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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.

Archive:
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

Column #12 - Hot Summer Washout

Column #13 - New Electric Touring Car



For those who read my columns regularly they can probably understand that for the last year I was living and breathing nitro touring (NT1) and electric touring (T2), and as such I put off-road product line development to the back of my mind and transferred that R&D responsibility to a few team drivers. Even though we have spent a great amount of development and track time when working and finishing the new truggy project (XT8) I really had spent minimal track time and development time on the off-road buggy (XB8) and as such this has had a bit of a negative impact on some things.

The 1/8 nitro off-road market is definitely the most progressive and evolving market in the last few years. We see plenty of newcomers in the market and the supply surplus has definitely moved the off-road market to a completely new level. The choice and variety of products has increased, which benefits the customer who can now choose from very cheap low-quality off-road cars up to premium expensive high-competition off-road cars. The strong competition has not only moved the supply but also the quality and performance have increased and all of these changes have happened fairly quickly –much faster than any time beforehand. The super-strong off-road market and super-fast market changes put a big pressure not only on the dealers who need to renew their stock much faster and get more different product lines on shelves, but it is also much more demanding for the manufacturers themselves. I expect that after such a high boom there will be a “shake-down” and of course in our long term plans and strategy I have the long term vision, plans and strategy to keep XRAY at the top among all the leading off-road car manufacturers. As such we have to adapt quickly to the rapid changes and the new challenges.

The first step is of course to face reality and perform a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). As all the other model lines (T2, NT1, M18, M18T, XT8) were recently updated and are the absolute top in the market, I could now afford to devote 100% of my time, energy and resources on XB8 development. On our short term and long term planning chart, the XB8 got the RED flag status which means top dedication to this project.

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The first XB8 was introduced back in 2004 and went straight to the top of the market, bringing plenty of new and innovative ideas – Integrated Suspension Settings (I.S.S.), Integrated Adjustable Caster (I.A.C.) – and featuring premium-quality HUDY Spring Steel™ parts and luxury touch of all details. During the years we had both ups and downs but generally I would say that the XB8 has been a very successful car: winning the Euros “A” and winning Euros “B”, setting several times TQ at the Euros, winning dozens of national titles around the world, and almost winning the World Championship. With the two development series of XB8TQ and XB8EC we have kept pace with ongoing development but this time development has taken a giant leap forward and as such we had to do the same – significant and fast development.

The first issue was to assign responsibilities for development. I decided to take on all R&D responsibility and as such I sat down with our in-house R&D staff and we came up with a very long list of new ideas and designs we wanted to check out. Some of these ideas I knew would be a definitive improvement but there were other ideas I was unsure of… whether they would be a general improvement or simply an improvement only on some particular tracks. We decided to avoid any radical changes but rather to take over what has worked well previously on the XB8 and to concentrate on those areas which needed small or significant improvements. One of the main areas for improvement was to improve handling on big jumps (typical on US tracks) and also in bumpy areas. As the 2008 Worlds warm-up was on schedule in October with a Nitrocross championship a week after – both in the US at typical US tracks – I decided to make several parts very quickly so as to test and fly over for both events.

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With the previous XB8 I had plenty of track time at European indoor and outdoor tracks and Asian outdoor tracks, but I had no real track time myself at US tracks; I based things on the information and feedback from our US team. From all the pictures, information and feedback I had a few ideas about what would be key parts to produce and test. First on the list were big bore shocks, and different shock towers with completely different shock mounting principles. All the other parts we worked on at the design board were parts which influence the handling and characteristics of the XB8. They obey the same rules of thumb and set-up/racing characteristics as other model racing cars, namely to lower the CG, reduce rotating weight, reduce unsprung weight, reduce overall weight, place weight as close to the car centerline as possible, and of course give optimal chassis and suspension flex. With these logical areas of focus, suspension geometry and weight balance (side-to-side & front-to-rear) play an important role. Shocks also play an important role for every type of model car but for off-road car – since it jumps all the time – having the “perfect” shocks is even more important and this is also the area I thought that the most improvement could be made. The diffs are important too but with the recent release of the XRAY Active Diff™ we have raised the performance level again so this time we had only different ratios to test. The combination and proper balance of all the above characteristics and designs influence how fast the car is and how easy/difficult it is to drive, so to find the optimal solution is present-day alchemy. To make a fast car for a professional team driver is not a problem, but to make the same car fast and easy to drive for a regular driver and customer is like searching for the Holy Grail. With previous R&D we focused fairly heavily on designing for professional racers which sometimes did not work for regular drivers, so for the next stage of development of the XB8 it was now up to me to design the XB8 for my own hands – the hands of an average customer. I figured that if I could make the new car fast and easy to drive, then ANYBODY would be able the same… then for a top driver it would simply be a matter of a few set-up changes to adapt the car to their own racing style.

Before packing my stuff for the two big US races, I had the R&D and Production shops work quickly to make all of the parts I wanted to test. This time I had decided to not make all these parts for other team drivers but purposely only for me, but rather to make only a few shock sets for some other drivers. I expected that besides the significant shock improvements that we would need to improve forward traction and steering, and also the speed of the car. All of the parts were made on time and within only a few days, so I could finish packing my stuff and leave for the US.

