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Race report by Robin Frischkopf
The first Swiss national round of six races (altogether) was held in Oberbüren in eastern Switzerland on the weekend of April 26-28. There were 36 Expert drivers and about 70 drivers in the Amateur (Hobby) class. For Swiss Team XRAY this would be the roll-out and first race for the new XB808 buggy. There were already six XB808s in the lineup and still a lot of XB8ECs. The weather was great throughout the weekend.

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The Track:
The track was almost the same as when we had left it last year. There were two changes though: the big jump had been reworked with a ramp made of a steel frame, and it had been widened. With the steep angle of the ramp we were wondering if it would actually be faster to jump it all the way (reaching the lower stratosphere in the process) or to simply hop over it. The other change was a new bend before the double-SS towards the track. When we arrived the track was damp and when the practice sessions were over it was already very blown out at some places so the line around the big holes was important.

During the practice sessions I tried to get a first feel of the new XB808. I had more or less the standard setup on it, but had already changed to a shorter wheelbase as the track was tight, and had put 5000 oil in the center diff. I knew it would get blown out so I had prebuilt the shocks with 1.4/350 in front and 1.5/500 in back, and mounted them in the lower holes (on top) and inner holes (on bottom) to get more droop.

The first impression was very good, the car accelerated like mad, and was very agile. Sometimes a bit too agile and the rear came unstuck so I tried to calm it down a little. I mounted soft white springs in the rear, laid the shocks down and tried all sorts of different tyres in the qualifiers.

I also tried to get my bearings on the new jump but often landed beside it as it was so different from last year, where it was built into the corner. Now it was straight. What also was surprising was how fast the car turned into tight corners where my EC used to push a bit more. The car truly turned on a dime at the 180° hairpins and the tight 90° bend before the straight. Usually this corner wasn’t tight but the car-deep potholes forced all drivers to a very tight line there.

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My main goal was to get the car dialed in for Sunday’s finals. Qualifying position was second to that as the finals are what really count. In the first round I was already 4th as the car was very fast and I only made one small mistake. I decided to roll over the big jump instead of taking it at once and to try nailing it in the next rounds.

My teammate Etienne Kaser (who competes in the Amateur class) started with the same setup as I did and together we worked to get the car dialed to the track. He’d try some changes and I watched his rounds and vice-versa. After that we compared the times and how we felt the car handled. This way we both ended up with a fast and calm setup at the last round of qualifying. This was also where I needed to make up some space.

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I couldn’t really improve on my first heat while others could and so I dropped back to 9th place because in our qualifying there is a new rule that only the fastest time counts as opposed to the points system we used to have. However, the last heat was almost perfect, with no mistakes at all and almost no traffic. Also, I nailed the jump every single time which saved maybe half a second per lap or so. Altogether I was 10 seconds faster now in the 5min heat, even though the track had gotten worse, and I was only 10 seconds off the TQ pace, putting me back to a 4th position behind TQ Jeremy Pittet, Didier Perrin, and Philippe Lachat. The new RB WS7III L2G that I had ran in just the week before performed great and had lots of power even though I put in a 6mm venturi to get better fuel mileage.

Etienne also had mostly good qualifyings and went directly into the semi-final. We were both very happy that we got the car working so well at the first outing and looked forward to Sunday’s finals. Then we started packing and another instalment of Oberbüren's infamous Saturday evening parties took its course. But that is another story...

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Our Teammate Marc Heim also qualified very well and got into the Expert semi-final in his first race both in the Expert class and for the official Team XRAY. He started with the basic setup but also made some changes, namely softer shocks and lower roll center as well as a longer rear camber link. His car was then also very fast with excellent steering on- and off-power. According to Marc it was a pleasure to drive.

After the one practice round in the morning I started to check and service my car . I took the engine out and checked the new big clutch bearings. Usually I throw them out after every race day but these seemed like new so I put them in again. The rest of the car showed no wear or tear at all so I left everything where it was and put the car together again for the semi-final.

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In the meantime, Etienne had his semi-final in the Amateur class and he drove the first 10 minutes without a single mistake. I had never seen him drive so clean and fast and I was very excited to watch him; he was leading the semi-final. Then suddenly, a stone came stuck under his brake disk and the car didn’t move anymore. He gave it full throttle for a second or two and then it freed up again. This happened once more during the semi-final and made Etienne nervous so he made some mistakes and dropped a few positions, but still he was able to finish 5th and pass into the final. Only afterwards we discovered the stone, lodged between the brake disk and the tank. It probably got in because he was still running his old, wider EC body as there was no time for him to paint the new body yet.

