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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

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

Column #32 - Heading for the Euros

Column #33 - Testing - Always last minute, always new ideas

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“We did it!” was the thought that screamed through my mind on the last Sunday of July, a fraction of a second after the finish of the 1/10 Nitro touring European Championship and after the first 6 cars passed over the finish line… all of them XRAY NT1 cars! Finally, the long and grueling work of everybody on the XRAY team has paid off, and afforded us a fabulous achievement. I am so unbelievably happy, satisfied, and proud it is simply bursting from me.

Okay… sure I started this column with the last paragraph, but with all of our emotions and adrenaline level still very high I just could not resist it and had to say it aloud right away! After several tests in June – of which I brought some insights in the last columns – we were heading into July with three European Championships on schedule.

1/8 Off-road Euros

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The first EC was in early July: the 1/8 Off-road Championship which took place in Austria. The facility and event were very professionally arranged and run, and everybody had a great time at the race. This European Championship once again confirmed that the off-road scene has been constantly increasing in popularity, and where there is higher demand there is also increased competition. The competition between manufacturers in this market is escalating which is obvious by the very professional attitude of the main racing teams.

Of course I need not mention the extensive preparations and tests at warm-up races and private testing, but especially the investments into the teams, support, service, and appearance. With over 30 different brands, the fight for supremacy in the marketplace is getting tougher every day and I am convinced that very shortly there will be a market shakeup which will separate the successful companies from the less successful ones. This was already noticeable coming to the Euros in seeing how professionally most of the companies were representing their products and team.

The area with containers was like a pit row lineup at an F1 race, with all the main companies having strong support directly from the factory and the main brands got their teams stronger once again. For me it seems the gap always gets larger and as such I could count 17 different brands represented at this race… and with 180 drivers at this race ⅔ of the drivers were spread between 5 main brands. I was very happy to find out that XRAY was the second most popular choice of drivers at the EC; this proves to me that it is very important to stick to our long term strategy of the continuous product development and maximize our efforts to give the best possible service and support to customers.

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As usual, we had the XRAY service van available at the track with all necessary spares available to provide service. And again there were support packages handed out to all XRAY drivers. Coming to these Euros I knew it would be very difficult to place some cars into the main final. So with our eye on our end mission to get a car onto the podium, our main focus was to give maximum support to all XRAY drivers.

The race proved to be very competitive and Team XRAY was doing fairly well from the first day to the finals. From the early beginning, the main contenders for top positions were Jerome Sartel, Teemu Leino, Joseph Quagraine and Italian drivers Alex Laffranchi and Riccardo Perrin. During the tough qualifiers there were several 808 cars which qualified into quarter finals, but unfortunately Joseph, Riccardo and Jerome were not lucky enough to bump up to the semis. Teemu Leino and Alex Laffranchi were fast enough in the qualifiers to go directly into the semi-final but at the end it was only Teemu who bumped into the main final. With only one car in the main final I knew it would be extremely tough to do a good result, but on the other hand I had to admit that out of the 17 brands only 6 teams were able to perform well during the entire week to be deserving of the main final race. Teemu’s car looked very fast and great handling for the first part of the race and he held onto 4th place, but it soon became apparent his tire strategy (using soft tires) was not a good one as the tires overheated and the car became more difficult to drive which dropped Teemu back the lineup.

Despite not having any podium finish I left this EC fairly satisfied. The car worked well and reliably in the hands of all drivers, and I was confident that we did not have much work to do on the car but nonetheless my “to do” list was still fairly full with comments and ideas. Where the 808 was working well at the EC was the 40+ finals… or in other words the European Championship for senior drivers which is the category that I am allowed to race in (and actually have been allowed for many years already). During the week I was really looking forward this race, since racing against all those young drivers with very fast reactions is nearly “mission impossible” for myself, so I was looking forward to racing against drivers at the same performance level – note I did not say “the same age level.”

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In the final race I was able to get through the crowd easily and hook up in the front of the field and until the end of the final I followed Stefano Moretti from Italy running also an XRAY. Finally racing with drivers at the same level I enjoyed the fun and adrenaline as I really wanted to get in at least one podium finish. After the 20 minutes I was happy to pass the finish line in 2nd place behind Stefano who took the win, giving XRAY the Senior Champion and Vice-Champion finishes. I wish this Senior race was also in other classes as well so I would have more & better chances to stand on the podium there, too.

