June 10, 2023

Model Sport
Drivers at this local remote-controlled car track put the pedal to the metal

Drivers at this local remote-controlled car track put the pedal to the metal

Drivers at this local remote-controlled car track put the pedal to the metal

There’s a massive indoor dirt track located at an unassuming building on unassuming lot on Saturn Road. Along with a fully stocked repair pit for drivers, there’s an auto parts store. Many members of the racing community travel from around the country to use the facilities. No, it’s not Devil’s Bowl Speedway. This is Indy RC World — racing for remote control cars.

Among the community is one Caleb Halligan, a father of three who grew up racing pro circuits in southern Utah.

“I haven’t raced in years; in order to do that you’ve got to cough up a lot of time and cash. When I was single, I was able to do that,” Halligan jokes as he repairs a car for one of his kids to drive. “Now I guess I’m just a mechanic.

Halligan’s children ran off to race their cars in an open practice, held in the morning for both beginner drivers and competitive ones to drive their cars in a relaxed environment.

Outside of simply recreational joyrides, Indy RC World can transform their dirt track into an oval, drag racing strip, or an off-roading loop. Each alteration to the course drastically changes the clientele that comes in to race and their own racing strategy. 

Most events organized by Indy RC World are purely recreational. With the exception of a major pro circuit hosting an event in the space, almost all races and tournaments are held just for bragging rights and the placard for first place. 

“Tuesday night is electric night. Those get pretty crazy,” says Juan Castro, a racer and freelance artist who specializes in RC car painting. “Fridays are dirt oval races and Sundays we do electric and nitro together.”

The “electric” and “nitro” lingo for RC cars simply refers to the manner in which

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RC Car

Hot Wheels Rift Rally Turns Your Home Into a Mixed-Reality RC Stunt Track

A few years ago, Nintendo’s real-life-meets-video-game Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit turned my pandemic home into a theme park racecourse for my kids. Now, Mattel and Hot Wheels have created a new mixed-reality game for remote-controlled cars with Mario Kart Live developer Velan. 

Hot Wheels Rift Rally, arriving March 14 for $130, is an RC car video game that races around on your real-world floor.

And just like Mario Kart Live, it’s a lot of fun.

You need a Nintendo Switch to play Mario Kart Live, but Hot Wheels Rift Rally works with iPhones, iPads and the PlayStation 4 and 5. It can cross-play between them, either locally or with others online.

A white and red RC race car from Hot Wheels, with a camera on top of its body

Hot Wheels Rift Rally is an RC car video game with a camera built in to stream racing to your phone or TV, with mixed-reality effects.

Scott Stein/CNET

I played with the Rift Rally for about an hour in New York. The concept is similar to Mario Kart Live: A camera-enabled RC car streams its point of view to your TV or Apple device. From there, you drive the car and see the real world augmented with all sorts of video game special effects and a glowing race track.

The twist with Rift Rally is that the car itself, a sort of futuristic compact race car called the “Chameleon Car,” can transform in-game into 140 different Hot Wheels cars. It works weirdly well. Even though the physical car drives around your home the same way, in-game you see a different car appear, along with different driving physics and speeds.

Hands holding an iPhone with a game controller on, playing a racing game

Rift Rally works on iOS with or without a controller: We played with an iPhone that had a Backbone snapped on.

Scott Stein/CNET

Much like Mario Kart Live, the camera-equipped car works along with four included gates that form

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RC Car