Thomas Deelstra gets funny looks when he tells people his passion is racing radio-controlled cars.

But the reality was far removed from kids' toys that lasted about as long as the summer holidays.

He is one of a rapidly growing bunch of enthusiasts who take their one-tenth scale cars for a day of full-on racing at the Mount Sports Centre every month.

There's nothing namby-pamby about this affordable version of motorsport. These electric cars look exciting and go like the clappers, revving to 25,000rpm.


"Once people see us racing, they understand what it is all about. The next best thing is go-karts."

The intoxicating fun of these miniature cars and buggies that reach 60km/h has seen membership of the Tauranga Indoor Radio Control Car Racing Club grow from a handful of members when the club began in 2015 to now reach 55.

"It is the third biggest club in the North Island."

The club was a magnet for people who wanted to take participate in motorsport but did not want to fork out big bucks.

Deelstra said starting packs for newcomers to the sport began at $350, with an extra $150 to fit a transponder so drivers could link into the club's new Mylaps timing system - a very similar lap timing system to V8 Supercars.

Once drivers were hooked on the sport, a really good competitive car could set them back $1500. Batteries ranged from $60 to $250, but the small amount of extra speed from an expensive battery counted for little if competitors were not at the top of their game.

The club president said some people picked up driving really quickly after three or four meetings, while others took a bit longer.

There was a strong hobby component to the sport because drivers were also the mechanics, and poured hours into building, repairing and improving their cars, with friendly advice always on hand from other members.

Deelstra said the cars were really robust and he had not spent much on repairing crash damage. "It's mainly upkeep."

The great advantage of racing indoors was there were no rain days so the club could keep to schedules. Visitors were welcome to meetings, paying $2 or $3 more in modest race day fees.

Racing consisted of two timed heats for each class of vehicle, with the fastest cars going into the A-final and the rest into the B-final. Unlike the heats in which each driver was only being timed on their laps, the final was a five-minute sprint to the finish with a grid start similar to Formula One.

And the speeds at which these sturdy little cars hurtled around the track meant that health and safety was an important consideration for event organisers. "We have to have all the safety procedures in place."

A track was also laid out with bumps for the off-road classes that included 2WD and 4WD buggies.

Organisation was the key to events running smoothly, even down to on-site catering for competitors including pies and burgers.

Age was no barrier, with members' ages ranging from 5 to their early 70s - with a lot of teenagers and young adults in between.

"It's heaps of fun," Deelstra said.

Indoor racing was not limited to Tauranga, with members frequently competing in events in Hamilton and Auckland.

Tauranga Indoor Radio Control Car Club
Where: Mount Sports Centre
Next Meetings: November 18, 8am-6pm
Annual membership fees: Senior $50 and junior $20