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Race report by Rocco Margiotta
The R/C Pro Series International Finals were held at the Diamond W Arena way out in Alvarado, TX on November 6-12. Pretty much every racer that was in contention for top spots attended the International Finals for its double points reward, this included most of the RC America/XRAY team:
Josh Wheeler
Jason Branham
Leon McIntosh
Rocco Margiotta
Patrick Castleberry
Gary Haggard
Jimmy Matsler
Hunter Kinsey
James and David Green
Raven Culp

Day 1: Practice 1

Tuesday 11/6 was the first day of practice, only a couple members of the team were able to attend this first practice. Practice was organized by qualifying heat with two rounds of seven minute practices and a third, and final, ten minute round. Upon arriving, Jason, Leon and myself (Rocco) asked Josh about the track and he said it was extremely slick and wide open, but his car was still the one to beat after hitting times that no other top driver from the other teams could hit. We had several people come up and commenting on how smooth and fast Josh’s car was all day. We talked to Carlton Epps (R/C Pro Owner/Director) who said they were going to soak the track all night, so we were very excited about the liquid traction (water!) they were laying down, and couldn’t wait to get on the track the next day!

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Day 2: Practice 2
We would follow the same two seven minute practice rounds followed by a ten minute round today, as well. After the a late night watering from the track crew, traction was very high allowing us to pretty much run any tire we want and focus on motors and suspension for the huge track with +200 foot straight! After the first round of practice I decided to adjust my car to make it as stable as possible for the high speed track, so I made the necessary changes to my geometry including: Adding caster, going to the long, soft arms in the rear, reducing anti-squat and lengthening the wheelbase. I then began just working on shocks trying all different combinations of oils, pistons and springs, because the track was getting blown out just halfway into the second round of practice heats! We all lightened up our dampening so our cars wouldn’t get thrown around by the huge bumps and ruts. We had to find a happy medium between the suspension being soft enough to absorb the bumps and the chassis hitting them and throwing the car around. The third round came and went with Wheeler having the fastest times overall in every round of truck and buggy and the rest of us very satisfied with our cars.

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Day 3: Truck Qualifying
The team arrived to find a track that had pretty much been rebuilt with all of the bumps and ruts gone for truck qualifying, but none of us touched our setups as we knew these would reappear just as quickly as they did the previous day. With the track smooth and stuck, competition was very very high in the first round which saw the fastest times of the day. Throughout the day, our trucks and the track remained very consistent so it was up to us to wheel them! After the four rounds of some competitive qualifying and a very bumpy track the top 10 in the truggy class were as follows:
1 – Ryan Lutz
2 – Jason Branham – XRAY XT8
3 – Quincy Hughes
4 – Matt Gosch
5 – Billy Fischer
6 – Josh Wheeler – XRAY XT8
7 – Phillip Antondo
8 – Michael Paige
9 – Gene Hickerson
10 – Taylor James

Due to the level of competition, there were several bigger names outside of the top 10 with Kyosho’s Cody King at the number one spot in the B-main, XRAY’s Leon McIntosh and Jimmy Matsler behind him in the B and somehow I (Rocco) was sorted down to first in the C-main.

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Day 4: Buggy Qualifying
We expected to arrive to a smooth, groomed track as we did the previous day for truck qualifying, but it was even bumpier than it was when we left last night because they ran the lower truck mains, so right off the bat we knew it was going to be who ever could keep their car on its wheels for an entire qualifier! Jason, Josh and Patrick continued to run well throughout the whole day making small changes to their cars on their way to qualifying for the A main. While they were having great days, I was having motor issues and couldn’t complete a single qualifier due to flameouts! But not all was lost because I set one of the fastest laps of the day, which I could do consistently, which elevated my spirits along with several of my peers commenting on how good my and the other XRAY drivers’ cars weres!!! After the four rounds of running on a surface akin to the moon, the top sorted out like this:
1 – Ryan Lutz
2 – Josh Wheeler – XRAY XB8EC
3 – Cody King
4 – Taylor James
5 – Phillip Antondo
6 – Jason Branham – XRAY XB8EC
7 – Tyler Vik
8 – JR Mitch
9 – Gene Hickerson
10 – Billy Fischer

Other XRAY drivers outside of the top 10 are Castleberry at 12th in the A, McIntosh in the B, Culp in the C, Kinsey and David Green in the D and me (Rocco) all the way back with motor issues 6th from last in the G!!!

