Here at MTMG they offer a rather in-depth track making tutorial. Tutorials and instructions programs, however, can’t teach creativity; you either have a knack for it or you don’t. Each track maker intermixes his or her own imagination, interpretations, visions, and in this case, personal life experiences, into the tracks they make, which to me is…well, fascinating. I don’t know of any other track maker that combines personal experiences with their track making as much, or in the same manner as Shoe does. For example, “The Grade” is modeled after a place he used to ride dirt bikes…even the wooden plank across the small creek actually exists! Crater Lake Rim road is 26 miles of paved road, somewhere within close proximity to where Shoe lives I’m guessing, and it was that road that inspired him to make “Crater Lake”. Crabtree Lake is one of his favorite fishing spots, and according to Shoe, the roads in the track are patterned similar to what you would find around the lake area.
This is Shoe’s sixth outing as a track maker, so you could easily justify referring to him as a “babe in the woods” where track making is concerned, but let me tell ya, you’d never know it by looking at his work. He seems to have an innate sense of how to conjure up great layouts and combine them with eye-catching decor. There’s a natural look to his tracks, an authenticity or sorts that’s kinda hard to describe. It’s like he has the ability to capture what these places actually look like...or at least that’s the impression I get. I’ve never seen Crater Lake Rim Road, The Grade, or Crabtree Lake, but I have a great deal of faith in Shoe’s visual interpretation of these places and how he represents them on the tracks he makes.
As for “Crabtree Lake” (the track, not the place), the road texture is dirt, but it’s the nice stuff; looks like it was covered with grade-A, high quality topsoil (Shoe wouldn’t settle for anything less!), and it’s great for racing on. The level of difficulty on a scale of 1 to 10 is about a 7 in my opinion. Not something you’ll burn up brain cells trying to master, however there are a few spots where he employed a little “misdirection” or “blind turns”, as they’re more commonly referred to. (Phineus just looooves those! hehehe). They’re not nearly as extreme as what you would see in some of SLO_Fila’s tracks, but if you’re not paying attention…nuff said. There’s a spot where you hit a rather imposing looking snowdrift that was added in during the final stages of this track, which I thought were a nice touch. I’ve yet to wipe out in the snow drifts, but I suppose if you’re swapping (fish-tailing back and forth) going into it you could potentially have problems controlling your truck. But even with the snow and, a few moderate jumps, and a couple of blind turns which force you to dampen your pace somewhat as you execute the change of direction, the overall track is pretty darn fast, but moreover, like all of his tracks, it flows oh so well!
One thing’s for sure - the look of Crabtree will definitely grab your attention. For starters, and not many know or realize this, he takes pictures of trees and forestry, then uses them in his tracks, which I think is amazingly innovative stuff. Also, I really like Shoe’s approach to using decor. He doesn’t try to cram in a bunch of models in an attempt to “force” visual appeal. His tracks seem to have just enough trees, shrubs and rocks for the atmosphere he tries to create; all very well placed and positioned, which I think is key to the sense of realism his tracks seem to have. For you new track makers...and even some of the veterans out there, if you’re looking for someone to pattern yourself after where decor is concerned, Shoe’s definitely a prime time example!
Technically speaking, the only aspect of the track I can make an objectionable comment on is the texturing and layout of the snow, how it seems a touch on the clumpy side versus smooth and flowing, like real snow (check out Zoon’s snow texture). Maybe Phin or Mal can shed some light in that area since it’s not my area of expertise. From strictly a racer’s point of view, whether the snow is clumpy or silky smooth…if you’ve got good tires and a decent shovel, you’re good to go!
The first time I had any contact with Shoe was right after he did “The Sandbox”. He’s a heck of a nice guy and great to work with...unlike some other track makers I know who’s names I won’t mention because I’m kind of a discretion fanatic (our three stooges - SLO_Preacher, SLO_Gutterboy, and SLO_Fila hehehe). True to form, Shoe has produced yet another winner. If there were such a thing as an MTM Track Maker’s Hall of Fame, he’d be a shoe-in (intentional pun).
This one gets a rock-solid “9.5” out of 10 possible points on the Copey Rating Scale. Excellent stuff, Shoe…great job, bud!!