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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.

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Yes, we finally did it!!!

After 10 years of ups and downs, extreme amounts of effort and energy spent, Team XRAY has finally earned the most coveted and honorable achievement - the title of World Champion.

I still cannot believe it and I am still dreading that I will wake up and realize that it is only a dream. I have been sitting in the airplane on the way home, and since we leave for the Electric Touring Car European Championship the same day we arrive home, I am writing this latest column for you with still-fresh memories and excitement from the recent 1/10 Nitro Touring World Championship in Texas, USA. I am SO happy, satisfied, and proud that no mere words can describe the feelings… but I can at least give you a short summary how it went for us.

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The first practice days started already on July 22nd and there were more than 5 days of practice on schedule prior to the qualifiers, so I decided to arrive a bit later and to use the extra few days in the factory to supervise all last minute production of the new 808E. Martin flew to Texas earlier to be there right from the start to support all XRAY drivers; for me it was enough to travel on Friday to be ready for Saturday’s practice. RC America was on location providing support and service, and the local shop was fully loaded with all spares and also all the latest options. As usual, all XRAY drivers received free support packages equipped with the most common suspension parts, towel, stickers and T-shirts. It was great to see that the NT1 was by far the most frequently used car at the Worlds.

The 2010 Worlds was the premiere for some new companies in the nitro touring market, and as such I counted 9 different brands and teams which is by far the most ever. It is great when the competition pushes the envelope but also development further and more competition means more choice for the customer. Of course you may think that as a manufacturer we would not be happy with more competition but actually the opposite is true (of course, until a certain appropriate amount). More competition pushes everybody to make their products and service/support better, more effective and more affordable, so hopefully this new fresh air in the nitro touring market will bring also some new customers into the category.

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All factories brought their best-of-the-best drivers and there were many changes within teams before the event… we could see some pretty big name changeovers. Team XRAY was well represented by a very strong and stable team. The entire list will be too long to present completely, but here are a few of note: Dirk Wischnewski (Germany), Alex Hagberg (Sweden), Adrian Bernsten (Norway), Biago Spataro, Felici & Francesco Martini (Italy), Teemu Leino (Finland), Anthony Bruyer (France), and of course from Europe there was Martin Hudy (Slovakia). The US team was represented by several drivers including Ralph Burch and Paul Lemieux at the top of the list. From Asia it was the Japanese team with Yokoyama Shinnosuke at the top.

The facility was very well equipped with a restaurant, bar, and lots of space for everyone. The atmosphere during the entire event was very easy going and I would also say it was a very friendly mood most of the time. Organizers did a really good job. The event got nice media coverage and Barry Baker was doing a great job at the online video streaming by LiveRC from the entire event. The weather was also fairly nice, with extremely hot temps and humidity but with some rain which removed the entire grip for qualifiers which had built up during the practice heats. Generally I would say that nobody could ask for more.

Arriving at the track I made a couple of last minute set-up changes and got into practice. During my breaks I was watching all the XRAY drivers, and for the first days we worked hard on adjusting the set-up for the increasing traction. After each heat we had a team discussion about what changes were made, what worked and what didn’t. Of course the set-up sheets were made available to everyone with an XRAY and Martin and myself had a regular walk through the pits to help everyone who had any questions or needed help. With the super-fast track not only was car set-up important but also the engine and clutch settings were vital. Of course everyone was testing different tires to monitor the tire wear to determine the correct tire strategy for the sub-finals. At least using the prescribed fuel made it a bit easier for everyone.

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The first qualifiers started on Tuesday and my first run was very good but I didn’t know why but my car was underweight; the run was disqualified which is strange because I hadn’t changed anything from the day before. The afternoon runs were postponed due to rain and I knew that for the next day we would need to change the set-up completely as the traction would all be gone. The set-up strategy worked well on Wednesday, and Dirk qualified 2nd closely followed by Alex. The surprise for everyone was the early TQ of 17yo Japanese driver Shinnosuke Yokoyama who was on an early 35-lap pace. There was not much change for the second run and the rain again made everyone struggle and change the strategies.

Thursday had the last two qualifiers on schedule, and I knew that if it did not rain then the last qualifier would be the fastest. As such, it was vitally important for the teams to give their maximum effort. The third qualifier round was again in Team XRAY’s favour with Shinnosuke once again breaking into 35 laps and making a better finish time. XRAY still controlled TQ! During the day the jury decided to add an extra qualifier round due to the first day being rained out and as such a 5th qualifier round was on schedule for 7PM until midnight, the first time that there would be night racing at the World Championship! Since the weather was nice the entire day, it was expected that traction would continue to increase and the last round – despite being run in dark – would probably see improved lap times and a lot of mixing of positions. The fourth qualifier run had already mixed the positions, with Shinnosuke dropping to 3rd and Alex at 4th. With four direct final qualifying positions, we still had two cars in the final but nothing was certain as the last night run was on schedule.

