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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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This column comes with a bit of a delay since the last few weeks were so busy and full that I had minimal (read: “no”) time for nearly anything except preparing for races and some quick checks on the currently running production. The racing season has fully started and most of the time we were either at races or spending time preparing for them. It would be impossible to cover all the last several weeks’ worth of news, so I will quickly run through what’s new and then spend a bit more on the first World Championship debut of the new RX8.

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LRP Masters – end of March was the annual LRP Masters in Germany where the team was present in both Modified and Stock classes. Team XRAY once again missed a podium finish in the Modified category with Alex Hagberg getting very close this time. On the other hand, as in previous years Team XRAY was very successful in Stock category with Eric Dankel setting TQ and taking the overall win.

After this race we had more than a week to make the last preparations for the upcoming 1/8 on-road Worlds in Miami. I will get back to this race later on.

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Arriving from the Worlds we unpacked the 1/8 on-road stuff, packed the 1/8 off-road equipment and flew to the Neo Buggy race in UK. This event is getting bigger and more attractive each year and the organizers keep improving it, which is very nice to see in this hobby. This year the race was loaded with almost all of the world’s best drivers and the competition level was close to World’s level. With the recent team shifts and our own weakened team I would be very satisfied if we were able to place at least one car in the final. The competition level has been extremely high and despite the 2011 version of the 808 having been gaining success all around, this time we didn’t have enough strength to get any car into the main final. There is no big stress for me as things always turn around fast and those who are patient and work continuously will someday enjoy a reward; this is exactly how Team XRAY is dedicated.

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Good news came from the US on-road team from the 2011 USA Carpet National Championship where the Team XRAY continued its ongoing unbeatable performance. Paul Lemieux TQ’d and won the Modified category, while Martin Crisp TQ’d and won the 17.5 Stock category. In the 1/12 category the team continues to improve and this time despite missing a podium finish we managed to have two XII in the main final. I am convinced that with continuous work and improvement to both set-up and details of the car, we will be able to get it to the podium soon. Another great job by the US team which added another 2 USA national titles which makes it up to today an impressive lineup of 30 USA National Titles in the electric touring car category. Well done!

And the even MORE good news arrived from overseas from USA : the NT1 was chosen by Xtreme RC Cars magazine as the Car of the Year in the nitro touring car category. To date, the NT1 has gained three Car of the Year awards, which of course makes me very proud and motivated to improve things all the time.

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The schedule seems tight in the few last weeks but it is still nothing compared to what we can expect in the coming months... the summer season will be a real killer. The next race is this week with the 1/8 off-road Euros warm-up in Germany and then it all starts. There are still a few weeks remaining for the R&D team to prepare the last things we are working on, and the warm-up races (which are first on schedule) will hopefully prove either we are on the right track or still need some changes for the summer. I cannot wait!


1/8 On-road World Championship impressions

I was both excited and nervous for the first big debut of the RX8 at its very first World Championship. It has been only a few weeks that the RX8 has been on the market, and it has been only a few weeks that the team has been gaining knowledge and experience with the final production version of the car. The first debut at the US Winternats was (unexpectably) extremely successful with our taking 1st and 2nd positions, and the first news from around the world about the performance of the RX8 has constantly kept me very relaxed. But the World Championship is something completely different, it is a race where the best of the best come to battle for the title and there is no place for any mistakes either in product, racing, strategy, or in mind. I knew this would be extremely tough debut but I was more excited than I’ve been in the last few years.

Arriving in Miami we went directly to the Homestead track. The track was located next to the tribute of the full-size Indy car track, and I felt a bit of nostalgia arriving there. Pieter Bervoets and I were at this Indy Car track to watch a race nearly 15 years ago, at the time when he was the owner of Serpent and we cooperated together. It was a long time ago and things have changed.

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The track area was excellent and we could not wait to start the engine. With no previous experience with the RX8 at this track I was afraid as all the teams already had a lot of practice while for RX8 it was the first time to hit the track so naturally we were at a disadvantage. Considering that some of the drivers only got their cars a few days before leaving for the Worlds, it was no surprise to see some of them building or finishing the car at the track. We handed out some of the last-minute new option parts for set-up tuning to all the team member, and then got to work.

