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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

Column #12 - Hot Summer Washout

Column #13 - New Electric Touring Car

Column #14 - Off-road Development

Column #15 - My micro love

Column #16 - Back in the Dirt

Column #17 - Worlds Preparations

Column #18 - 808 Tests & Stress

Column #19 - Excited for the Worlds?

Column #20 - Statistics, Expenses Sheets, Production Analysis, Calculations…

Column #21 + Column #22 - Euros + Euros + Worlds

Column #23 - The Busiest Season Ever

Column #24 - In Between the Worlds

Column #25 + Column #26 - Well Developed or Overdeveloped?

Column #27 - Back to The Future

Column #28 - 2009 Kick-off

Column #29 - Crazy what?

Column #30 - Last indoor race of the season

Column #31 - Getting into summer season

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Summer is approaching with a full and very tight racing schedule with several European Championships, and as such we recently spent most of our track time on both on-road and off-road outdoor tracks. With our current focus on off-road racing we got fairly deep into the dirt, and it seems that we will be having a weekly serving of dust, mud and dirt this summer season.

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After the Neo race and Czech International race we had only a few weeks to prepare for the upcoming European Championship warm-up that took place on the second weekend of May in a very nice village in Austria. Prior to the race we created a few small new parts to test, but since it is fairly busy at the races with very little time to test new things we decided to stay for a few days after the race for extra private testing.

The track in Austria was not too far away… only 2.5 hours from Trencin by highway… so I was happy not to have travel a day in advance and get underway in the wee hours to be on the track for just the first practice heats. After our arrival we put together a pit area and had small talk about car set-up and ideas for testing. The track had a typical European layout with fewer jumps and banked corners with asphalt surface; this was a track layout that was fairly well suited to my on-road driving style.

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In practice I started (as usual) with the basic set-up but as traction increased I had to go with a harder set-up. The first thing to change was the shock settings: 1.2mm pistons + 400cSt oil in the rear shocks, and 1.4mm pistons + 600cSt oil in the front shocks. This change helped to decrease the roll by making the car more stable and it also improved in jumps. To get more traction I put gray shock springs in rear along with the 2.4mm anti-roll bar. This made the car easier to drive but later when the traction again increased the car started to traction roll. To change to lower-profile tires was not possible as the asphalt part of the track was wearing out the pattern extremely fast so I have changed the 10° caster to 12° which caused the car to push a bit but it was still forgiving and covered up any small racing mistakes.

After the qualifiers I ended up in the middle of the field (which was a fair result), while the Team XRAY drivers Perin, Leino and Sartel missed the semi-final by a mere fraction. Teemu was not very lucky in the practice as his XB808 was disqualified for underweight by 30 grams. After he installed 30g of additional weight, the tech inspection found again that he was still underweight and he was disqualified one more time!

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In the quarter finals Martin raced with Lafranchi but unfortunately his engine died during a pit stop and he had to kiss the semi-finals goodbye. Perin and Leino were performing very well in the quarter finals and they bumped up to the semi-finals. Unfortunately they were slightly short on luck to get into the main final, especially Perin who in the last corner made a small mistake which cost him the bump-up position and he finished at the most unpopular 13th place with first 12 cars qualifying for main final.

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To get more track time and test opportunities we stayed after the race for extra testing. Finally it was time to test some new stuff and parts and work on small set-up details. The main improvement to the handling over small bumps was to go with higher 14° caster. From this point onward we worked on small set-up improvement in different directions. Martin and I ended up with similar set-ups but everybody else ended up with completely different set-ups. Of course everybody needs to adjust the set-up to his own preference and racing style, and it has been very clear that only in off-road racing that even with a not-so-perfect set-up can you compensate for a bad set-up with good racing skills.

This is of course not possible in on-road racing where you need to have a perfect set-up in all smallest details and aspects and this is also what makes the on-road car racing more demanding for perfect preparation in even the tiniest details. Good racing skills in off-road racing make more of a difference in performance and results. But as I have mentioned in some of my last columns, the competition level in off-road cars has recently increased significantly and attention to set-up and preparation is also getting much more crucial especially at races where some of the best European and Worlds drivers meet together and push the level higher. That’s when set-up details start to play an important role.

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After some extensive testing at the Euros track, I packed up my stuff to return home. By then the rain had turned the dust into mud. Of course I had to take care of daily matters of running the company before the summer racing when I would be out of the factory most of the time. Martin left with Teemu for the track for some extra practice but the weather was against them and as such the guys packed up and returned home as well.

With some new experiences and ideas in our pockets we decided to arrange for some extra testing on a weekend so we drove back to the track during one of our rare free weekends. Unfortunately the weather was against us again so we had only one day for testing. At the track we met our Czech friends Bayer and Pater (from another competition team) which allowed some head-to-head testing and comparisons. During the first run we noticed that the track conditions were completely different to the high-traction conditions at the warm-up, and which should be similar to the up-coming Euros as well.

With the dust on the track the cars were handling differently now with the same set-up, so to get a bit more traction the youngsters had to take the broom and clean the dust from the track. This helped a lot and we could get the realistic data and feedback. I was not happy with some of the new parts, but there were some parts which seem to give a nice improvement. Of course we will require more testing under different track conditions.

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While testing we exchanged cars with Martin and as usual I felt his car to be much more sensitive with a lot more steering. To get an independent opinion, we gave both my and Martin’s cars to Bayer for testing. Ironically, he reported the opposite: my car had more steering and my shock set-up was more to his personal likeness! That made it very clear that everyone prefers a different handling style and what seems to understeer to one person may seem to oversteer for someone else.

It was interesting to watch my car in hands of a different driver as the car looked completely different. Even with the same lap times like Bayer had with his own car, he commented that mine was a bit more difficult to drive than his car. To turn things around, I borrowed cars from both Bayer and Pater and their set-ups made their cars so difficult and aggressive to drive for my likeness that I was not able to drive smoothly through a corner. So everybody felt the other’s car was difficult to drive.

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With plenty of hours of track time, plenty of changed and tested parts, and dozens of different set-up adjustments… we finally left Austria. There are some difficult decisions ahead of me as some of the changes I want to incorporate will require some significant mould changes which everybody knows is the extremely expensive. We still have to make some more prototypes and have them tested by the team around the world to get different input and feedback.

Meanwhile, until we get back to the off-road tracks we now have two on-road races on our schedule. The first will be the test and practice for the upcoming Nitro Touring Car European Championship in Italy, followed the weekend after by the warm-up for the Electric Touring Car European Championship in Italy. So for a while I will be cleaning the dust off our shoes and pit gear.

Of course I will keep you informed in the next column about any news, progress, challenges and experiences we will face in the upcoming weeks and for certain there will be plenty of the news coming up. The schedule is really full and you will get first-hand information from the backstage.

See you around the tracks. Enjoy the ride and â€til next time.

Dipl. Eng. Juraj Hudy
XRAY Chief Designer