Hong Kong is home to some of the most exciting mountain trails in the world but street racing here is heavily policed. This inspired Uncle Tsang, veteran Mini 4WD model car racer and track builder, to choose Tai Mo Shan, a hot spot for downhill racing, as part of his Hong Kong-themed model car track.
Tsang was invited by the Wonderful Worlds of Whampoa shopping mall to design a track for a race during Easter.
"I carved Tai Mo Shan and the Tian Tan Buddha from styrofoam and built a Tsing Ma Bridge to give the track its Hong Kong look. The track is more than 150 metres long, one of the longest tracks in Hong Kong," he says.
Like street racers in famous cartoon Initial D, model car racers team up and challenge one another on different tracks.
"Mini 4WD model car racing is a big thing here. In a tiny place like Hong Kong, there are more than 100 tracks," says Tsang. "Wherever there are industrial buildings, you can find tracks. In Chai Wan, Kwun Tong, Kwai Chung, Yuen Long and Tuen Mun, there are tracks for racers to compete."
Post-90s Hilarious Lee, from the M4 club, has been racing mini 4WD since he was in primary school. He is a regular on different tracks in the city.
24-year-old race car driver Adderly Fong has already test driven an Formula One car, and he's racing towards even greater success
"Racers will be given a day before the race to try out the track and adjust their cars accordingly. Races are usually in time-attack format. The tracks usually have three lanes allowing three cars to race at the same time. The fastest car to finish three laps wins. The rules are pretty straightforward," he says. "One thing that racers need to be aware of is that some tracks only allow cars and parts produced by Tamiya, the official model car brand, while others allow racers to use parts from other manufacturers."
Lee noted that instead of looking for speed and power, today's racers put more focus on their car's stability and agility. "There used to be a time when racers tuned their cars to go as fast as possible on a flat track. Nowadays, the tracks are designed in such a way that the cars need to jump off a ramp and land steadily. This is a whole different ball game. Racers need to install brakes and dampers to stabilise cars when they jump off ramps," he says. "Take the track at Whampoa for instance. It has a 40-degree ramp, so cars will fly off the track if they are too powerful. Adjusting cars has become even more challenging and fun."
Mini 4WD cars are cheap to play with - but tuning them can take a lot of time and effort. "A car costs around HK$70 and the parts cost less than HK$100 each. A well-equipped car should not cost more than HK$300-HK$400 but it is extremely time-consuming to perfect a car," Lee says.
Every November, Tamiya hosts the World Cup for Mini 4WD racing at its headquarters in Japan. Lee is planning to compete this year, but he has big shoes to fill: last year, racers from Hong Kong finished third and fourth in the world, and a racer from Guangzhou was crowned champion.
The Whampoa Cup will be held from today until Tuesday at Wonderful Worlds of Whampoa in Hung Hom.