Before I pulled into the Hyper One parking lot in Sheikh Zayed on Friday afternoon, I was probably thinking I had seen most things in Cairo. The city of 1,000 minarets held few surprises to me now.
Surprise, surprise; as I opened my car door, I heard the high pitched scream of finely tuned racing car engines.
Radio racing cars in fact. Who would have thought? Zooming round the parking lot of Hyper One, with a big crowd learning over the crash barriers captivated by the spectacle of these shoe box sized vehicles that can reach speeds of 65 km hour and in some cases are powered by nitro.
According to John Klingler, president of the Radio Auto Car Club of Egypt (RACE Club), the enthusiasts no longer have to smuggle nitro concealed in shampoo bottles into Egypt to fuel their cars, as it has been sold legally since 2004.
I think that is a good indication of the dedication these 35 active members of RACE Club have, to what technically would be described as a hobby, but I think is more of a sport.
“We are a family club, Klingler said. “RC racing is something the whole family can take part in. Fathers and sons can do it together and it exposes people to the world of sportsmanship.
“Eighty percent of our members are Egyptian and we are building a passionate club where all the members are working together, to provide an environment for both professionals and novice drivers.
“Radio racing cars have all the same parts as full size racing cars. Gears, transmission, shock absorbers, all need to be tuned and adapted to different tracks, Klingler said.
The not-for-profit RACE Club regularly meets at Victory College, breaking for the summer and over Christmas.
Cars start from $300 and beginners are very welcome, where they will receive a lot of support and the chance to grow with their car.
“These cars are not the Radio Shack variety. They’re been built to the specifications of their owners to suit the different tracks and prepared for each race.
On the upper end of the scale, $650 will buy a nitro car, and then I suspect the fun really begins.
Another aspect to radio cars is the artistic paint work. RACE Club encourages customized paint jobs and award prizes in this category.
RACE Club prides itself on awarding first, second and third place trophies, which are changed regularly and it sees this as an important part of the professionalism of the club.
“We are a professional organization, with clear goals and plans to build on the clubs strengths, Klingler said.
“RACE Club has a strong foundation and we are looking to stage International events and attract some European racers.
“The club will produce a calendar in 2010, which should be very attractive depicting all the exciting elements of RC racing.
Klingler, who was working the microphone in the Hyper One car park when I met him, is a Cairo American expatriate, veteran of eight years. His day job is helping to assemble M1 Abrahams tanks for the Egyptian Army, opposite ends of the horseless carriage family to radio racing cars if ever there was one.
Motor racing, such as Formula One, I don’t really see as a sport, maybe sports entertainment like wrestling, but watching these radio cars whirl around an ‘S’ shaped track, one appreciates the level of skill involved to maneuver the light racers that bump along, sliding around corners and zig-zagging down the straight.
You can feel the intensity of concentration from the operator, determined faces, and light of touch on the joy stick, caressing their machine around the circuit.
Children with moms and dads, it was a pleasant scene, one which I had to leave too early to take up the shopping trolley demolition derby which is Hyper One on a weekend.
To contact the Radio Auto Car Club of Egypt, visit www.racegypt.org.