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I don’t know why, but I was afraid of night racing. Personally I knew that for me and Martin and anybody wearing glasses this run would not be in our favor as the reflection and glare of the lights in glasses made it very difficult to spot the car properly. Unfortunately my expectation came true; in my run I had big difficulties concentrating properly and I was in the unlucky run when two laps before the end the lights shut down so ran the last two rounds in total darkness with plenty of cars crashing. The lights were down for almost an hour and everyone thought that the race was over but suddenly the race continued and at first it was decided to count the expected finish time in the last lap under lights but later on it was finally decided to re-run the heat.

In the higher heats the cars were looking faster but the lap times were slower. Everyone had to be more careful and keep wider lines so despite faster track the lap times got slower. I was hoping that the positions from the 4th qualifier would remain but the last heats destroyed my expectations. Despite having more difficult conditions, the last heat had some very nice racing and plenty of drivers improved on their results. Jerome Renaux – who had bad luck all the time in early qualifiers – finally got a stunning run which put him in the 3rd overall qualifying position. Ralph Burch - who installed the new XRAY red clutch shoe for the last qualifier – confirmed his clutch was working perfectly and this gave him much smoother and better control of the car, and so he moved to 5th place.

It was a big disappointment for Jerome who was disqualified in the last qualifier for being 3 grams light (caused by changing a bumper). Jerome dropped down to 40th place and this disqualification moved Ralph to 4th place which meant he went directly into the main final. Two NT1 had secured a main final starting grid!

Friday was the day of the lower sub-finals and I was nervous right from early morning. I just had the feeling that once again we were collecting bad luck, but still I could not do nothing about it and just help everyone to be prepared as much as possible. We did our last minute set-up checks, discussed tire and fueling strategy for the finals, and then we were ready to go into battle for some real head-to-head racing.

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Teemu Leino was the first one to go out. Teemu struggled a lot with speed issues in the qualifiers but now he was finally on rails in his sub-final. Unfortunately in the fast corner after the straight, a car ahead of him spun and Teemu crashed into him… causing fast Jerome behind him to crash into Teemu’s car… and the rear ball link pop-out of Teemu’s car. With two rounds to go and being on the bump-up position, Teemu did his best and drove very carefully the last few runs with an undriveable broken car which was out of control in corners. Despite his big lead the car in 4th position approached him and in the last few corners passed him making it an early end for Teemu. Adrian Bernsten and Jerome Renaux were lucky and bumped up. Austria’s Gerhard Kandelhart made his first (but not last) bump-up.

The night before the finals is usually sleepless for me and my brain revs at 100% full throttle. I analyze what we all did, what was good, what was wrong, what needed to be changed and in the morning I wake up like I had just worked the night shift. This time was no different. We have been always so close but always missed the good luck in the very last moments. I had a chance to remember that the closest we were to the Worlds title was in 2006 at the 1/8 Off-road Worlds in Indonesia when Yannick Aigoin was leading the final for 50 minutes with his XB8 until with only 10 minutes to go he flamed out. The other time we were so close was back in 2008 when Martin was in the lead at the 1/10 Nitro Touring Worlds in Portugal when unfortunately the extra pit stop he had to take caused him the loss of the title. There were many thrilling moments where we were so close but somehow always missed it. On the other hand we have been very successful and lucky at the US and European Championships, winning plenty of those but still the most valuable World title was missing on our shelf and as with any other factory team we have dreamed for a World Championship title. So do you think I was nervous for the Saturday finals? Hell yes, much more than you can imagine!

The first ? finals went badly for us. Martin was easily cruising around when the first pit stop came up. After a small touch of the border in the pit, his front steering ball link popped out and that was the end for him. Jerome Renaux had his chance ended prematurely as well. In the other ? final, Adrian Bernsten was able to bump up to a semi, followed by Kandelhart.

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The semi-finals are usually highly competitive and with two guaranteed places from both (followed then by two remaining fastest drivers) it made it very difficult for even the top drivers to bump up. In one of the semis there were no XRAY drivers while in the second semi there were Alex, Dirk, Adrian, Lemieux, and Gerhard. Unfortunately this second semi-final was on schedule as second, which meant that traction would be lower and lap times would be slower as well… that was definitely not in our favor. After the start, Dirk got into 2nd position following the Japanese driver, followed by Alex and the rest of the crowd.

The bad luck struck this final starting with Paul Lemieux who flamed out after a pit stop and dropped down the line. Alex flamed out and this was the end of the race for him. Adrien flamed out as well so at the end it was only Dirk who was able to bump up to the main final. Paul was still able to work his way from the back to 3rd position, but as expected the lap times were slower and 3rd position was still not enough for him to get into the final. This meant the overall 11th position went to Paul. I was very sad for Paul, Alex, and Adrien as they would certainly have made a nice showcase in the final, but this is racing at the World championship where plenty of other top drivers ended in lower finals.

The most interesting at these Words was the lineup of the main finalists; there were no A-main finalists from the last Worlds in 2008, so the entire lineup was all-new. Luckily we still had three cars in the main final so the chances for at least for a podium finish were fairly high but still I needed to keep my feet on the ground (not in the clouds) and keep in mind that in the racing anything can happen at any time. Technical problems may strike anyone at any time, flameouts have been very frequent, and even the favorite drivers still needed their little bits of luck, too.