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Nitro Touring Euros

Coming home from Austria we had only a few days to catch up on work before driving the 1200km to Italy for the Nitro Touring Euros. I was really looking forward this Euros as the previous achievements, performance level and very best results were giving me a lot of confidence and high expectations at the same time. We missed the titles in previous years despite always being very close, so I had a lot of anticipation for this race and correspondingly we did a lot of serious preparation.

Despite having missed the official warm-up on the beautiful Gubbio track due to an extremely overloaded work schedule, we arranged for private testing at the track and of course did a lot of testing at home at our factory track. As mentioned in one of my previous columns, the main focus was on weight and balance distribution, clutch performance, and of course suspension geometry set-up. Last year we already tested a new, smaller and lighter clutch with some interesting results and feedback, so for these Euros at such a fast track I expected that the new lightweight clutch should greatly help the dynamics of the car. As such I pushed production to have the first batch ready quickly for testing. With plenty of track time, literally thousands of laps, and preparation and tests we were all ready for the Euros.

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Arriving Monday at the track, we met up with the team and got ready for the practice rounds which were on schedule until Thursday. So we had plenty of time to adjust to the current track conditions as the weather was hotter than the last time we were at the track. The competition did their homework as well and especially the Italian drivers had done extensive testing at the track with all the Italian engine manufacturers. I expected that the performance level would be set from the beginning by the Italians, and this is exactly the way things turned out to be. The nitro touring market seems to attract more and more companies, and this year we could see at the Nurnberg Hobby Show the prototypes from new European companies entering into the nitro touring market as well as some new Asian cars. I expected that we would see the new cars from European companies at the EC (which was the case) and there were two new brands and teams on the entry list with some top class drivers (even including the recent World Champion) so the competition level has been once again increased.

Despite higher competition I was very pleased that XRAY was the most popular car used over half of the drivers (59 out of the 111 entries) using the NT1. These statistics were very favorable for Team XRAY. Among many others the hot contenders were Italian Niki Duina, Guido Barbera, Giorgio De Felici and 15yo Biago Spataro who shined at the recent Euros “B” where he won the Junior Champion title. From remainder of Europe, Team XRAY was supported by plenty of drivers from almost every European country. With plenty of very talented drivers I anticipated good results from Teemu Leino (Finland), Dirk Wischnewski (Germany), Jerome Renaux (Belgium), Alex Hagberg (Sweden) and of course from my own son Martin Hudy. For Alex – a well-known electric touring racer – this was his first main nitro touring event and based on previous experiences we have seen top electric touring car drivers right away get used to nitro touring racing. Drivers like Martin, Teemu, and Dirk all came to nitro touring racing from electric-powered touring cars and immediately they rocketed to the top. Alex’s first national race results showed his great potential so I was eager for Alex to race at the Euros, knowing he would get engine support from Massimo and would have a good chance to show his talent.

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From the first practice rounds the track condition was improving, with increasing traction and decreasing lap times. With a very good initial set-up we could focus on engine settings as the new rule of using INS-Box filters made it much more difficult to get good engine settings and many drivers experienced numerous engine problems. The engine settings were more difficult as the track in Gubbio is located 600 meters above the sea line and the less amount of oxygen has also influence on the run and setting of the engine. The new rule of 7-minute qualifiers with mandatory pit stop put more pressure on the driver and mechanic, so perfect teamwork was being challenged even in the qualifiers now.

The first four days of practice runs went well for us without any major problems. We did not have to work heavily on the car as the basic set-up for this track worked very well right from the start, and most drivers focused on tiny details to adapt their cars to their specific racing styles. So these first four days were fairly relaxing and I enjoyed the buzz, noise, atmosphere, and everything around the race. Between runs we had plenty of opportunity to meet and talk with the team drivers and everyone else using our car. During these “free” days we had lots of time to explain and help with technical and set-up matters, and of course we provided all XRAY drivers with a free service “grab bag” featuring the most important spare parts, T-shirts, stickers, etc. The spare parts service and support was provided during the entire event via the local hobby shop supported by XRAY Italy, and as usual Gerhard Binder from Austria came with his XRAY van loaded with all the necessary XRAY spares and parts, so VIP service was all set.

