At the paddock: Remote control drifting

Calla Camero

RC cars drift along the floor track at the Fatlace RC Drift Garage in San Mateo, Calif. on Wednesday October 8, 2014. (Henry Perez/ Xpress Magazine)
RC cars drift along the floor track at the Fatlace RC Drift Garage in San Mateo, Calif. on Wednesday October 8, 2014. (Henry Perez/ Xpress Magazine)

At first glance, it may seem like just a warehouse full of guys driving around remote controlled cars on a track that goes nowhere. But stay long enough, and it is so much more than that. Stay long enough, and you can see why RC Fatlace Drifting becomes a lifestyle, with an emphasis on style.

For those who do not know what RC drifting is, it is essentially driving and drifting remote controlled (RC) cars around a small and intricate race track. A craft that has become quite the sensation with people all over the world. There are even competitions held annually that bring people together to partake in the lesser-known but incredibly popular sport.

So what does Fatlace have to do with RC drifting? Or better yet, what is Fatlace? Fatlace started in 1999 as a blog that revolved around the underground hip-hop scene. Over the course of 10+ years, it transformed into an all-encompassing brand focusing on everything from sneakers to streetwear to motorsports to its latest extension, the Illest clothing line.

Fatlace’s first home was in Japantown, San Francisco, but when it closed down years later, Fatlace moved its home to an old paddock in San Mateo where it is not only the Fatlace retail location, but a brand new RC drift track.

The word itself, Fatlace, comes from the type of laced shoe that breakdancers are known to wear, also known as bboy laces. The man behind it all is San Francisco State alumni, Mark Arcenal. Arcenal is the creative mind and business director of Fatlace and all that it embodies.

“Back then, around ‘95, blogs started popping up and people started having tons of different blogs. At that point I was focused on hip-hop, music, and the bboy scene. Fatlace started as a blog and that was sort of my outlet to put out everything I was into at the time,” said Arcenal, “it wasn’t until ‘06 that everything started coming together.”

Atsushi Mizunaga fixes his car before returning to the track at the Fatlace RC Drift Garage in San Mateo, Calif. on Wednesday October 8, 2014. (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)
Atsushi Mizunaga fixes his car before returning to the track at the Fatlace RC Drift Garage in San Mateo, Calif. on Wednesday October 8, 2014. (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)

Rick Mahaney, 29, was at the paddock on a Saturday in September with his wife and son, working on his RC car. The car’s entire body was off so the chassis, or the car’s “insides,” were completely exposed. He was working diligently, tweaking parts of the chassis, using an exacto knife to cut out parts of the car’s body and decking out the look by adding mini bumper stickers to the bright blue body.

“I’d like to think it’s a hobby, ‘playing’ with my cars. But overtime, it definitely becomes a lifestyle,” said Mahaney, “I’ve just been doing it for so long. It makes me happy.”

Mahaney is one of many to come through the track with their own cars. Various types of models, colors, speeds, and sizes of cars come through the paddock to showcase their style on the track. There is no limit on how many cars can be on the track at once, it’s really just how many can fit.

What is most fascinating about the Fatlace track is that it does not seem to have a ‘start’ or an ‘end’ rather, it just continues to go around and around, in whatever direction you really please. When the cars are on the track, and the remotes are in hand, all the men behind the controllers seem to have one thing in common. Their determination.

It is not about winning or getting in front of the other cars or being the fastest, rather, it is about the style of drifting. The style and form.

“It’s not about who finishes first,” said Joesph Durkee, who has been working at the Fatlace drift track since it opened this past summer, “it’s about how you drive, your cleanliness and style.”

If there is one thing Fatlace knows how to accomplish, it is style. Everything that Fatlace represents, keeps a consistent approach of style that never seems to change as the company transforms. Just like the brand as a whole, the RC Fatlace drift track is all about incorporating your own style and then perfecting it.

But do not be fooled, this ‘style’ does not come cheap. Just because they are tiny cars, does not mean they do not cost a few arms and some legs.

“Renting a car at Fatlace only costs $5 for the whole day,” said Durkee, “but if you’re really involved and trying to build your own car from scratch, that can cost anywhere from $250 to thousands.”

Mahaney claims that he is one of those really ‘involved’ types.

“I’ve spent way too much on all my cars combined. I make them from scratch, which costs about $1,000, and then I usually fix them up which can cost a few hundred. Then I usually sell them, make money and buy more cars. It’s an endless cycle,” says Mahaney.

Inside the walls of an old paddock in San Mateo, there are people who spend their time drifting remote controlled cars on a track with Fatlace flags outlining the never ending mini roads. At Fatlace, it is not about winning, it is not even about placing. It is about perfecting the technique that makes up your style of drifting, and ultimately, never stop enjoying yourself.