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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
Column #34 - European Champion - title celebration
Column #35 - Time to move on
Column #36 - National Heroes
Column #37 - 2010 ready
Column #38 - Decade of Triumph
Column #39 - 2010 Racing Calendar

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The year 2010 kicked-off very nicely with the annual DHI Cup in Denmark. The organizers have been constantly improving this race and its popularity has moved this race into a high-level race event. After a short break during the Xmas holidays we were back into the middle of the action. The race was not so bad for XRAY and in the beginning it even looked very promising but in the final results we honestly could have done better or used a bit more good luck. I do not know why or how, but in the last several major electric touring races Team XRAY starts off with incredible performance setting the pace in practice but once the qualifiers starts the competition eliminates those differences. This was the same situation at DHI.

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From the first minute Martin, Teemu, and the other T3 drivers were ahead of the pack… but once the qualifiers started the playing field leveled out. Every minor change to the set-up by only 0.5mm can make your car 0.1–0.2sec faster per lap; of course all of the small changes depend on the current level of traction, temperature, and track condition. However, remember that at this high level of electric touring car racing we are talking about less than 0.1sec differences between laps — and 0.1sec many times differentiates the first 10-20 drivers — that’s how close and equal the racing is. The T3 is among the top places all the time, but somehow it still missed the podium in the Modified classes. The DHI was very similar; in the qualifier we managed to place 4 cars in the main final (which was most from everyone) but in the finals we missed out on the podium, same as in some last races where we finished best at 4th place. Hopefully we will break this “bad karma” during the 2010 season, but then again I need to remember myself that the racing level is so high and the differences so small.

After the DHI race all our energy was directed at finalizing the new products and projects for the upcoming Nürnberg Hobby Show, the show that sets trends and is “the place to be.” Our Marketing Department was chasing after me all day long to confirm the last drawings and designs (since time was getting shorter), and the catalogs were still not finished as we were waiting for the last products to return from production to take photographs.

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Production in January was completely booked with the production of T3 kits and as such I didn’t have to hurry but I still needed to push myself to finish a few final details on the new X10 car to get it ready. The new Link version of the 1/10 GT pan car has for the last few weeks been in the last final design stage after the release of the XII Link a few weeks ago, and needed only the final confirmation. Some last minute changes to the chassis layout were confirmed and we could finally finish this project, quickly produce a few sets of graphite parts, assemble the car, make some test runs to confirm everything fit and worked perfectly, and get the car ready for its photo shoots. Just in time to get it into the catalog.

What was easy with the X10 was not so easy with the NT1. As there is an EC and WC on schedule this year, I wanted to make sure that the NT1 would be updated, fully armored and ready for the 2010 season. The new and always improved version of the nitro touring car is annually released in Nürnberg and this year would be no different. The plan was easy but the work behind it was not so easy. During 2009 we talked regularly with team drivers at all different levels and from every country, we talked to the customers, we had our customers to give their feedback and vote what they would like to change or improve… all this to collect data to know what was good and has been working well and what needed improvement.

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The problem with such a good product like the NT1 is, that to push the boundaries always further makes it every year more and more difficult because as usual with a high-competition car if you change something in favor of something else you need to be very careful not to inadvertently make something work badly. This was the same dilemma that Martin has been facing for the last few months with the NT1. There are some innovative things that we could do to make the NT1 “newer” and different, but the risk of degrading some aspect of performance was very high. We did a lot of testing with some new designs and ideas until the snow came – innovative things – but I had mixed feelings about the results. This is probably the most annoying thing about this job; we want to make the car not only fresh and updated but also better, and if I have mixed feelings (like this time) this is not a good sign and gets me stuck in middle of nothing. It is sometimes a nightmare to make a proper decision as a wrong one may influence the car in a negative way and may even kill it.

We had enough time during the winter to think about all our plans for the 2010 NT1 but when the time came and the marketing guys pushed on me to make the final decision I found myself where I was last time, in the middle of nothing. We held a short meeting with Martin and the rest of the R&D team, looked again at the new parts, refreshed the testing results, experiences and feelings. The result? I was not 100% convinced and neither was Martin, so we made the difficult decision to discard several major 2010 new parts until we have more extensive testing results from the rest of the team in different parts of the world.

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The Marketing Department was not very happy with our decision, as some nice ideas were pulled from the table. However, when it comes to the performance, reliability, and satisfaction of the car there is no other choice for me. In the end just a few days before the Nürnberg show we found ourselves updating the list of 2010 new features of the NT1; yes it was a rather short list but for me it was definitely the safest. The 2010 NT1 gets new wider belts to increase the reliability in long finals, new shock towers with more fine arrangement of the shock positions for even more precise shock positions adjustments, new roll center bridge to allow more fine roll centers adjustments, new radio plate and new front lower suspension arms which allow for the “so many times requested” wheelbase adjustment. It’s a short list but very well confirmed with all the parts improving those areas which were most reported and requested.

