power to apply coming in and out of a coroner and the most important controlling the car over bumps and jumps- you don’t gain any of this with out a lot of track time.

    Set up dose help having an understanding of the basic suspension geometry that the car your using has and what changes are needed to keep that car running for your style of driving again only happens from track time

    Having said that I always believe that any one can drive a good set up car well, only a good driver can drive a pore set up car better.

    I know the rumour of Neil being hot from the word go, but at some point before he went club racing some one must have taken him out and thought him the left is right and right is left when the car comes towards you bit.

    Again something you only learn from practice
    Posted 19-08-2008 at 03:53 PM by millzy millzy is offline
  10. Old
    WheelNut's Avatar
    This debate is the same as the one about what determines a person's personality traits, or their intellegence. Is it genetic or is it a result of the way they were raised? Now that is not a question to answer on an RC forum, but it is basically the same issue we've got here. I'm of the belief that a great deal of a person's abilities come from the way they were raised. If a person played lots of hand eye co-ord sports, or lots of video games throughout their life they will seem to be naturally talented at driving RC cars.

    Performing under pressure is definately something that is learned. I can tell you that from experience. My first ever A-main at a regional event was terrible because the pressure made me so nervous. Now though, after raced in a dozen "big" races the A-main jitters are non-exsistent, although they still crop up a bit if I get into the lead, but I suppose that should be normal.

    Other parts of racing can definately be taught. Intense concentration, precise repetition, and delicate control inputs. Every different person is going to learn these skills at a different rate, and to a different level, which is where you will see the overall drivers talent or skill.

    Personally I've been playing racing games and competitive sports since I was 5 or 6 years old and I have always had a serious interest in all things mechanical. For me RC racing just came naturally because it consists of the things I've always been interested in.
    Posted 20-08-2008 at 07:00 AM by WheelNut WheelNut is offline
  11. Old
    Lee's Avatar
    I would also like to add, practice makes permanent, not perfect.

    It can only make you better if you are practicing the right things, if you are doing things wrong and carry on practicing then you will just get better at doing things badly.
    Posted 20-08-2008 at 10:19 AM by Lee Lee is offline
  12. Old
    millzy's Avatar
    that is a good point
    when i started racing i did a lot of stock 2wd, after a few years stock racing died down and i moved to mod. it took me ages to change my driving style to mod motors as the sweeping lines of stock racing wouldnt cut it in the allmost point and go style of mod racing

    i allways felt that i spent to many years racing stock
    Posted 20-08-2008 at 10:50 AM by millzy millzy is offline
  13. Old
    Lee Martin's Avatar

    Andy live in the real world would you! thats just comical!
    Posted 20-08-2008 at 12:04 PM by Lee Martin Lee Martin is offline
  14. Old
    Teddy truman's Avatar
    you dreaming andy?

    so if i gave you my car you think you could lap as fast as me?
    Posted 20-08-2008 at 12:17 PM by Teddy truman Teddy truman is offline
  15. Old
    Nick Goodall's Avatar
    Oh dear this is hard to even start with really but i can tell you now Andy you're wrong wrong wrong...

    I was racing already when Lee (Pidge) started coming up to the club.

    I remember it as clear as yesterday and he had a new Cat 2000 EC with an orange and white shell and his little mate from school also started at the same time with similar equipment.

    After 2 weeks of racing Lee was already 2-3 laps quicker then his mate, and i'm sure Pete (lee's dad) wouldn't mind me saying it but he didn't really have a clue about set-up, tuning or maintenance and just put the car down with charged batteries each run.

    My Dad and (i like to think me a little bit) did quite a lot to help Lee and Pete at the beginning and it was clear to see that he had the ability to get really good which obviously is clear to everyone nowadays haha.

    I've seen people race that are quick on a single lap (not saying as quick as everyone else) but that doesn't mean anything??

    ANdy - do you remember when you were running Newbury indoors down at Thatcham? I came along after not even driving an R/C car for around 4-5 years and was still 4 laps quicker with your B4 then you were with your 4wd car????

    I'm not trying to belittle you or make out i'm something amazing but the point is i don't think anything you say in that comment can be right dude? Just sounds a tad arrogant to me and one other thing as Ali G once said:

    Denial ain't just a River in Egypt you know lol
    Posted 20-08-2008 at 03:15 PM by Nick Goodall Nick Goodall is offline
  16. Old
    showtime's Avatar
    well everyone knows i'm the fastest person on the track between crashes so i reckon with bionic marshalls i could be up there with the best of em

    i know there are situations where better equipment can make a difference & electric racing can emphasise that BUT take a look at rallycross for a moment.

    Anyone & Everyone can go out & buy the same kit as the top guys are using (apart from the odd few prototype parts in testing etc which don't always offer an improvement!). the same car kit, same engine, clutch, servos, tyres etc but to win you've gotta be able to drive the thing!
    people often cite rallycross as a great leveller as the equipment isn't quite so critical! i ran pretty much the exact same car as Hazlewood when he was on the XB8 & while i was floundering around in the pullstart finals he was fighting to win the championship!
    or consider this
    a few of the top electric guys have been racing 8th lately & have gone straight into National A finals Craggy, Pidge, Tony Truman Si Willets etc thats not because they got better stuff its because they can DRIVE RC CARS FAST, CONSISTANTLY FAST

    not sure if you meant to come across the way you did Andy but it did make you sound a bit of a mong

    my closing thoughts-

    good kit can help a driver
    not make one
    Posted 20-08-2008 at 07:23 PM by showtime showtime is offline

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