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Arriving at the 2008 World’s track I was not really surprised by the track; it was exactly like I expected. The other day it was not the track but the weather that surprised me, as after three months of no rain there were strong rains expected for the entire week. The track was a really big mud bog and was mostly closed for practice and qualifiers due to the undrivable conditions. There were a few drivers who tried to run in the mud in the first qualifiers but most of them found it almost impossible to finish their runs. The next day the conditions got better but I decided not to run as my intention was to test and compare, but these conditions would not bring any test results. Josh Wheeler from Team XRAY USA tested the new shocks and a couple of different parts and was doing fairly well, but he had engine trouble and as such could not finish his race. At the end this race was a disappointment for me because of the very bad weather which did not allow me to test anything… I only ran 10 minutes. At least I have used the time to talk with all the people, drivers and other teams around the facility and have a good time. After the race we had another two days of private practice at the track but unfortunately the organizer cut this back to only one day until 4:00PM. As the track was still a bit muddy it was difficult to get serious feedback but at least I used a bit of track time to compare some parts as the World’s track was different not only in layout but especially in the surface from the Nitrocross track and I needed to have the feedback and data to make the comparisons.

Leaving the muddy World’s track I flew across the USA to Phoenix, Arizona for the Nitrocross Championship. Most of the top European drivers flew in from the World’s warm-up too and joined all the best US drivers. We could expect some very high-level competitive racing, this time in both buggy and truggy classes. Arriving in Phoenix we traveled to the track which was outside of town in the middle of the desert. The track was located close to a full-size racing facility which is used for the dragster racing, a US favourite. Coming from rainy Charlotte I was happy with the positive forecast: plenty of sunshine. The track was very different from Charlotte and the surface was very slippery and dusty with lower traction and of course plenty of huge jumps. To keep on the lines on this track was really very important because as soon as you left the line and got into a dusty part of the track the traction disappeared, resulting in slower lap times due to reduced cornering speeds and acceleration but mainly we would lose time on the jumps as the tires were slipping before acceleration.

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During the first practice I worked on the engine set-up, tweaking it to get enough punch for the double and triple jumps. After that I would get to testing different new parts and ideas. Josh Wheeler concentrated on testing different car balances and testing the big-bore shocks in different shock mounting positions and using different shock towers. Some of the different shock positions generated more traction but made the car less reactive, while using other positions the car was very fast in corners but much worse in bumpy areas. We tested and recorded all data to make comparisons with the European tracks.

The XRAY Active Diff™ has helped the handling of the car significantly and as such this time we worked on different ratios (crown/pinion gears) and again did a lot of testing and comparisons with some valuable feedback which will definitely be used for further improvements.

After the practice and testing, the racing started. Josh, in very strong competition with the best US and European off-road drivers, did an excellent job of showcasing the new XB8 prototype. The car was very fast and absorbed the jumps very well. The kick-off in front of the jumps was perfect and the car landed very well–balanced, thus enabling immediate acceleration. In the final, Josh worked his way up into 3rd place for which he fought with Cavalieri, but he lost valuable time in refueling pitstops. At the end Josh finished 4th but more important for me this time was the fact that Josh achieved the 2nd fastest lap times… proving that the car improved in speed while still being very predictable and easy to drive.

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I was happy with the performance and results of the new XB8, but the fantastic performance of the truggy (XT8) made me even more satisfied. Josh started very well with the XT8 and was on pace, so most of the time was spent was on fixing small set-up details and spending time looking for the correct tires. From the qualifiers Josh moved into the semi-final (which he won) and after that joined a special 0USD cash-money race. Right after the start Josh got into the lead and stayed that way start-to-finish. In the main truggy event Josh took the lead right away, swapping positions with other drivers, but at the end he had to retire due to a broken servo.

Leaving the USA after two weeks I had mixed feelings. Firstly, I was very happy that the XT8 truggy works so well and will need no significant work or attention in the coming year. Secondly, I was also happy that the first prototypes and ideas for the new XB8 worked well. Sitting in the airplane on the long trip back to Europe I had lots of time to think about all the details and analyze what worked well and what would need improvement. I reworked our initial task list with more detailed input and feedback and made a long list of new things to make and try, but this time of course the new parts would go out to Team for testing in all the different racing conditions around the world. With plenty of feedback I have a fairly good idea what we will do next and everybody at our R&D is already working on an almost “all new” XB8. The not so good news for me is that we will have to rework plenty of moulds and make a lot of brand new moulds so the investments in this project will be significant. BUT… there are no compromises to be taken at all, so we are back to roots and working on a completely new off-road car. There is a lot of work ahead of us, working both in the digital realm and also at real test tracks around the world. I am devoting the lion’s share of my time, energy, knowledge and enthusiasm to this project, so expect nothing less than what is typical for XRAY – the art of performance.

Writing this column and summarizing all the off-road activities, I received very good news from the US Nitro Touring Nationals where Team XRAY USA confirmed the performance of the NT1 by setting TQ and winning the US Nationals with placing 5 cars in the A main. This is a great result that I am very proud of and at the same time it confirms my statement that the NT1 will require little or no improvements to be the car to beat in the next season. So now let’s do the same trick with the XB8…


Enjoy the ride and ‘til next time…

Dipl. Eng. Juraj Hudy
Chief Designer XRAY