FOUR-year-old Sam Robertson is already turning heads at a race track north of Perth as he learns to drive radio-controlled cars.
The Two Rocks boy has taken an interest in his father Campbell’s hobby racing cars that are one-fifth scale, about 1m long, half a metre wide and designed to go off-road.
Mr Robertson said he had been racing cars since 2008, and his son had started showing an interest a couple of years ago too.
“We’ve got video footage of him driving his car two years ago, just up in our top paddock,” he said.
“He loves anything that’s machinery, anything with nuts and bolts.
“I think it’s because it’s something I do.”
While there is no official licence, Mr Robertson said they wanted to teach Sam respect before he could race against other people at the WA Baja Association’s track in Caraban.
To start with, Sam’s car was on a rope so he could drive it round and round.
“We are teaching Sam to drive with control,” Mr Robertson said.
“He is really trying to get his licence so he is trying not to crash.
“We’ve marked his car up with L plates.
“We will give him a trophy so he can race.”
He said Sam practised at the track between races, usually doing about 10 laps at a time.
The sport formed from Baja Mexico using radio-controlled cars that were “extremely robust”.
“It’s a shorter variation of the Dakar Rally,” Mr Robertson said.
“It’s all about power and speed over extreme terrain.
“Five years ago, WA had a massive following; you could get cars easily.”
However, Mr Robertson said a downturn in spending money meant a lot of hobby shops were closing down and new vehicles were harder to find.
He said while many thought it was an expensive hobby second-hand cars were selling cheaply.
“I picked up his car for $150,” he said, adding cars that would have cost $1700 new were being sold for $200 to $300.
“People like me are buying them and stripping them for parts.
“It’s a second-hand cage that we bought him. The only thing that’s new is the transponder, everything else is salvaged.
“You can do this racing on a budget.”
Mr Robertson said the sport had a great sense of community, with people bringing different skills to the track, which was on Crown land in the Shire of Gingin.
“My ability seems to be suspension; there are other guys there who are brilliant with motors,” he said.
“If (a car) breaks down on the track, we all pitch in and help each other.
“It’s about keeping as many cars on the track as possible.
“There’s a really good atmosphere; it’s really family-oriented.”
Mr Robertson said there was a focus on safety and no cars could go onto the track without a kill switch.
The WA Baja Association, which has about 20 members aged 18 to 70, will hold its next race day on June 9, weather permitting.
Children can drive electric rather than petrol-powered cars between races, and those under 16 have to be supervised by a parent who can switch off the engine remotely if needed.
The volunteer-run association also holds regular open days – visit www.wabaja.org.au for more information.