The real show was on schedule for Friday. I know that even if you are doing well in practice, results may well be different in qualifiers not to mention the final races. Stress, nerves, responsibility, and the entire atmosphere have a huge impact on the driver and it makes big difference when in the real race. From the first qualifiers, XRAY drivers were at the top even with the competition turning in some very good results. With only one best round counting it was obvious that the fastest track conditions would be on Friday evening and Saturday morning.

My Top Aces experienced the typical situation where after great results in practice, the technical issues started to show themselves in the qualifiers. Teemu lost his best run due to electronics problems, which was found on the last day as a defective receiver battery contact. Alex suddenly lost his engine performance and became very slow, and it was very obvious he was maintaining fairly good lap times only by his very smooth and consistent driving; after the qualifiers he dropped to the quarter-final position and then found out that the low power was caused by a defective glow plug. Martin lost his TQ chance during the most optimal track conditions by engine trouble and after the 7-minute qualifier he came in with a blistering hot 200°C engine. It was a surprise that the engine survived.

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On the other hand I was positively surprised by the great performance of Jerome Renaux and Biago Spataro, the young upcoming Italian star who despite racing in the lower heats with a lot of traffic turned the 4th fastest result and ended up in the top 4. This secured him a direct final position with Jerome Renaux, setting the second fastest result making it a 2nd starting position on the grid in finals. Dirk, who was 4th at the end of the first day of qualifiers, did not improve on Saturday and dropped into the semi-final. The rest of Saturday was well-deserved relaxation for me downtown in the center of the ancient city of Gubbio. The qualification results were fairly good with two cars qualified directly into the final and with another eight NT1 cars in the semi-finals. Okay, to be honest it was VERY good. I wish we had the TQ but then I remembered those many TQ’s we had achieved in the last years and then in the finals the trophy slipped through the fingers. This time I hoped that fate would turn things around for us.

Saturday night was very difficult for me. All of the stress and responsibility were spinning around in my mind… I was still analyzing the entire week… all the details and plenty of “what if” scenarios were playing out fast & furiously in my head… so I had to calm down mentally and rest for a bit and be ready for Sunday. Finally the main day arrived and I was ready to face the challenge one more time.

Over the last few decades, being at so many races facing all the ups and downs, I tried to consider this race as just another race on our schedule to try our best and see what happened. At the same time I still had things burning in my mind – a “stress hangover” from the previous night’s mental whirlwind – but the stress fell off and all work kept me busy until the upper finals so the day went very fast. A lot of action was going on in the lower finals, and in the quarter finals there were a few XRAY drivers who were fast enough to bump up into semi-final including Alex Hagberg, Rodrigo Pahisa (Spain), Antonio Pietroforte (Italy) and young Belgium driver Maxim Claes who made it into the semi-final.

After some great battles in the first semi-final, the first four positions were held by XRAY drivers Huber, Wischnewski, Hagberg, and Felici. The second semi-final was held in hotter weather so I expected that the lap times would be slower. Based on the rule that only the first 2 drivers from each semi-final would bump up automatically to the main with another two following fastest drivers from any of the A and B semi-finals, I expected that this time only the first 2 drivers would be in the bump-up position.

With Martin and Teemu in the second semi, I hoped they would do well but the racer lineup was very strong with very tough competition. Teemu’s chances disappeared just before the start as it was clear that his car had some electronics troubles. Teemu used a 10-minute timeout to switch out the servo, but unfortunately it was not the servo that was problematic but rather it was the receiver battery connector that was the problem; that was the end of the Euros for Teemu. The start of this semi was also unlucky for Martin as he went off of the track on the opening lap and dropped to last place, so trying to catch the leaders (ahead by almost 1 lap) in 20 minutes was an extremely tough goal. I tried to relax Martin to remind him that anything could still happen and that he just needed to concentrate and run the rest of 20 minutes without any mistakes. So Martin ran, making no mistakes with very consistent lap times and during the race he made his way to the front. Spectators really enjoyed this semi as plenty of crashes, engine stoppages and technical failures were going on. Coming up on the last few minutes, Martin took over the lead with Gerhard Kandelhardt taking up 2nd place, so after the race finished it meant that another two XRAY drivers would be in the final.

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I just could not believe it: eight XRAY drivers qualified for the final?!? This was almost unheard of and was almost unbelievable to me, of course which made me even MORE nervous. Eight cars. So statistically it gave us a VERY good shot at a podium finish. But what if we had bad luck once again and the guaranteed podium finish would be in the best case only a 3rd place finish? Arrrggghhhh… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: racing is racing and anything that can happen usually DOES happen at the very last moment, and even with statistics telling you one thing you can still have bad luck. And we’ve had our fair share over the years.

