A World Sport

A tether car world championship is equal parts nationalistic competition, family reunion, equipment swap meet and advanced technical training.

Hosted every three years in Europe, Australia or the United States, the most recent championship was held this summer in a suburb of Tallinn, Estonia, the country's capital -- a world away from Cedar Creek Park in Wantagh, the site of the previous meet in 2001.

To Americans, Estonia may seem a far-flung place to hold a sporting event. But Estonians -- along with the Swedes and Germans -- dominate this sport, which is well respected in all the former Soviet Union countries. Not only did Estonia win the team trophy this year, but hundreds turned out to watch the three- day competition.

"It was quite an event. ... The meet made the 6 o'clock news," said Nicholas Tucci, 44, of Merrick, who attended as part of the U.S. team. The best the Americans did was 10th place in one event; as a team, they finished 13th of 16 overall.

Estonia's dominance is the product of an educational tradition in which boys in after-school technical programs were encouraged to work on miniature cars as a way of developing engineers and machinists for the then Soviet Union, of which Estonia was a part. Before the Soviet Union dissolved, more than 1,000 full-time government employees were assigned to coach and organize competitions for tether racing.

"We Estonians act as a bridge between the racers of Europe, other western nations and the former Soviet teams since our team speaks English, German and Russian," said meet host, Tonu Sepp, 43, of Tallinn.

Although small in number, tether racers have a tight international community. "We had this United Nations earlier than the big building in Manhattan," said Werner Amend, 79, of Hameln, Germany.

"I love the camaraderie of people all over the world. It's all as simple as that," added Dieter Hecht, 62, of Niedersachsen, Germany.

For more information about tether car racing at Cedar Creek Park, contact Nicholas Tucci at 516-466- 0053 or go to www.amrca.com.


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