Then came my semi-final. I tried to drive it safe and was always in 2nd or 3rd position. In practice we had timed my run and checked the fuel mileage and I calculated about 11 minutes of runtime. However in the semi-final I flamed out after about 8 minutes. I was just driving too fast I guess since the car handled so well and I got into a good rhythm.

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I thought to myself “that's it, you blew it” as I lost a whole lap getting the car back to the pits and I was on 9th place, but now I could drive furiously and even faster and more consistent so I passed car after car and came the end of the semi-final after 20 minutes I was back in 4th spot… going safely into the final!

Marc’s semi-final also went well. After a rather unpleasant start where he dropped to last position he was able to drive clean and fast and secure a 9th starting place for the final, just behind me.

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Unfortunately I couldn’t watch a lot of the Amateur final as I had to prepare and check my car, but Etienne was again driving very strongly with few mistakes and finished in 5th place. He was very happy with his XB808.

Before my final there was a vote whether to run 30 or 45 minutes. As I had no doubt about the car’s reliability I voted for 45 as did most other drivers. I started from 8th place and knew this was going to be a very long final so I had to drive calmly and consistently.

I was in 6th or 7th place after the first few laps and then was consistently in 5th, working my way closer to Patrick Hess in 4th position. At about the mid-way point I was on his tail and I was a little bit faster but it was almost impossible to pass. We drove like this for a long time. I bumped into him a few times but always let him by again as this wasn’t the way I wanted to pass him (the reason not only being that we were teammates last year and he always gave me tips for setting the car up.)

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Finally I was able to pass him cleanly and make up some ground. As we pitted at different times he was ahead of me for a short time but then I was in 4th again. About 12 minutes before the end, Jeremy Pittet suffered a broken diff box and had to retire so this put me in 3rd position. I now tried to bring it home and not make any mistakes and I made it, about two-thirds of a lap ahead of Patrick. I was very content as I had only been on my roof about 2 or 3 times during the entire 45min final and bumped into the track barrier here and there a few times. I nailed the jump every single time except for once or twice and the few last laps where I rolled it to play it safe.

Marc’s final didn't go so well. He changed to better tyres just before the final and also there was only a very short warming up period to retune the engine and unfortunately his engine didn’t run right. He had to make a lot of pit stops until the settings were perfect. When it finally was though he was also running very fast and consistent and surely a much better position would have been possible for Marc.

The race was won by former European Champion Philippe Lachat, only 8 seconds ahead of multiple-time Swiss Champion Didier Perrin. They were battling with each other very hard but fairly for the victory and each made 86 laps. Even they made a few mistakes now and again though (as far as I could see).

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With 83 laps I was “the best of the rest” and was very happy to make it to the podium in my first race with the XB808 in the company of such good drivers. The car held up great and the only thing I replaced now and again during the weekend was the air filter. We’re all looking very much forward to the next few practice sessions and races where I’m sure we can refine the car even more and get it closer to its full potential, whether it be with an Expert or Amateur driver.

We’d all like to thank Mr. Hudy and XRAY for the excellent new car and for their support! Also a big “Thank You” goes out to T&M Models (the Swiss XRAY distributor) as well as to our great pitmen Thomas, Alvar, Gregor, Kesti and Robin Minkler.

Expert Final:

1. Philippe Lachat
2. Didier Perrin
3. Robin Frischkopf XRAY XB808
4. Patrick Hess
5. Christophe Plancherel
6. Christoph Affolter
7. Dominik Tschanz
8. Michael Kallen
9. Patrick Hofer
10. Marc Heim XRAY
11. Gregory Jakob
12. Jeremy Pittet

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Amateur Final:

1. Gerd Pfeifer
2. Ronny Lüber
3. Roger Frei XRAY
4. Sebastien Couanoud
5. Etienne Kaser XRAY
6. Loic Pittet
7. Stefan Wüthrich
8. Yves Schmidlin
9. Hansi Rütsche
10. Roman Bergamin
11. Markus Goth XRAY
12. Renaud Ott

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Robin Frischkopf Set-up sheet.


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