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When I thought I had gone through all the unpopular hard-to-decide situations, there was still another one waiting for me. The R&D team was getting to the final stages with new project of the electric-powered 1/8 buggy… code named “808E” and we still were undecided on which way to go. In a nutshell, from the very beginning of the design phase we had two different layouts on the screen with different weight balances and we were undecided on which one to choose. As such we decided to continue working on both alternatives simultaneously. Suddenly we found ourselves up against a time deadline and still no final decision was made. There was no other choice than to skip this product in the catalog (to be printed for the Nürnberg show) but still I wanted to release at least a small glimpse and since I was unsure which one to show, why not to take both and show both.

In the end this project is still in the prototype phase and anything (or everything) can still change until the final production design. I gave this decision to Production and nowadays we have been running through several prototypes of each design which will be this coming week finished and expedited to the team drivers to test and make comparisons between each design layout. Hopefully the team will make my decision easier and give me feedback to indicate which alternative they like better. But who knows? Maybe I will get stuck in the middle of nowhere again when half of the team likes Alternative A and the rest likes Alternative B. Who knows, indeed? I will wait for the feedback and then get back into the resolving that situation.

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Leaving the R&D team to finish the production drawings and programs for the CNC-machines, we headed to the third round of the ETS series which was fairly close in the Czech Republic. With a very strong presence in the Stock class, touring car popularity seems to have stabilized and even slowly increase. The entry list in the Modified class was not that extensive but still had a decent turnout of excellent drivers. The best European drivers were present so we could expect some very close and exciting racing. The event was run in a large indoor hall which allowed for a large and nice track layout and good-sized pit area. The T3 cars were the fastest in practice, with the Czech XRAY driver Zdenek Hamak dominating the practice runs and setting the fastest lap times. As soon as the qualifiers started the differences again shrunk and we had to fight for every fraction of a second. Traction was building very fast and small set-up changes had to be made every run. The team worked very well together and until the last qualifying round we had four cars in the main final, but the last qualifier mixed up the positions so at the end we ended with 3 cars qualified in the A main with Zdenek Hamak in 5th, Martin Hudy 6th and Zdenko Kunak 7th.

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The final runs were made with few surprises; the first three places were safely held with Rheinard, Wilck, and Levanen all taking top spots after the qualifiers. The battles raged throughout, where drivers were fighting for every corner and every position. Lap times were very close and to get upfront you had to wait for a mistake from a driver ahead of you. At the end Zdenek managed to move up one position for the final 4th and Martin moved up to 5th.

To get as much track time as possible, I ran in both Modified and SuperStock categories. I found this fairly difficult as I had to change driving style for each category, and at my age that is not an easy thing to do. But being a car designer I needed to have direct experience with the car’s handling and performance in both categories, so I had to run two cars so I could also help with set-up advice.

The SuperStock category was fully booked with 120 drivers and as such when I qualified in the B final I was satisfied. Unfortunately my speedo for the stock motor had some electrical troubles and I had to switch to a standard speedo which did not allow me to get maximum performance from the stock motor. This was especially noticeable on the straight when faster cars could easily pass me just on speed alone. So what I was lacking in speed I had to make up with a great set-up which made the car super-easy to drive while still being very predictable.

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In the Modified category my car was great and the speed was finally good… but was actually too fast for my hands! The first laps were the most challenging because I ran the Modified category immediately after I finished in SuperStock. In preparation I was just standing on the car driver stand and changing radio settings, and having Martin get me my other car. To adapt from the SuperStock racing style to Modified was a mental strain for sure, trying to remember to not push so hard and concentrate on having a smoooooooth throttle finger. Amongst the very high competition I managed to get into the C final where I had some nice battles with current Nitro Touring World Champion Daniele Ielasy, cruising together side-by-side and at the end beating him. The finals in the Modified category were interesting in another respect as well as I was going head-to-head with Tamiya's head designer Suzuki Kiyo, so we (and everyone else) could enjoy the “Battle of the Car Designers.”

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Leaving the Czech Republic that night in the heavy snow, I was getting all the tasks for following next week sorted out. In the middle of the week we leave for the Nürnberg show and will return on Sunday. That same day I will fly to Thailand for the World Championship warm-up race to test and prepare the 2010 specs of the 808 for the World’s track. So the change of venue… from nice indoor carpet tracks to dusty and muddy outdoor tracks… is on schedule for the upcoming weeks and then we are back to Europe again for the upcoming indoor European Championship.


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

Dipl. Eng. Juraj Hudy
XRAY Chief Designer