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Day 6.5: Upper Buggy Mains
The upper buggy mains were run after the qualifying on Friday night. After some help from Branham with a good motor to run and switching over to Nitro Juice fuel I was confident my XB8EC was good enough to start my bump-a-thon! I ran the G, F and E mains getting to front around three laps into each race and running away with the race in each one without a problem (I knew my car was good!). We came up to the D main and I quickly came through the field making it to 2nd before my first pit stop, but quickly after my pit stop, even with the speedy hands of Branham and McIntosh behind my fueling, I knew I was in trouble because the leaders were on a 1 stop strategy whereas I had to fuel twice without knowing what my run time is for the new motor. With the pit stops adding about 20 seconds to the laptime due to the weird pit lane, I gave it my best and still finished 7 seconds out of a bump spot so I cut their lead by over 20 seconds by the end of the D main (did I say my car was good?!).

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Day 7: Mains Day
As with every other race, the mains day was full of waiting and prepping your car. I was the first one up again, with the C main of truck which I won by a lap after getting some other changes to get more steering from the truck. I was again up for the truck B main with McIntosh and Matsler a few hours later. Again in this main, I found my way to 3rd within the first three laps after starting 13th and into 2nd after a pass in the pits where I would remain for the remainder of the race. Matsler would have problems with his motor and flame out two times shuffling him toward the back. McIntosh ran a very clean race running in 4th or 5th the whole race with 3rd place, Jammin’s Steve Hale, wrecking on the last lap, but could not find a way around the mess and would wind up 2 seconds out of a bump spot. This would put me in the main as the third XRAY XT8 in there! McIntosh would have a rough run in the buggy B-main and was unable to bump. In the truck main, we had a relatively smooth start even with the competitive drivers, at one point within the first several laps, I made it up to 5th, but was forced back by the nose of several others’ trucks, which allowed the group to spread out and run as it would for the whole race. I almost wish I could have watched this race because the top three guys all finished on the same lap, within 6 seconds of each other!!! After their last pit stops, James, Wheeler and King would swap spots and battle back and forth until they finally settled in that order with everybody else falling into place as follows:

1 – Taylor James
2 – Josh Wheeler – XRAY XT8
3 – Cody King
4 – Jason Branham – XRAY XT8
5 – Tyler Vik
6 – Matt Gosch
7 – Steve Hale
8 – Derek Guidry
9 – Rocco Margiotta – XRAY XT8
10 – Gene Hickerson

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The buggy main saw the same ‘competitive’ driving as the truck main as these were some of the top drivers in the nation! Josh Wheeler got caught up in some of the aggressive drivers and would go from 2nd to 15th on the first laps and spend the next 25 laps slowly catching up to Kyosho’s Cody King, but Josh’s car might as well had been a slot car because, even in the rough, it was reeling in the top spots like they were standing still! Wheeler finally took a lap after a King mistake on lap 30. This battle would go on for the rest of the race trading spots on pit stops and mistakes made on the track. Behind them was the battle for third between Ryan Lutz and Branham. Lutz had a couple more minutes of run time, so Branham had to push that little extra bit to stay in front of him between pit stops where as McIntosh and I did everything we could to get him in out of the pits in an expedient manner! Branham and Lutz would trade spots back and forth upon Branham catching him until Branham got around him for the final time and wrecked on the very next jump (which was the bane of all of the racers’ weekend) and broke his car with three laps to go, finishing 10th and rest of the field looking like this:

1 – Cody King
2 – Josh Wheeler – XRAY XB8EC
3 – Ryan Lutz
4 – Billy Fischer
5 – JR Mitch
6 – Gene Hickerson
7 – Quincy Hughes
8 – Tyler Vik
9 – Taylor James
10 – Jason Branham – XB8EC
11 – Trevor Turner
12 – Patrick Castleberry – XB8EC

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