My excitement turned to frustration after few first practice runs which I could neither enjoy nor finish due to electronics problems. I do not know why but something with the electronics did not work and we kept exchanging all the electronics. And it was not only me but Martin had the same problem. So the first runs passed and we only had a few laps. On the other hand, we had a lot of crash tests already on account – the results of electronics failures in each run – so at least this test was positive. Finally by exchanging all the electronics we eliminated the problem which turned out to be the front servos which for no apparent reason stopped working from time to time. After we fixed the electronics trouble we had only 2 days of practice remaining. Bad progress, very bad.

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The last time I professionally raced 1/8 on-road was around 12 years ago and I believe it was the EC40+ where I managed to achieve the title of European Vice-Champion twice in row. So already 12 years ago I was a senior racer, so what category should I race now? After a 12-year break it took a few laps to gain back the style and handling and finally I started to enjoy the race. I was back in the old good days. Considering my age, my personal goal was to get into around 80th place, which out of 125 drivers (all young and fast drivers) would be very personally satisfying.

From the early beginning I struggled a bit with the clutch setting. The track had a unique design with six 180° hairpin corners where acceleration was almost from a standstill and so clutch set-up was extremely important. Of course we had a brand new clutch which was not broken in yet and everyone needed immediately the maximum performance. I have tested our yellow clutch shoe which wore at this track very fast. To make comparisons I tested several different clutch shoes from competition but the results were exactly same. So the final conclusion was that if the clutch shoe is not broken in properly the very high demand on acceleration at this particular track would wear out the shoe very quickly. As such we returned back to our clutch shoe and in the first race ran it at slower RPM to make the surface of the shoe glossy and in the next race I could tighten the clutch as desired. This process worked well and for the rest of the race I did not change the clutch. This was a brand new experience for us as with the NT1 clutch shoe we did not have this issue yet but at the same time I need to admit we did not race at such specific track with so many hairpin corners.

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The timed practice was running well. Mike Swauger was in 2nd place and Ralph Burch was in 5th. I was very satisfied and confident for the qualifications. However, once qualifications started the satisfaction was gone not because of the performance of the car or racing of the team, but because of the problem that started with the tires… or more exactly, tire treatment. First, official protests were given and the organizers had a nightmare with this problem which has been available for a few years but as far as I know has not been solved yet. So the entire World Championship revolved around the issue of tire treatment. For me it was very disappointing.

In the 1/8 on-road category it is forbidden to use tire treatment while other RC car categories allow it. What does tire treatment do? Using the proper tire treatment, the tire gets softer and has higher traction. When foam is new and fresh, traction is much higher than foam which is only a few weeks old. Using tire treatment you actually “refresh“ the “old“ foam to behave like new foam. The difference in traction is significant and can account for 0.2-0.3sec per lap when you use a new foam or use tire traction on old foam. Multiply this time difference by the laps you have to run in qualification or final runs and you start to get the idea. Now consider that probably all the world’s foam used by tire manufacturers around the world comes from Japan, it is logical that one national team who has access to fresh foam has a competitive advantage which is obvious in the lap times.

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The rule of no tire treatment was highlighted by IFMAR one more time before the event explaining that technical inspection has the instrument to find out if tire additive has been used. Unfortunately the reality seems to be that these instruments are not developed enough, so it was impossible to prove if tire treatment was used or not. So the entire event continued to revolve around tire treatment. The next idea by the organizers was to use alcohol to clean tires, but then drivers started to have problems with tires ungluing and coming apart. The next idea by the organizers was to create a special area where the drivers – before truing the tires – would have the jury check the tire… and then after truing the tires had to be kept in the dedicated area where drivers would collect them before their run. This has helped a bit but logically would not solve the difference between fresh and old foams, and also some drivers with knowledge injected the treatment time before truing, the result was not as good as direct tire treatment but still much better than using old foam. The story continued for a long time.

