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VIRTUAL RC RACING – THE INSIDE STORY part 1

13.01.2022   Category: Site news

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Part 1 How it all began…

All my ‘rc’ life and especially as a manufacturer I have been wondering how we could make the r/c car hobby more accessible for the general public. This hobby is simply very difficult to get in to, especially in those days. Companies like Kyosho and Tamiya were the only companies offering products which were entry level, but even these were quite difficult to operate. As a manufacturer of model racing cars it was even more difficult to promote our racing products. Promotion was limited to advertising in rc magazines and r/c races. Remember in those days there was no internet yet!

Late nineties the first computer sims came on the market, for real racing cars, air flight sims and also sims for radio-controlled model airplanes. This triggered the idea of creating an rc car sim so we could everyone give a ‘virtual’ rc racing experience without having to worry about crashing the car all the time. And of course, the game had to be controlled with a proper r/c transmitter, not with a joystick. So that was the first thing I was set out to do, design and manufacture a device which would connect your r/c transmitter/receiver with your PC. Remember, in those days PC’s did not have USB ports yet (the USB port was invented in 1996), just a printer port and a so called ‘com’ port for other devices. We opted to use the com port for our first very first ‘game port adaptor’.

I thought we had created quite a unique product and perhaps it would be interesting to patent it. So I got in contact with a patent office in the Hague. Part of the patenting process is to do a market survey for products with similar unique characteristics and functionality. And much to my surprise they found a gameport adaptor which was developed by a certain Lothar Pantel who lived in Neckargemund in the middle of Germany, with a European patent pending! But Lothar’s gameport adaptor used the printer port unlike ours who used the com port, so was quite different from an electronics design point of view.

Coincidentally Neckargemund is the next village up the river Neckar where my best youth friend Hans Beels lives, Siegelhausen just outside Heidelberg. (by the way, Hans is part of my ‘car passion’ I wrote about in a previous story as I was his ‘mechanic’ in go-karting for several years, he comes from a family with a long racing history). So I decided to contact Lothar Pantel to see if we could work together somehow, and a few weeks later we met in Neckargemund, the first of many. At that time Lother still studied at the Heidelberg university and his gameport was not a real big thing for him. But surprisingly he had also a very simple 2D r/c game for PC to promote his adaptor, what a coincidence! We decided to cooperate rather than to fight each other for a patent, it wasn’t all that important to me as my main focus was of course on the Serpent company.

Lothar’s r/c car game was very primitive but at least it was something our game port adaptor could be used with. I remember I was quite excited about our gameport adaptor which could also be used with racing games like iRacing which was one of the leading racing sims in those days. Controlling a real car with an r/c transmitter was still a lot better than with a joystick, steering wheels and peddles were just entering the market back then. I remember during one of my many travels to the US (we had an office in Miami then) I visited iRacing in Boston one day to demonstrate how our gameport adaptor with a transmitter could also control iRacing. They thought it was interesting but funny to use it for a racing game but of course they hardly new anything about r/c cars and controllers.
After 1 or 2 years I thought: we need something more sophisticated than Lothar’s simple 2D game and I came up with a new concept: Virtual RC Racing v3. This was the start of our own game development be it still pretty basic, but at least 2.5D.

The VRC v3 story is next...

(this story is also published on my Facebook page Pieter Bervoets)

Comments

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(Total posts: 3)
14.01.2022 [09:14]
It was a natural thing for me to do, driven by passion for the hobby. I guess it is also my nature to think beyond the present and explore new ideas that could work in the future and of which we could all benefit. And it is mentally very rewarding when you succeed!
14.01.2022 [05:23]
Serpent was my favourite RC brand when she was owned by Pieter, and VRC is great tools to improve my driving skill and help me understand the setup, You are the Greatest in RC.

Thank you very much Pieter !
13.01.2022 [16:49]
Very interesting.
Pieter, a great entrepreneur and innovator, without a doubt the world of RC owes you a lot. I believe that you came to life at the right time, to contribute to the start and growth of this hobby throughout all these years.

Thank you very much Pieter.

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