The small break between the semi-final and the final seemed to take ages. The sun was hot, I was standing on the visitor podium waiting for the start of the final, and I was shaking from nervousness. Once the sound of the engines started I got a bit calmer, and I started to try to anticipate what would happen although there was nothing I could do anymore. The start of the race went all wrong. Ralph got crashed in the first corner and his car was flying in the air and I thought at the moment that the race was over for him. Luckily his car landed on its tires and it seemed that nothing was broken although he was now at the very back of the pack. Shinnosuke was involved in the same traffic and appeared at the back of the pack with Ralph. It was Dirk who cruised through the first laps quite securely, but somehow his car did not look well (for a reason we realized later on).

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With the bad start I just hoped that Ralph would not push too much and would remember that it was a 1-hour final race where everyone could experience technical problems or flameouts and yet everything would still remain open for a while. Luckily my wish came true and Ralph cruised very safely with a very well-balanced car that had ample traction and good speed. He passed car after car and after a few minutes he was in the lead. Looking at the very well behaving car I started to feel more comfortable but still I was feeling every single tight corner or passing car together with Ralph. My eyes were focused on his car, and I was shaking for all & every upcoming threat. Usually time flies but this time it seemed that time slowed right down to a crawl.

Every single pit stop I chewed on my nails and hoped for no crashes or flameouts in the pits, and luckily everything was working well. What has worked well for Ralph did not work for Shinnosuke who had some flameouts as well and this dropped him down the field. We also discovered that it was not only XRAY drivers who were facing similar technical and engine problems… many of the competition teams were facing it too… and the front of the field was in a tough battle for positions.

In the middle of the race there was a tire change on schedule, and this was the part with which I was really struggling. At the last Worlds, the tire change was the end for Paul Lemieux who was at that time on pace and I just thought that this year we should not… COULD NOT… repeat this. Thankfully the tire change went very well and Ralph kept his lead easily. To my surprise the only driver who did not do a tire change was Dirk, who had now caught up to the leaders and put himself into 2nd position. It was right away clear that he had decided upon a completely different tire strategy, and the reason his car behaved so strangely in the beginning was now very clear and it seemed the strategy worked well for him. For some time we suddenly had two cars in the lead and I just could not believe we could have so much luck to end up in the Top 2.

What I did not want to happen actually DID happen; Dirk had some strange electronics problems and he had to restart his car which cost him several laps; it was obvious he could not chase down the lead anymore. It was then that I REALLY started to hope for no problems for Ralph, and I was mentally with him as he cruising lap after lap. Ralph went for a safe refueling strategy and was on schedule for one more refuel but with his extra lead he was no under pressure so I knew that the extra fuel stop would not put him at risk. With only a few minutes to go, Ralph still had a 1-lap lead and his mechanic Drew called Ralph in for one more extra refueling just to be safe. I knew by then that nothing messed up he should be able to keep on pace.

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I was extremely nervous during the last fuel pitstop and thankfully nothing happened; Ralph went back onto the track without any problems. I was counting the seconds which seemed like hours, but finally time ran out when Ralph crossed the finish line so it was clear that with a one lap lead even if he didn’t finish the last lap he was still the winner. Ralph cruised to the finish line with no problems and after one hour without any mistakes has home the first World Champion title for himself and for XRAY.

Despite some flameouts and electronics problems, Shinnosuke and Dirk (like Ralph) fortunately had no technical problems with the car and as such finished 4th and 5th respectively. The 1-hour final is always very demanding on the quality of the entire package – car and all its parts, engine, tires, etc. During the entire final most competitors experienced numerous technical problems and I was happy that the NT1 had no problems at all. Good job XRAY!

While we celebrated the win, the technical inspection thankfully went without any problems and as such we could enjoy the final ceremony and prize ceremony. I had tears in my eyes when Ralph held the World Champion trophy above his head giving the final official cut-off. Now it was time for the celebration and party!

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Over the years we have won plenty of European, USA and hundreds of international and national races and titles but finally we have achieved the most coveted and desired title of World Champion. I couldn’t be happier with this long-awaited reward of the very hard work of everyone at XRAY, the entire world team. Everyone at Team XRAY has been rewarded with such a great achievement. In this way I would like to thank Ralph and Drew for bringing the World Champion title… good job, guys! Thanks go to RCA for supporting the US team and of course a big “thanks” goes to everyone at XRAY and the racing team at all levels for the very hard work over the past decade. Thanks to go to organizers and all the drivers and competition teams to make this an exciting Worlds event. And of course a big thanks goes to all XRAY fans and customers for their ongoing support… without your help we would not be able to continuously work on making XRAY and its products better.

Thank you all. The World Champion title is all yours.


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

Dipl. Eng. Juraj Hudy
XRAY Chief Designer

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
Column #40 - DHI, ETS & Nürnberg Show
Column #41 - World Championship Practice
Column #42 - EC indoor, EC 1/12, Silverstate, LRP Masters, Neo
Column #43 - Nationals All Around
Column #44 - Warm Warm-ups, Challenging Challenges
Column #45 - Electric Touring Worlds 2010