There are several tracks where tire treatment does not influence the traction of the car because harder compounds are being used. But the asphalt at this track was very special and slippery and only 30SH front tires were used! So any improvement on tire traction had a huge influence on handling of the car. Of course the design of the car influences the traction as well, including chassis flex and suspension set-up, but once you have no traction coming from tires you can play around the geometry, roll centers, shock positions, chassis flex or weight balance all day long but with very minimum achievements. At the very beginning before tire treatment was discovered I thought we had a problem in our car when there was such a traction difference, but watching competition cars both in the hands of some factory drivers and some regular drivers, the difference in traction was incomparable and as such I knew that there would be something different behind it all. To wrap up this tire story, my personal opinion is that either tire treatment is allowed so everyone can refresh their old foam to compete with drivers with new foam… or have subscribed tires for the event. We were experiencing this same situation several years ago in the 1/10 electric touring category but once subscribed tires were implemented and tire treatment allowed, it solved the entire problem and everyone there was a more level playing field. The subscribed tire eliminated the difference in material, and differences in wheel and insert (in electric touring cars).

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The first qualification results were discontinued due to the problem with tire treatment, so only 4 qualification rounds remained. Each qualification I improved the set-up and I ended up with a set-up that made the car fairly reactive with a good traction (as much as the tires allowed) and was at the same time easy to drive. Though technical problems were still behind me (one time broken glow plug, another time another problem) after qualifications I end up around 80th place and managed to bump-up one lower final after I had a clean no-mistake run. In the next lower final I worked my way to 4th postion when I was sent off the track by a car behind me and the race was over for me. I finished somewhere in the middle of the entire field so my personal mission was accomplished but more importantly I was at the end very satisfied with the car performance and handling. Martin qualified into the 1/16 final from which he easily bumped into the 1/8 final and would bump into the 1/4 final until his glowplug broke.

The final day was not our happiest day as technical problems were back for nearly every XRAY driver. Jernej Vuga bumped up but was disqualified due to the size of his fuel tank which (beyond all understanding) was correct in previous runs. In the 1/4 final it was Ralph who was in 3rd position when the race finished for him due to a popped-off servo linkage. Mike Swauger experienced clutch problems and Fantini had a fuel line broken and had to retire from the race. The only two drivers who did not experience any technical failures in lower final was Paul Lemieux who bumped up 3 times and made it to the main final. Eric Dankel was on rails in the 1/4 final and was on the bump up into the semi after a very early lead ahead of Collari. Unfortunately an improper fuel strategy added one extra refueling stop which cost 6-7 seconds and this time was missing at the end when he finished 5th only 4 seconds from the bump-up position. At high competition events, a driver has to be fast not only on the track but also in the pit either with refueling or tire changes. All these things add up to the overall race strategy which many times determine the winners.

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At the end we managed to get one RX8 into the main final in the hands of Paul Lemieux. It was a Worlds debut for both RX8 and Paul, and I was fairly happy. To be honest my expectations were not completely fulfilled as the all-star team and the high performance of the car could bring better results but once we struggled to be competitive due to the tire issue I was happy that we could get at least one car into the main final. Paul is a world-class driver and I was convinced he could do battle in the main final; I was very nervous and excited right before the start of the main final. But all the stress was gone in the warm-up rounds after we collected the last piece of bad luck with the technical failures after his front servo broke and all his chances to fight in the final were gone.

Our first ever 1/8 On-road World Championship is over. The RX8 has confirmed that it belongs amongst the world’s best and personally I am satisfied. I am very satisfied with the handling of the car, the great level of traction and steering, and at the same time being very easy to drive. As I designed the car for “myself“ it is very easy to work on and of course is extremely durable. During the entire event I changed only the front bumper and body holder, both of which I broke after the electronics failures. The RX8’s first World’s debut had a fair result considering we did not have any practice time at this track, and some of the drivers got their cars right before flying to the race. We will continue our dedicated work and patiently continue to improve the car step-by-step… and then the results will start to come in. Like the NT1 we had to wait 4 years for its first World Champion title. There is still the European Championship on the list for the RX8 and Team XRAY, so we will be back to the track soon.


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
Column #46 - Team XRAY - World Champion!!!
Column #47 - Summer Vacation, 30x USA Champion Title
Column #48 - T3 Saga Continues
Column #49 - RX8 – What? How? When?
Column #50 - The Making of the RX8 – Part II
Column #51 - Shake It, Baby, Shake It...