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Several RC magazines around the world have asked us to write a monthly column. With the kind permission we will re-publish the column at our web site too so all of the XRAY fans can read the latest news and behind the scenes information. Enjoy.

Column #1 - Behind the Scene Stories

Column #2 - Worlds Flashback

Column #3 - T2'007 Debut

Column #4 - Designing the T2'007

Column #5 - Worldcup Review and NT1 Testing

Column #6 - Developing and Designing the NT1

Column #7 - Developing and Designing the NT1 - Part 2

Column #8 - Back to the Races

Column #9 - XT8 Truggy Development

Column #10 - Touring Car Development

Column #11 - Bling-bling Mentality

It is end of August and I have the most demanding months behind me… I am sitting behind my desk completely exhausted, tired, and washed out but on the other hand I am very satisfied, happy, and excited at the same time. Why such a strange combination? Well, I expected the summertime — with so many races on schedule — would be very demanding in terms of schedule and energy, but I really did not expect that this particular summer would cost me so much in time, effort, and energy. Being a bit burned out, I am eagerly looking forward to my first weekend (in the last year) where I can really relax a bit and get prepared for the quickly-approaching winter season.

Looking at the calendar I realize that time really does fly. It seemed only a very short time ago we were working very hard to prepare for the summertime and now it is all over and in just few days the winter indoor season will start. Was all the effort and energy worth of it? Yes, definitely! This summer was one of the most important break-through summers for XRAY where we set a new vision, goals and trends.

This summer we had the most important races on schedule, including 3x European Championship in 1/10 electric touring car (France), 1/10 nitro touring car (Spain) and 1/8 off-road (France). Outside of Europe it was the US Outdoor Championship 1/10 electric where the US team was going to participate to defend the previously gained titles.

For the European championship we did a lot of advance preparation both on and off the track. For the Off-road Euros we did not have much work to do as the current XB8EC works very well and over the last few years we have improved upon many small details things to make it even more reliable; we are very confident with the performance, handling, and reliability of the car. Of course there are always small details to resolve and improvements to be made, but the most important improvement was the use of the new XRAY Active Diff. We were testing Active Diffs for a long time with great results, but for mass production we had to change the whole internal parts to be able to produce it efficiently, of highest quality and in sufficient quantities. As such we were able to finish the Active Diff production on time and hand out the Active Diffs to all XRAY drivers at the Euros. The diffs were tested very successfully at the Euros warm-up where Yannick was leading the final race (that is, until his servo broke and he had to retire).

With great results at the Euros B where Team XRAY won the European Championship title, and also with good performance results at all the national races and the result at the Warm-up, I was very confident for the Euros. The race actually started very well and not only Yannick but also the rest of the team were doing very well. Clearly it was Yannick who was super fast from Day 1 and in the last qualifiers was having a ‶good battle with Robert Battle※ who at the end TQ’d just 0.5 sec in front of Yannick.

In the semi-final the XB8 of Yannick was unbeatable and he was leading by over a lap when suddenly his engine moved and did not engage, thus ending Yannick’s chances of making it into the final. At the end with very good performances in the qualifiers the chances for Team XRAY were gone and it was really very sad as after the whole year of very hard work and all the efforts made we were out of the window by only a few mere seconds. But racing is racing and luck is luck, and when you are in a highly-competitive sport like this you learn to live with the losses. With the previous very bad experience at the World Championship — where Yannick was leading over a lap with just few minutes to go and he lost the race when his car flipped and engine stopped — I learned that no matter how good your performance is, no matter what lead you have built up, and no matter how good you are, you have not won any race until you cross the finish line when time is up. Of course if you lose a race because of bad performance or an ill-handling car, or the driver makes too many mistakes and other drivers are better, then it does not hurt so much as when you lose a race by circumstances beyond your control.

Complete race report for Off-road 1/8 Euros 2007.

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With the fantastic performance of the whole team and car (and the final results) we left the Euros a little bit sad but still with a realistic view. We have again learned a lot and we will use all the experiences for new ideas and improvements. Being at a race with such ultra-high competition level it is very interesting to notice how the level of competition has been steadily increasing and especially new companies entering the market boost development even faster. Of course this is standard and expected in all industries and is great for the end customer when the companies compete between themselves to strive to offer the very best to customers… best values for product, quality, performance, and for the best possible prices. All of the current pressures in the off-road market pushes development further and brings new motivation and challenges. Being the only company that does not produce products cheaply in Asia, it is of course very demanding for us to continue to face the price war as all our products are made in Europe from premium materials. I have always been a staunch supporter of long term visions and strategies, and an advocate of following long term goals slowly but steadily; this has always worked well for us both in good and bad times and as such I am convinced our new direction and strategy in the off-road branch will boost our development, reputation and presence in the off-road market to provide XRAY customers even better products, support, and services. As this is a long term vision and strategy it requires a lot of detailed analysis and planning and therefore there are no details available at this moment that I can share but as soon as some details are ready you can be sure that we will be happy to share them with you.