With not much time left we prepared Martin’s car and discussed the tire strategy for the final. It seemed that every driver will probably choose some different tire strategy and I expected that we will see some interesting moments in the final.

All the stress dampened down after the start of the main final as together with Brano – our factory mechanic – we were fully concentrated to pit Martin and at the same time I had to keep an eye on the rest of the XRAY cars on the track. TQ driver Dario got away very quickly at the start and pulled away from the rest of the crowd so the real battle during the first part of the final was going on at the rear between Dirk, Alex, Martin, and Manual. Jerome and Gerhard were out of the race right before the start with engine troubles, and young Biago (who I expected would mix up the cards in the final) had also engine matters which did not allow him to realize his potential and he struggled for most of the race. So I started to forget about the statistics and had to realize that realistically there were now only four drivers who could really challenge for the podium. Dirk pulled away from Alex, Martin, and Manuel and as time progressed he started to close up the huge gap initially set by the leader. It was very clear that Dario chose a different tire strategy and his engine was also incredibly fast.

As the race progressed Dirk was getting faster as his tires got into the proper size while the leader was slowing down probably due to tire wear and then later on came the engine troubles. I expected that Dirk would soon catch the leader and some exciting moments were soon to come, so I started to hope that we would have a chance to battle for the victory. Meanwhile in the rear, Martin dropped back one place due to a stop-and-go penalty; this in my opinion was very debatable. (After refueling Martin’s car, Brano dropped the car in front of a car that had just had an engine stoppage in the pit lane.) I was very upset about this stop-and-go penalty, as I believe nobody made a mistake and I knew that the few missed seconds would play an important role since all three drivers - Alex, Manuel, and Martin – were racing within few seconds for the entire final. Such was the case and Martin dropped down. With only a few last minutes remaining it was obvious that something happened with the leader’s gearing or engine, and Dirk got finally close but at the end there was no real confrontation with Dario as his engine died on the straight. Before Dario’s team put him back on the track the positions were already mixed with Dirk in the lead. The lead of the first four drivers was so huge that I knew that if nothing bad happened in the last minutes we would cover the entire podium. In those last few minutes I was already full of joy, satisfaction, and pride.

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The race officially finished with an incredible result, with the first 6 cars all carrying the XRAY stamp on them. This was a huge personal and professional victory for me, our staff, our team, and everybody who has supported us over the years. Dirk made it across the finish line first, so adding to last year’s European Champion “B” title he now added the coveted title of European Champion. It was a wonderful and very well deserved victory, trophy, and title for XRAY and well deserved result for Dirk and his teammate Bertram.

Right behind Dirk it was young Alex who finished in 2nd place, which is a very good result considering that this was his first serious nitro touring race. The podium was rounded out with Austrian driver Manuel. Martin earned the (usually unwanted) 4th place and the rest of the lineup was Felici, Jerome, Biago and Gerhardt. I just could not believe the results and I thought that something was still about to happen. WE FINALLY GOT IT!!! We were always so close but so many times strange things happened… but this time nothing went wrong? Yeah, we did it… we ALL did it. I believe that this has to be a record setting result and we really did it. Finally.

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And the trophy lineup got even longer with the Junior Champion title being captured by Biago. Finally seeing all our drivers during the prize ceremony, receiving trophies and shaking the champagne bottles, I finally floated back down to Earth and could really enjoy the great moments, great satisfaction, and great feelings. The huge amount of the work from everybody, the thousands of hours of efforts… blood, sweat & tears (or nitro, oil & gears) have paid off. We did it, and I am SO happy.

The list of thanks would be extremely long so I would like to cover it by congratulating and thanking the winners, all the XRAY drivers at the Euros, and all the XRAY finalists and their mechanics. A special thanks goes out of course to Dirk and his mechanic Bertram for battling for and winning the trophy and title, to Biago for his Junior title, and to my entire factory team for their dedicated work and energy. And finally, thank you to everyone for their unbelievable support over the last years. It truly means a lot.

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Now I need to relax and enjoy the moment.

See you around the tracks. Enjoy the ride and ‘til next time…

Dipl. Eng. Juraj Hudy
XRAY Chief Designer