Getting back to the racing we came home from France and we ere preparing to get back to France but this time for the electric touring car European Championship. Another 1500km drive by car and this time we ready to fight all the best European drivers and compete with all other factory teams in the class which XRAY has been dominating for the last few years (though with bad luck by missing the title of European Champion). Coming to the track nobody had any idea of the amount of effort, energy and preparation our team has put in for this race. For several months before the Euros we have worked through a very detailed analysis of the current car and its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to high-competition racing on rubber tires. I knew that we had a very good and solid car for most racing conditions, but with rubber tires I knew we had something very minor missing. Together with Martin we put together a list of things which we were convinced would play an important role in performance, and then we spent a few weeks behind the computer drawing all the new parts and concepts. In the end we found ourselves with dozens of different concepts and ideas. At one point we found that with all the different designs ideas we came up with, we probably exceeded even our own high capacity for testing… to be able to test all we would need probably 1 year!
So we then decided to go only with those ideas that we expected would bring about the most significant and desired changes and as such made nearly 10 different concepts which went into production.

In the in-house indoor racing track, we built the layout of the Euros track and for several weeks did nothing but run for several hours every day testing and comparing different parts and concepts. I will share more details from the development and testing in my future column but as a very short overview I can say that we spent a few weeks at the track and I myself turned almost 5000 laps, so despite some very challenging first days and weeks we ended up with very joyful results. From the numerous different concepts and ideas we selected the one that we were convinced was giving us the small performance edge we were seeking. To ensure that what has worked great for us will be same for other drivers (and especially at the Euros track) we traveled for several practices to the Euros track and tested with the team with very good results. With only a few weeks left I came up with another idea which we also produced right away, but then with time ticking down we decided to go one more time to the Euros track on the way back from the off-road Euros and we tested for the last time for one extra day together with the local XRAY French team drivers with very good results and afterwards did some extra testing at several other tracks. Based on the final approval I sent SMS to the factory to start production of 10 prototypes of the new car. It was very close but we were able to produce all the parts on time and we left the Euros with high expectations and nervousness.

All the nervousness however fell away right from the first open practices. The car worked great and the team was on pace right away. As the race was progressing I closely watched all our drivers and their performance, and we slowly and methodically worked through the set-ups. I myself was very satisfied with the handling of the car and despite being ‶twice as old※ as other young drivers I was still in around the 30th position in the timed practice which was for me a great result out of the 150 drivers. I even had drivers from other teams coming to see my car trying to understand how such an ‶old dog※ could turn such super-fast lap times… bringing a smile to my face… and at the same time I was proud since I knew that if I could turn such good lap times with the car then a fast driver would shatter the records. This has also been the case for Team XRAY which was setting the pace in practice and in the qualifiers as well. As expected it was Jilles, Teemu and Martin who were doing very well and as I expected the local French XRAY drivers had excellent performance as well including Cyril, Aurelien and the young local driver Jerome. The biggest surprise to everybody was the unbeatable performance by young German XRAY driver Steven Weiss who set the fastest results in both practice and qualifiers, securing him the TQ position for Team XRAY. In my best heat where I was on pace and could finish around 30th place I got into a collision with other car which cost me the loss of at least 20 places so I was a bit frustrated as this could be my very best result. But I was very happy for the result of the team: with the 10 prototypes we had in the top 20 together with 10 XRAY cars, we had 4 cars in the main final. The main finals were a mixture of both good and bad luck. The bad luck was definitely for Jilles who was involved in collisions in two finals, and the same for Teemu. On the other hand Steven made a great performance by winning the first final and was so close to the overall win, he just needed to win one more final. The second final was very thrilling as after the start Steven opened in one corner which gave only a very small space for Ronald Volker in second position (who immediately used it and got into the lead)… and despite Steven being in 2nd position and pushing he had no chance to pass him on the very tight track and crossed the finish line second. With the 1st and 2nd Steven had already a safe 2nd final position but with the great performance during the whole week of both Steven and the new car we all felt still very motivated to go for the overall win. So it had to be the third final to decide and I was praying that it was just me who was super nervous and not Steven. After the start I got nervous even more as I saw that Steven was trying to drive too carefully and driving with large distance around the corners with Ronald Volker right on his tail pushing on him and waiting for a mistake. I was trying to telepathically send messages to Steven to go deeper into the corners as on the tight track it would be without collisions very difficult for the second car to pass him but I knew that Steven had to drive his way and be comfortable with himself and that was probably the reason he decided for a safer drive. However as I was worrying about this safe driving style, it did not pay off as in one corner he left just a bit of space open which Ronald used immediately to get into the lead. Suddenly Steven got sharp again and pushed on Ronald but I knew that an opportunity would only present itself if Ronald made a mistake; fortunately for him and unfortunately for Steven and us, Ronald did not make any such mistake which meant that once again the title has slipped through our fingers when we were almost touching the trophy. These are really very difficult and humbling moments as I knew that not only myself, but everybody on the team has deserved finally to achieve this goal which has always in the previous years slipped away… like this time again.
Analyzing the details we discovered that Steven made a tactical mistake by cleaning the new tires just before the final. The heat of the asphalt was around 60°C and the defatted tires overheated which resulted into loss of traction in the first several laps. This of course negatively influenced the handling of the car. These are all the small details which at the end will result in a win or a loss.

But then again I have to look at things realistically and consider that this is racing and there can be only one winner and if we did not win today, we still can do it tomorrow. With this optimistic view I am always of the philosophy that you need to be thankful for everything and as such I am really thankful for the TQ and title of European Vice-Champion. In the end I was even more happy as young local XRAY driver Jeremy achieved the title of Junior European Champion and as such the team has in the end gained a lot of great results. Considering that we had 50% of the cars in the final top 20 I was really happy for the very good performance of the new car. At the end after the first euphoria, there followed the facing of reality and getting back to being very optimistic and satisfied; I was leaving for home with the great feeling that comes from doing an outstanding job. As the results are already in the history books, I keep myself focused on our future vision and on what would come tomorrow and the next day, and the day after that… I was very satisfied as I knew that with the new car we have not only closed the gap but again raised the bar to a new higher. At the same time I know however that we will have a lot of work ahead of us to finalize all the details and make final testing with 6cells and on foam tires, so before the work starts for us again I was really looking forward to the last Euros on schedule which would be the last chance where I could rest and get emotionally and physically ready for the challenges that will be heaped on us after the summertime schedule.

Complete race report for Electric 1/10 Euros 2007.

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Before leaving for the next race we received very good news from our XRAY USA team who was again successful at the US ROAR Nationals, with Barry Baker winning the Modified category and another XRAY driver winning the Masters category. For Barry and XRAY, this is already the second US title this year after he won the outdoor asphalt US Nationals. For the whole Team XRAY it is already the 16th US National Title we have gained within the last few years which proves the great performance of XRAY and of course the excellent performance of the team that has been constantly pushing the borders of competition. I have been fascinated with the professional and high competition level that has been developing over in the US. Now the team has been testing the new car on foam tires and I am really looking forward to the reports and feedback, but I am already convinced that we will again push the performance envelope even further.

Complete race report for US Touring Nationals 2007.

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The good news from the US did not stop with this great result and as such more good news came shortly thereafter with the new XRAY XT8 Truggy doing very well at the US Monster Truck Championship… actually sweeping the whole podium with Jason Branham 1st, Mike McCrary 2nd and Rocco Margiotta 3rd, all with the XRAY XT8. With the great performance of the XT8, I expected that this season we would be doing very well but the current results and feedback from not only the team but also regular customers have exceeded my expectations.

Complete race report from US Monster Truck Championships.

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With the last race of the summer — the nitro touring car European Championship — we left for Madrid, Spain with excitement and a bit of flurry. This was supposed to be our first European Championship with our new NT1 nitro touring car, being only a few short months since the NT1 was released. We were going head-to-head with the other strong well-established companies and all whom have a lot of experience and background. Coming to the track and checking the entry list I got the first very positive surprise. The XRAY NT1 was the favorite choice of the drivers at these Euros out of all brands; this was a BIG surprise to me. The funny part was that XRAY has also the widest spread presence (age wise): myself representing the oldest driver, and Manuel Singer from Austria being only 13 years old representing the youngest driver and with Sarah Pierson being a racing woman added to the exotic range of our team. Not only the percentage of XRAY cars at this race made me happy but especially the performance of the whole team during the whole team! I was happy with my own performance as well as being in the top 30 until the last qualifiers when I was involved in two collisions and lost my chance for an 18-lapper which would have kept me in the top 30. During the whole week the team was on pace and in the lead constantly and the NT1 was working well in all conditions… morning, noon and night… no matter what grip conditions were present… and the changes in the set-ups were only minor and very small adjustments were made for only the finest details. It was really a great experience to see several private drivers during the race going to the local hobby shop and purchasing the NT1, build it at the track, and then race the car. This is why I say that I trust the car and I was happy that it did not disappoint anytime during the whole week. Being the first time at the Nitro Touring Euros, I believe we made a huge impact. My secret weapons were the electric touring car experts Jilles, Teemu and Martin who had very limited track time and experience with the nitro touring racing, who have shown from Day 1 that with a good car they can beat the hardcore nitro touring car drivers. Jilles, Teemu and Martin stayed at the top all the time with Teemu outperforming everybody else at the track and setting TQ. During the qualifiers and sub-finals the whole team worked very constructively together, which has moved XRAY drivers up, and at the end we had 5 cars in the main final. Five cars out of 10 for the first year with the TQ spot… wow… this was something I never imagined in even my wildest dreams. I have expected maybe having two (or 3 maximum) cars in the final, but five cars in the final is probably the very best European Championship debuts ever! I was also very happy for Martin who clearly demonstrated his skill (despite being only the third nitro touring race for him this year); between all the best European drivers he has certainly worked his way up very quickly. The final result is already known to everyone and despite the team having worked very hard, good luck has again left us just before the end. Just before the start, Martin had radio troubles and lost control over his car, sending it crashing a few times at full speed at the main straight. (But I was just blown away to see that nothing broke on the car.) It was really a very difficult moment for me since the time-out that Martin was first given by the referee was rejected by the race director, meaning that until Martin exchanged the radio equipment he had to start the final several laps behind. I really admire that despite having such a large mental disadvantage knowing that there was no chance for a good result, Martin drove excellently the whole final and worked his way up a final 7th position. Looking at his performance and lap times he would have been on the podium if he had been allowed to start normally, but then again this is ‶what if※ among hundreds of ‶what ifs※ at every race… again, all part of racing. Both Teemu and Jilles did their very best but for various reasons their speed was not enough to take the win. Jilles had however worked his way to a final 2nd position with Teemu finishing 4th within the same second as the 3rd third car finishing only a tail ahead of him… SO close to a podium finish… but again racing is racing. Sometimes I really think that there is some kind of bad karma at play here… one that at first agitates us into making great performance, but then slams us again at the end and takes away our desired final goals and achievements. Thinking positively I have to admit that we always need to be thankful for every good result and considering that there are always over a hundred drivers and many other professional factory teams at every race doing their own best to achieve the best possible results, then we definitely have been gaining fabulous success and results. Leaving Madrid and looking at the whole race in retrospect, I had to admit at the end that for the first debut at the European Championship we did a very good job, had very good results, and I was very satisfied with the performance of the NT1. It made me really satisfied knowing that there will not be any changes needed for the car as the super-temporal design will not only stare down any competition but can still easily lead the pack.

Being back in the office looking at the calendar of all the races, practices and testing we did in the last few months I am still surprised I am still alive. But to be honest the last months really took its toll on my energy levels I left small portions of myself at all of these races by giving the very best I could even whether on the track racing or off the track helping the team with set-up, providing the technical support and helping to organize and manage the team and keeping everybody mentally motivated and focused on unbeatable team performance. Looking back at all the previous months I am very proud not only of myself but of my whole team as we could not achieve anything without all these great persons and people, including all the drivers, R&D team who worked very hard behind the computers and in production to arrange all the parts and new stuff for the team… and of course we would not be able to provide the very best support and backup without the excellent job of the Support Team who was available at all the races. I believe that XRAY has again confirmed that we are serious not only when it comes to model car development and racing at the highest level, but also that support and backup is the most professional. During all the races the XRAY service van was available (thanks to Gerhard Binder), loaded with all spare parts and everything else needed to keep all the XRAY drivers on the track all the time.

So summer is over and I am looking to a short break and then the typical buzz will start again. We have new machines coming soon that will need to be installed, we have to finalize the new products for the winter season, and of course we have to keep focused on making our products and services better and better. Setting the priorities I am very confident in both the NT1 and XT8 with their current specs, and the performance of the new T2’008 has confirmed that we have found exactly what we were missing so we have another winner. For the XB8 I will wait for the summer to finish before collecting all the feedback from around the world and then we will decide what will be next on schedule for the off-road line. And meanwhile? We will keep working and testing and racing, and so I will see you again at some up coming races... the race calendar for the winter season is full again.

Complete race report for Nitro 1/10 Euros 2007.

Enjoy the ride and â€til next time…

Dipl. Eng. Juraj Hudy
Chief Designer XRAY